Blogs and advertising — another view

Jim Meskauskas writes in today’s MediaPost onlineSPIN, “Little Blog Blue, Come Blow Your Horn,” that it’s no mystery why advertisers haven’t rushed to the blogosphere.

Also, when you get right down to it, what are blogs other than simply text-heavy Web sites? In fact, if you go back just a few years, blogs look strikingly similar to your basic Web site from the mid to late 90s. Remember How about Geocities? Anyone ever build a site on Tripod?

Blogs are just personal sites made easier to construct with the advent of more robust and facile prefab site building tools. Their diary-like format gives them a more personal feeling, which is authentic, but the blogosphere isn’t some untapped vein of marketing gold we just haven’t figured out how to mine. The blog is a format for a Web site not something different than a Web site, and there are already plenty of sites for advertisers to advertise with.

Jim goes on to note that “blog” is just a hip, new word that’s suddenly fascinating to the mainstream.
Web sites that are blogs can certainly be used to positive effect by marketers, but the way they are used isn’t going to look much different than buying on a network, and advertising on them is going to detract from what makes the blog so attractive in the first place; namely, its distant authenticity from consumer culture.
Jim’s a smart guy, and I suspect he’s right up to a point. The conclusions presented here flow purely from an institutional marketing perspective, and conventional advertising probably isn’t for the blogosphere. However, citizens media represents something different, so to dismiss the phenomenon as a fad that doesn’t have the reach and frequency to make money misses the point. I agree that blogs attempting to make money off traditional advertising require such an enormous audience that only a few will ever make it.

But as I’ve written before, there are many different types of currency, and they all have value (influence being one). If blogging really is the printing press of citizens media (as I believe it is), then why is making money such a significant criteria anyway? After all, once a “citizen” starts making money off his or her journalistic passion, we’re no longer talking about citizens media. Can’t have it both ways.

Smart entrepreneurs will stumble across filtering mechanisms one day, and those are likely to make money, but meanwhile, we ought to be viewing this as a totally new animal that’s upon us — not, as Jim would have us believe, just another group of text-heavy Websites competing for advertising dollars.

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