You know it’s business when it’s in the Wall St. Journal

You know it’s business when it’s in the Wall St. Journal
: Advertising on weblogs — and Henry Copeland’s BlogAds — get a well-deserved story in the Wall Street Journal today.

The Chandler campaign is evidence of the latest step in the evolution of the Internet. Blogs, once derided as solipsistic exercises by self-important nobodies, are starting to go commercial as their readership grows.

The trend is in its early stages; big advertisers like Coke and Procter & Gamble aren’t yet hawking their wares on blogs. Indeed, much of the advertising is found on politically oriented blogs, which are experiencing a spike in readership from the presidential election. Many people wonder if the blog ad boomlet will outlast the election.

But other Internet institutions have had similarly modest origins; recall that eBay started out as a place to trade Beanie Babies and Pez dispensers. And it’s no surprise that as blogs grow in popularity, they are beginning to attract advertisers.

I am confident that weblogs and citizens’ media are going to be a tremendous medium for marketing and will make real money for their proprieters. It always takes time for advertisers and agencies to catch up — hell, they’re still catching up to the Internet… and cable — but catch up, they will. I’ve written here frequently that we still need some infrastructure to support marketing (see, for example, yesterday’s note on RSS and measurement) but once it is in place, this will explode.

  • michael

    I don’t agree that advertising on blogs is a good thing. This is likely going to have the same impact on blogs as it had on newspapers – shifting this discourse from a public to a private sphere (ala Habermas). Changes in content will appear as bloggers try to increase their “ratings,” and what will happen when content begins to be self-censored in order to “please” your marketing partners?

  • http://www.gapingvoid.com hugh macleod

    Well, the great thing is, Michael, nobody’s making you advertise on your blog. But if somebody else wants to advertise on his blog, that’s his business, not yours, mine or Dave Winer’s.
    To demand some kind of “purity” mandate in the blogosphere is (a) unrealistic and (b) it’s projecting some kind of collectivist quality it simply does not have.
    Sure, with advertising there are trade-offs, like you mentioned. Advertising does affect content, but then again, so does getting laid.

  • http://www.blogads.com henry

    I think demand is broad enough that great bloggers won’t need to tailor their messages to please marketers.
    The contrary may be the case. See, for example, http://www.dailykos.com/story/2004/1/1/225832/0551

  • Pete

    I’m all for Bloggers making money from their sites. But how long before reading blogs will be just as annoying as reading other commercial websites? If blogads become big, how long before they move from just banner ads to extra transition pages, Flash ads that you can’t close, pop-ups, pop-unders and all the other annoying things the marketers haven’t thought up yet?
    One of the joys of reading blogs is that they are simple and straightforward. I don’t have to wade through all the commercial crap just to get the information and content I want. If blogads become big, I think this will end.
    As soon as blogads begin to waste my time by being ever more distracting, I’ll stop reading them. And I think many others will too – which kind of defeats the purpose of advertising. I just hope my favorite writers consider this when they are getting pressure from the ad agencies to make blogads more and more annoying.

  • http://www.blogads.com henry

    Excellent point Pete. Advertising on a blog is like advertising on someone’s living room wall –it better fit with the aesthetic and psychic decor or nobody is going to be happy. So I spend a fair amount of energy reining in the exhuberance of ad agency designers. I think bloggers are going to stick to their guns.

  • http://www.undercaffeinated.com tom

    I agree that ads not fitting the feel of a site are ignored by most readers. That’s why ad agencies should allow bloggers to completely design the ads that go on their site; that way, the ads would fit nicely into the site “aesthetic.”

  • http://egoist.blogspot.com Martin Lindeskog

    I think that blogads is good idea. I have at the moment two ads on my blog. I can’t compete with Jeff’s traffic, but I have found my own audience and readership. One thing that has come out of the ads is that I have started a guest column and I will soon conduct an interview with one of my supporters. I think that the blogads are of interest to my readers, but if they are “allergic” to advertising, they could read my blog in pure RSS text format.
    I am blogging because I think it is fun and it is a value to me. I have met new friends and I have been in contact with individuals who share the same core values and sense-of-life. I don’t think that I will get rich on my blogging, but the extra source of money (tips) I receive through ads will go to buying books (I have a Month of the Book section), subscribing to mailing lists in order to stay on top of things, et.c.
    I agree with Hugh Macleod’s comment that it is only the owner of the blog who should decide if he or she wants to include ads. If the readers are put off by this, they could (a) start their own blog, (b) stop reading the commercialized blog…
    Best Premises,
    Martin Lindeskog – “poor” capitalist & American in Spirit.
    Gothenburg, Sweden (a.k.a. the socialist “paradise”).

  • http://www.adrants.com Steve Hall

    Advertising on blogs makes all the sense in the world. The more blogs there are, the more targeting choices it gives advertisers to reach “networks of people” (referring to a previous post Jeff made and to which I agree). Means by which to reach networks of people should be embraced by advertisers but thyey, and their agencies are slow to evolve.
    It’s much easier just to dump millions into TV, call it branding and accept the huge waste factor than it is to finitely target your audience. Status quo is easy. It’s about human nature. People don’t like change. Blogs are change. It takes work to move with change but the smart ones do move and the un-smart are left behind scratching their head and uttering, “Huh?”

  • http://kenlayne.com Ken Layne

    The nice thing about BlogAds is that they’re no more distracting than the stuff already cluttering the sidebars of most blogs. I mean, look at your standard blog and there’s a godawful list of other sites, various quotes describing the blogger’s intelligence & penis length, little buttons and doodads for all kinds of crap: PayPal, member of this or that group, Amazon donations, dumb little picture of Welch in a hat, a strip of buzznet photos, little American flags or “cause ribbons,” site counters, etc.
    If anything, the BlogAds sorta liven up those sidebars, which otherwise tend to stay the same until the blogger redesigns every year or three.
    As for those BlogAds influencing the blogger’s writing, I think that’s just silly. Have we ever seen a group of people so insanely proud of having an opinion on something? Or a group of people so desperate to get in a public fight with The Man? I pity the first blog advertiser who politely asks one of his buys to quit calling him a pedophile or whatever ….
    It seems unlikely that Coke or Ford would do BlogAd buys … although Ford is a bad example; I could see Ford buying ads on car blogs. Coca Cola could buy every Blog Ad spot for the next 5 years — probably for the cost of a couple of corporate dinners — but it wouldn’t be effective. People would tune out the ads the same way they tune out all the other visual noise in the sidebars. Having a variety of changing ads seems to be the hook of BlogAds. Banners & animations & the increasingly intrusive online ads are just an annoyance. The BlogAds are so humble that I actually read them all.
    Anyway, nervous companies (such as NetFlix, which bans affiliate sites from saying anything negative about NetFlix) will avoid BlogAds & go through something like Google Adwords (Google Adwords avoids “personal” sites like blogs & will drop you for “offensive” content) or a traditional online ad agency (they still have those, right?), where there’s some built-in protection. Companies or individuals going for niche super-targeted markets will get used to the idea of blogs being run by crazy people who can’t be controlled. It’s sorta like the ads on Art Bell’s radio show; they’re from companies comfortable with loonies. You don’t hear a lot of Mercedes ads on Coast to Coast AM, but I’m sure Art & Co. are making plenty of money.

  • RCA

    This all sounds like the same salivating that went on when commercials were first added to TV & radio programming. And look where that’s taken us…. Just wait until blogs start getting bought up. Do you really think someone will refuse 6-figures when Viacom wants to purchase their traffic?

  • Charlie (Colorado)

    Hell, for six figures I’ll start a blog.

  • http://www.gapingvoid.com hugh macleod

    I love blogads. Here’s an example of how I use them: I’m in the ad biz, and I advertise on Adrants.com. It gets a couple of thousand visitors a day… my CTR is 1-2%, so that means every day a couple of dozen ad folk learn all about me. If you think how much networking in ther real world costs (cocktails and whatnot), it’s good value.
    The point of the Adrants campaign is not to shift product. It’s about getting my name around a certain constituency, slowly but surely. 20 people a day or whatever is circa 7300 people a year. It adds up.

  • http://www.gapingvoid.com hugh macleod

    One more thought: I’ll bet there’s at least a million or so professionals who could use Blogads to network like I do on Adrants. An average blogad is what, $30 a month? So that’s potentially $30 million a month, Blogad’s commission is 20%, ergo $6 million a month. Laugh all you want- Henry’s onto something.

  • http://www.ghostofaflea.com Ghost of a flea

    A note on Habermas and the public sphere. His point is that with modernity those interests that had been private became (collectively) public as political power shifted from the church and aristocracy to bourgeois interest. This is a banal argument but one that differs from moaning about corporate contamination of commercial free personal expression.
    That said, there will probably be a balance to be struck between adverts that support a blog and adverts that deter readers. But this is true for any medium and will presumably produce the same range of improvisations as different bloggers find their own golden mean. Personally, I want to show movie trailers at the Flea.

  • michael

    Yes, but Habermas also points to the “re-feudalization” of the public sphere as the press became captured by capitalist interests (selling advertising space). Will the blog sphere also become re-feudalized?