Wednesday, September 04, 2002

Corollary: Blogging About Blogging XXIII
Henry Copeland has expanded on his essay "Blogonomics" in a new piece entitled "Blogads: Advertising Hand-Delivered at Light-Speed." In it, he calls for the continued emergence of professional journalistic blogs -- and suggests that blogads (adverts in blogs, natch) might be one way for bloggers to support their independent media activities.

His thoughts hit me at a particularly appropriate time, as I close the window on the 50% off hook up at DC Shoes. While not a blogad per se -- my friends at DC Shoes sent me a promotional mailing at work, and I couldn't think of a way to work the hook up via Fast Company so the swag offer made its way to my Web -- offering Media Dieticians a deal like that made me wonder:

  • Was I comfortable promoting one companies products and services this way?
  • Would I be open to the idea of doing so for other companies I appreciated -- perhaps even for paid placement?
  • Was the offer of interest to folks who frequent Media Diet?

    The questions intrigued and concerned me. Obviously, I wasn't uncomfortable hooking people up with 50% off -- and I continue to appreciate the people I met at DC Shoes -- but how would I handle this in the future? Why did I do this when I've hesitated to even add book sales via an affiliate program? Would taking money sully the recommendation and appreciation inherent in the hook up? Was I interested in seeking other organizations that might be interested in reaching the people who read these words (yes, you)?

    Turns out, I'm not interested. If another hook up falls in my lap, I certainly consider it, but I have no interest whatsoever in soliciting or managing blogads in Media Diet. Which begs the question, "Why not?" One, I have a full-time job and see no need to even come close to breaking even on Media Diet. It's a labor of love. Two, one of the joys of blogging -- a joy that Rebecca Blood touches on in The Weblog Handbook (not a paid placement, heh) -- is the independent voice. Even if you consider your audience and think about appealing to your audience, that's hella different than marketing to, segmenting, or targeting your audience. Which you need to do if you're going to be successful managing ads.

    Because ads change the nature of what you do. I don't mean selling out or changing what you do to better meet the needs of advertisers. What I mean is this. Blogads are not a new thing. Recall the early days of personal publishing on the Web -- and when the first Web sites began including ads. Remember Tripod asking its members if they minded Tripod including ads on their Webfarm pages to help cover costs of the service. Think anyone would do that today? Similarly, the discussion about blogads parallels the old and ongoing debates about advertising in zines. Are zines with ads still zines? What a silly question. Yet people argue about the answer.

    When I was publishing Karma Lapel in the early and mid-'90s, I played with selling ads. I welcomed the money, and it helped me beef up the production values of the zine -- from photocopies to newsprint, from two pages to 36 -- and it got tiring. When you do a zine or a tape label... or a blog by yourself, do you really want to spend time finding advertisers, managing relations with advertisers, and so on so on so forth? Doing so almost killed Karma Lapel -- I quickly scaled back from my highfalutin' format and size to a more manageable presentation and production.

    One that I could handle. One that still met the needs of the folks who read it. And one that -- while not totally adverse to adverts -- wasn't dependent on or driven by them. Blogads could very well become the tail that wags the blog dog, just like with most media. I'd prefer Media Diet be bobbed and docked.

    Thanks to Jim and Amy for the vocab assist.
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