Wednesday, 23 July 2008

This week’s edition of Advertising Age has a somewhat revealing piece concerning movements in Web media space by some old media titans. In particular, The New York Times versus The Wall Street Journal. We’ve heard the WSJ talk adventurous talk in months past about conditioning itself to compete more effectively in the general news space with the NYT. Now it’s being said that, in addition to the NYT’s attempts to draw itself further into the social realm online, the outfit is pressing to meet the WSJ in its own court: business.

Indeed, according to Vivian Schiller, senior vice president and general manager of the NYT’s website, coverage will grow in the areas of “the economy, energy, small business, personal finance and enterprise technology,” all of it constructed into verticals in vein of the popular DealBook blog. This move was recently hinted at by John Markoff, a writer and reporter for the paper, while sitting as a guest on a recent episode of “Cranky Geeks,” a weekly video podcast hosted by John C. Dvorak.

I must say, this is fairly interesting information to consider. The Wall Street Journal has made known its intention to increase the value of its website’s components in the area of business, along with a general site-wide refresh scheduled for the fall season, which might help to spur its paid subscription platform further. (This despite a move by The New York Times to eliminate virtually all reader fees on the Web.)

And now that The New York Times is said to be working on delivering expanded business coverage, which one would presume will be entirely ad-supported, The New York Times is evidently leaving little to chance. Staff layoffs aside, it’s evidently working to challenge The Wall Street Journal in its primary domain. The logic seems to be, when all is said and done, to fight fire with fire.

The questions to ask now seems to be: Could this mean that will have to play defense against Will favored business coverage continue to fall to And, reversely, will the traditional strength of varietal reporting by become stretched and diminish in stature with the coming up closely behind?

It seems to me that both news organizations will retain some allegiance among readers. But while the generations that have lived largely with paper are replaced with the generations that rely mostly on computer-enabled information consumption, crossover will occur at an increasing rate. It’s already done so to large degree, in fact. And at this point in time, my impression is that, for to achieve the ends it seeks, it will have to submit to the call for free-access to its content.

That simple. On the Web it’s a numbers game. It’s a matter of who has more readers and how much they read. In that respect, is the better bet right now. (Eventually, reader wealth demographics will become more and more important as well.)

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Only two weeks have passed since we first reported on Adobe Inc’s undertaking to remove the FreshAIRapps domain and nameplate from the Web. In short, FreshAIRapps was a compendium or directory of applications built upon the Adobe AIR platform. Users could rate codeworks and read relevant news and so forth in one central location. It would be accurate to have called it a fairly popular upstart.

Yes, called is the key word to keep in mind now. According to the founder of FreshAIRapps, James Whittaker, who alerted Mashable to the fact earlier today, the website is no more. An attempt to visit the URL shows a mostly bare white page, stating that the site has moved to a new location. Seconds later, the visitor is automatically transferred there. “There” being

It sports a slightly different design, but its basic makeup is all very much intact. The one overt exception is a now-absent section originally seen at FreshAIRapps, labeled ‘Tutorials.’

There was a notable level of resentment and fury levied at Adobe for pushing forcefully for the removal of FreshAIRapps in name only. Some commenters found it peculiar that the company would enforce a trademark of “AIR.” I myself seconded such objections. Still, the site’s creator continued to converse with Adobe over the planned transfer to the RefreshingApps domain and has now officially announced the completion of the move.

Whittaker does note he and the RefreshingApps project “will be working closely with Adobe and their evangelists to further promote the Adobe AIR offering” as well as He also mentioned that word concerning “AIR stuff and RefreshingApps” will likely be delivered by Adobe sometime this week.

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Allen Stern over at CenterNetworks has been asking a number of interesting questions over the last six months or so, starting with the question of whether an RSS feed is worth a buck. Today, in a continuance of this professional blogger introspective, he asks what you’re doing to put food on his table. The whole question is neatly explained and contained in this video embedded below.

Here’s the version for those unable to view the video: “Bloggers are supported by ads. Few of you click on those, and you seem almost proud of this fact. As much as 52% of you use ad blocking software. How do you expect us to eat? ”

There’s a bit more to it than that, but it’s the gist of the issue, and it’s one that I identify with. I’m a content producer, and I’m a supporting a wife and two kids on the fruits of advertising. I’d love for you to click on as many ads as possible, so that our CTRs will go up, the advertisers love us, and they keep throwing money our direction.

Problem is, just by begging and pleading, I’m unlikely to change your behavior in for a sustainable period of time. You may click a few ads around this article if you really feel sorry for me, and you may remember to do it again tomorrow, but long term, you’ll probably go back to your habits of not clicking on ads.

Frankly, it’s ok. It’s human nature. Bossman Pete will probably kick my ass for saying this, but we have learned, as humans who stay on the ‘Net all day, how to tune out ads. You probably don’t even see them when you’re looking at this site (and no, I’m not talking to the folks with AdBlocker, I’m talking to regular folks who have the ability to focus on what they want to pay attention to).

This is a failure not on the consumer’s part, but on the part of those making the advertisments. Sure, we can all assume for a minute Allen’s attitude, which to me is a bit akin to the attitude assumed by most public broadcasting. It works for a certain segment of the audience: “It’s your responsibility to make sure this programming stays on the air.” But there’s a reason why Charlie Rose is on PBS and not CBS during primetime - most folks find him boring. Those that don’t find him boring will seek him out on PBS, and ostensibly donate to the cause. The rest watch Survivor or American Idol or whatever else is on network TV these days (I guess it’s obvious I’m watching Charlie Rose).

There are innovative and interesting ways to increase the value for advertisers on blog content, but it requires that bloggers and their advertising agencies start to think outside the box a bit. I’ve a number of ideas of what this means…

Behavioral Marketing
One of my biggest let downs in recent memory was that Facebook, the supposed darling social network of the Web 2.0, had a groundbreaking advertising and monetization solution, and the best they could come up with was Project Bacn. This is a company that collects a literal wealth of information about their users, all of it supplied voluntarily, and they do absolutely nothing interesting with.

I had hopes that they were going to announce an advertising network that others who had content that was in no way associated with Facebook could join. The most successful form of advertising on the Internet currently is Google’s search ads. This is because they know my intent - they know what I’m looking for, and can present relevent ads alongside my results. In theory, Facebook know my favorite movies, my favorite activities, and in many cases, my favorite websites.

Concurrently, one of the worst performing types of ads are those displayed on social networks. The reason is simple - the content is too enjoyable. Advanced mainstream social networks are the ultimate in a customized web experience. Why would I click off to the ads?

Open that targetting data to content websites, and you have yourself a ballgame. Tailor the ads down to a micro-targeting level, based on what they’ve said their interests are, and you’ll increase CTRs. Simple as that. The first major social network to start offering this to bloggers will be the next major player in Internet advertising.

Using Your Brand with Video
I’ve long said that the smartest thing that blogs with a brand can do is get into video. The response rates on video advertisements, when done properly, are amazing. Furthermore, a video ad associated with a recognizable brand fetches a much higher asking price than any typical display advertisement.

Add to that the ability to latch in captive subscribers via podcast subscription feeds and being able to deploy to a large variety of platforms and other media types, and you are seeing return on investment.

The downside to video is that for well produced stuff, it can be both time-consuming and expensive. As newer technologies become available, this cost is going down, and frankly the bar for excellence in broadcasting has been brought way down in recent years, so that often a few minutes of commentary on a webcam can be just as compelling and acceptable to general audiences as slick Hollywood effects.

As Stephen has been noting recently, it’s also very important to make sure that your video adds to the equation, a struggle for any content producer. It shouldn’t simply be a re-hash of what you’ve got in your text format. Following a few simple guidelines for production, though, will give you another monetization angle - one that’s lucrative for the producer, and beneficial for the advertiser.

Sponsorships Instead of Advertising
Between Steven and I, I feel like we’re beating a dead horse here, but even when clicks aren’t made on sponsorship deals, the advertiser still gets value. Take, for instance, Stickam - a sponsor for our SummerMash tour. Certainly part of the reason Stickam is advertising has to be for the purposes of driving traffic back to their site. That’s why we link their logo in our SummerMash posts back to the site.

More importantly, though, they want to associate their brand with Mashable. They have the desire to not only be seen by their users and their users viewers as a company that can get things done with live video, but by associating with Mashable in a publicly viewable way, every attendee to our events sees their logo, their work, and the fact that they’re doing well enough as a company to give us sponsorship dollars.

That imbues a feeling of stability, hipness, and awareness amongst all who see the logo on the site, watch our podcasts, and go to the events. It’s obviously not a driver of traffic, and the benefits are fairly far removed from how many people click on the link from our website.

It’s another example of how we’re diversifying our income here at Mashable so as to not solely rely on display advertisements.

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The Web 2.0 Marketplace is a place to list Web 2.0 and “New Media” websites for sale, job offers, consulting services, Facebook development services and more.

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which started last year with the single launch of CelebSpleak, has been adding more and more niche themes to its growing network of communities. The latest to join the network are StyleSpleak, TVSpleak, and GameSpleak, bringing the total number of niche “spleaks” to six.

spleak style

As with the other Spleak communities, the newcomers will feature integrated content sharing through multiple chat clients, publishing related news across the Web in an interactive format that combines user-generated content with editorial articles. The result is a multi-faceted distribution service that encourages contributions from anyone that has something more to add. A number of mainstream publications have jumped on board, from Hearst to Fox Sports, offering their news content to go alongside user-generated content, all within these themed Spleaks that are accessible to users in a number of ways.

Spleak began as an AIM application, delivering news bites in an easily consumed fashion. With all the instant messaging platform options now available, and Spleak’s growing Web and mobile presence, now is a good time for Spleak to continue its expansion, as it’s better able to deliver news directly to users in a growing number of interactive ways. I think these recent vertical additions are also good topics given the audience and distribution of Spleak content, with a narrowing focus on the entertainment sector. Now that Spleak has established a good set of verticals for its expansion, I imagine deeper integration with mobile and social networks will be a growing area of interest for the company as well.

spleak tv

spleak game

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