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Weblog Entry

Weblogs as Advertising

March 04, 2003

What Anil has been talking about is bound to fail. For now. Short summary: Project Blogger is looking to pay weblog publishers willing to hawk merchandise.

It’s easy to get sucked into the “everybody is doing it” mentality that surrounds weblogs today. But they’re not. Poll 25 random people on the street. 1 or 2 of them might have a LiveJournal or a BlogSpot–hosted diary if you’re lucky. Even they probably haven’t heard of Movable Type or Blogger.

Blogger has just reached the million users mark. That’s one million web logs, that’s not one million people. I’d guess a maximum 400k individual people. Are they all keeping active logs? I doubt it. If Blogger sees one hundred thousand posts a week system–wide I’d be impressed.

Where am I going with all this? It should be obvious. The numbers aren’t attractive to advertisers. Why put up $10k or so on such a small audience, a technically savvy audience who can generally tell when they’re being marketed to? There may be a few high–profile attempts in the next few months, but the idea isn’t going to catch on.

Yet.

The weblog is still the playground of the technically savvy. This is changing though, and won’t be true for long (reference: all the 14 year olds posting about their crushes on LiveJournal). The masses will pick up on the idea sooner or later. The internet was a playground for geeks not too long ago, now everybody’s grandmother has an e–mail address.

Even when the numbers start looking good enough to make this idea profitable, the people Project Blogger requires to deliver its message are, well, just people. Some will be far more interesting than most, and as with any medium a natural hierarchy will sort out and certain people will be considered authoritive. (reference: Jason Kottke) Those are the ones that will be most attractive to advertisers. And they’re also the ones who may have to pursue ways to pay off the higher bandwidth costs their popularity has caused. What better way than advertising?

We’ve seen all this before. This is exactly what happened to early independent content publishers on the web, and today we happily accept that ads are a small price to pay for continued use of their sites. Since we’re so obviously not willing to pay. (reference: recent rumours of Salon’s yet–to–actually–happen closure)

It’ll happen again with weblogs. And we’ll grumble, and moan, and accept. Weblogs were a shot in the arm for the increasing consolidation of major web content publishers, but they will inevitably follow the same path. This is just the start.

(All numbers are blind guesses due to lack of information or the motivation to seek it. This is an opinion piece based on intuition rather than fact.)


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