The Blogging Business: How Blogs are Changing the Shape of Media

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For a Successful Blog, Quality Matters

The mashup of blogging with other Web 2.0 tools means it is easier to engage and understand your audience, but all the cool tools in the world are useless if the content itself fails to lure in readers. Keith McAllister, CEO of Mochila, an online content marketplace that provides mid-level media companies and bloggers with licensed video, print, and photo content for their sites, says "It’s about who has the best content. It has to be good, creative, interesting, and it has to have an edge." McAllister, who spent 17 years in an executive role at CNN, believes that blogging has simply helped level the playing field. "The best content is going to win, and you don’t have to be a guy who owns a printing press."

Having the best content may mean producing it in-house, as with Design*Sponge, a highly regarded site focused on homeand product design and started by Brooklyn-based writer Grace Bonney in August 2004. The site features store and product reviews, sale andcontest announcements, new designer profiles, trend forecasting and store/studio tours, and receives 30,000 visitors daily. Bonney, who has written for design magazines like CRAFT Magazine and Domino, still runs the day-to-day aspects of the site. "But we also employ two ad sales managers, three contributing editors, and this summer we’ll be taking on two interns to help with the editorial portion of the site and special projects," says Bonney.

Other successful sites solidify a following by posting the latest news on a particular vertical topic andproviding analysis and editorial context. PaidContent.org was a blog founded by Rafat Ali in 2002 with the intent of compiling news on "the economics of content"; that site has become the flagship of theContentNext Media company, with a staff of 20 posting an average of 75 or 80 news items daily, distributed on the site and via opt-in newsletters and mobile devices. Other sites employing this model include Gawker, which tracks media gossip and pop culture, and Valleywag, a gossip blog for Silicon Valley. Different as their focus may be, the three sites have tapped into a demand for carefully-selected vertical content. Newspaper consultant Wilpers says,"There’s a real time saving value in going to a blog you trust and knowing that all the most recent news on your particular interest will be covered."

Reinforcing blogging’s status as serious media business, Ali recently gave a talk to journalism students at Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications. He told them he believes this is the best time ever to become a journalist."The key is to pick a sector and specialize," Ali says. "Blogs let you cover something in depth on a daily or even an hourly basis."

Targeted Advertising for Blogs

Design*Sponge’s ability to connect advertisers with readers who identify with the sites’ unique focus gives it major appeal. As Bonney observes, "Design*Sponge has a really unique angle on the industry and an incredibly desirable audience in terms of advertising demographics. More than 95% of our readers are female, live in an urban area and are between the ages of 25–32. It’s a sweet spot for advertisers looking to plug into an audience that’s young, trend-oriented, and willing to spend a sizable percentage of their income on home related products."The fact that Design*Sponge readers are already online when they come across something that catches their eye is another plus, says Bonney."Unlike traditional print or television channels, D*S readers are already online and looking to shop. Their ads end up being only one click away from someone ready to buy."

Blogads is a blog advertising specialist that prides itself on putting advertisers in touch with influential readers of more than 50 niche markets, or "hives," like New York City blogs, Environment and Sustainability blogs, and Progressive Parenting blogs. Self-service tools enable Blogads customers to pick and choose blogs to reach, create ads, and launch campaigns. According to Henry Copeland, founder and president of Blogads, "Blog readers identify strongly with one or two key or three key blogs ... the "name brand" is in fact the individual identity of the blogger. It is the blogger’s unique personal relationships with his or her readers that make advertisers—those who get it at least—really excited about advertising on blogs."

Companies like Mochila are helping bloggers provide their readers with more value by simplifying the process of acquiring rights-managed content. Mochila widgets make it easy for mid-tier sites to acquire relevant ad-supported content for free. McAallister says, "Audiences are more fragmented, and niche sites have grown as portals fade. A customer like news site RawStory can get high quality content through Mochila for free, with advertising." Mochila distributes rights-managed content from more than 350partners including Reuters, AP, and Getty Images, and ad revenues are shared between the content owner, the publisher (or, in this case, blogger), and Mochila.

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