Blogging for Fun and Profit
Markos Moulitsas, one of the Internet’s better-known left-wing bloggers, is disappointed about John Kerry’s defeat in the presidential election — and a bit worried about his own livelihood. Mr. Moulitsas, who runs the popular Web log DailyKos.com, has been reaping more than $10,000 per month in advertising revenue in the past half year — nearly $20,000 in each of the last two months — as hundreds of thousands of like-minded political junkies visited his site. But much of the spending was by political campaigns, and new advertising dried up just a few days before the election. “I’m not in danger of being thrown out on the street, but it does make me nervous,” said Mr. Moulitsas, 33 years old. “For me to get to the point where it’s this quiet… I’m a little nervous about it right now.”
It’s hard to generate too much sympathy for a blogger making $10,000 a month from ads off a political rant site losing some of his revenue. This is part of a general trend. OTB’s revenue has dropped off precipitously, too, although from nowhere near those left heights. Indeed, if one looks down the BlogAds order page, one will see that many sites are down to zero ads. This must be how the kids with junior college degrees who became instant millionaires during the dot com boom and then found themselves unmarketable at $35,000 after the bust felt.
Speaking of BlogAds:
Henry Copeland, whose company Pressflex LLC sells ads for some of the most popular blogs — on both political and other topics — said that in recent months about 40% of ads have come from campaigns and other political-advocacy groups. “That 40% is going to disappear, more or less,” he said. “The candidates are gone for a good, long while.” But Mr. Copeland, who takes a 20% commission on ads he sells, was encouraged by a call received Thursday from Brian Clark, president of GMD Studios in Orlando, Fla., who was seeking to buy ads on political blogs as part of a big Sharp Corp. campaign for its new Aquos televisions. “We think that there’s an interesting opportunity now with the political blogs, if you aren’t taking on the political topic itself,” said Mr. Clark, adding, “We’re looking at this as a way to reach a diverse audience with a product that has nothing to do with politics whatsoever.” Mr. Clark, who calls his company a “new media buzz consultancy,” said readers of all blogs are an attractive audience: “A lot of these people are influencers. They are just as likely to have a blog of their own where they end up writing about something of interest to them.” He likes the political sites in part because post election, “There’s certainly not the competition for the slots anymore.”
Other advertisers have directly engaged the political interest of readers even while peddling apolitical products. TBS, a unit of Time Warner Inc., launched a major blog campaign for its site votecarrie.org promoting Sex and the City, a sitcom the network began airing this year. The ads, which ran on Wonkette, Instapundit and other blogs, urged readers to “Vote Carrie,” and the site touts the platform of Carrie Bradshaw, the leading character on the show, on issues like housing and urban development: “Beauty is fleeting, but a rent-controlled apartment overlooking the park is forever.”
Audible Inc., meanwhile, ran a three-week blog campaign starting last month to promote ListenBeforeYouVote.com, which offered free downloadable audio from the presidential debate, 9/11 hearings and recorded political books. The site was meant as a public service and to promote the Wayne, N.J., company’s Audible.com site that sells recorded books for media players and to burn to CDs. The Audible ads varied according to the slant of the blogs they ran on. Readers of conservative blog saw a picture of Hillary Clinton and a latte, urging them to “put those liberal, tree-hugging, elitist, latte-drinking, Bush-bashers in their place — and back up your arguments with free political audio.” On liberal blogs, Audible showed a photo of Mr. Bush, seemingly thinking hard, with the words, “Nukular. Internets. Want some wood? Yeah, he’s an idiot.” “People read political blogs because they are passionate news junkies looking for content and information,” Beth Kirsch, an online marketing manager for Audible, wrote on her own blog about the campaign. “Moreover, blog readers talk to each other and their friends about what they read and see on blogs, and the news media trolls the blogosphere looking for stories.”
This strikes me as the key. If the only people willing to buy ads are political campaigns, advocacy groups, and those with political paraphenalia to peddle, then revenue will be cyclical at best. There’s no reason it has to be that way, though. Certainly, political magazines and talk shows have advertising for a wide variety of products. One would think that blogs could attract a wider array of merchants, too.
[Scott Moore, general manager of the MSN network experience] also noted that user-generated content was the most interesting area for the future. He floated some ideas of ways that MSN might work closer with bloggers in the future without necessarily buying them out. “If you’re a blogger, MSN might come to you and say, ‘We want to distribute you. We’ll send you traffic and we want you to run these ads on your site, and you’ll get a share of revenues on that,'” Moore said. “That’s probably an offer that many bloggers are going to be interested in because they don’t want to have to invest in creating that kind of infrastructure, and they would value the traffic.” So while Microsoft is selling Slate, it might also be looking to improve upon the blogging business model of BlogAds (serving ads into blogs) and Weblogs Inc. (sharing revenues with hosted blogs).