Advertising And Weblogs: Can The Two Marry?
How do I feel about advertising on weblogs?
As I have commented to Jason Kottke "The revolution will be commercialized" the key issues may not really be those we see discussed over and over. Here is my personal take about the commercialization of weblogs and why this should be viewed with somehow different glasses than the ones being used here.
a) AdSense is not "advertising" in the traditional sense. I am sorry but I don't see AdSense as being the same as those truly annoying banner ads, walking pop-ups or other major colorful items standing in my view. When you work and refine your site so that the AdSense can do is job effectively, you get some really outstanding complementary information, just as valuable as related articles or relevant books rolls. This adds value to the content, it does not intrude, and provides potentially wonderful matches between advertisers and publishers that would have been very hard to achieve otherwise.
b) Blogs can be better categorized as commercial, in my very personal opinion, when they have little ethic, no personality or character, and when they stand behind no ideals. Though there weren't many such blogs, there is a growing number of them. Blogs, as a matter of fact should have always been identified by the character and style of their writers rather than by the technology they employed. So, that solves the problem at its start, as you can clearly say that purely profit-driven blogs are really commercial news sites (I don't think anyone would be offended). One good example is the growing network of Movable Type blogs that make the Lockergnome.com empire. Though these are supposedly "blogs" since they do post news items in reverse chronological order, they have evolved much beyond that stage, first becoming group blogs and realizing their best abilities now as effective commercial news sites.
c) The issue raised by Jason Kotke at the beginning of his piece when he reports "... increasingly false perception of blogs as inherently unbiased by commercial interests". This is not a false perception by my own standards. Point is, what is the reference that we are using to say something is biased or not. Well, I am using mainstream traditional media online, the type that asks for a registration, doesn't use readers as reporters, doesn't allow for open comments or trackbacks on their articles and still makes large use of banner ads and intrusive pop-ups to garnish the largest share of its income. So, if I look at the blogs I read, with or without Google AdSense ads displayed, I have a much greater sense of trust for the authors behind them, and I perceive them as much more credible and sincere than any of the mainstream media sites.
More than anything, I find the blogger personality, much more competent than any average traditional journalist online or off.
d) "The continuing shift from blogging as a hobby to blogging for a variety of reasons." This should come as no surprise. When adopting a new technology humans go always through a neophyte phase in which they experiment, play and explore the new discovered tool. It is only later that we are able to better conceptualize and understand its best possible uses, and then to integrate them in our personal daily life. Right now we are still transitioning from having discovered blogs to fully understanding their best applications and uses.
e) Just another anonymous kook commented that "The fact of the matter is, owning a blog is a personal desire, not a commercial endeavor." But who said that? What about craftsmen and anyone having a real, high-quality business in the pre-industrial era. Isn't that what real business used to be? And isn't this to be considered even a higher form of business expression? Think of jewelers, designers, car mechanics, investigators, nurses, (some) doctors and a thousand other professions. Aren't these people following a personal desire/passion while going about making a personally profitable and socially valuable business? So, why shouldn't this apply to the Web too?
f) And to those like Jonah making this popular comment: "having ads on a site inherently causes the author to create content that they wouldn't have done otherwise. Rather than posting interesting links and commentary, people get wrapped up in making more posts to drive up traffic." Again, it depends. Commercial news sites have all the right to do so, so maybe it is just me and you being stuck with wanting to classify them as blogs. Two, you may also see a different smarter pattern at work: authors that want to capitalize on their reporting passion will write more extensively and in depth about their preferred topics as this is the only way that you can get more and more people to read your content. It seems fairly evident that the moment you deviate from being as sharp, direct and timely as you used to be, readers will notice, and given the amount of good alternatives will not need more than a few clicks to replace "too shallow" (what you call too commercial) with "in-depth".
g) Finally, for those who are still thinking about charging mini-amounts for allowing people to read their content, please think again. This is another utterly counterlogical road. Let the content be free, extend reach and visibility as a consequence and offer premium content, anthologies, guides, and re-edited essays as one alternative content income stream. AdSense is not the only monetization opportunity out there, and that there are other serious alternative options to be considered when trying to make your reporting passion a sustainable and professionally executed online business.
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