Curated by: Luigi Canali De Rossi

Saturday, August 7, 2004

Marketing Is Part Of The Conversation: The Emerging Blog Commerce Business Model

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Ben Hunt pointed me to this article on Wired and asked with surprise if blog commerce is next up on the list.

"Yes, Ben, not only blog commerce is coming up next, it has already been here among us for a while. "

We are just not noticing.

I can testify to it. Just now I read this one from Chris Pirillo excellent newsletter Windows Fanatics:

"MovableType isn't just for personal blogs, it's become the perfect CMS (Content Management System) for Lockergnome. With it, we're able to customize templates for every part of our publications. It's simple to add a new author to the mix with all the proper permissions, giving us flexibility for growth. Most of our publishing headaches disappeared almost overnight when we finally made the move. It can work for you, too!"

Is this a normal ad?

Is this still an ad when it is placed within this post of mine?

Should I get paid too?

Now, look at my home page at Check out the news in the left column.

How many of those are ads and how many are actual news?

See, now that I have moved your ad-sensitivity-slider to a different position any of those news items there could really be an ad for one of those companies. Fact is that none is an ad, but all and any could be one without changing a word.

So what do we make of this apparently ambiguous situation?

You, yourself ask tacitly some very good question: "How can we as authors, independent publishers, bloggers maintain our editorial integrity, our credibility and authority if we mix so blatantly ads with real content?"

How can people tell if we are promoting or reviewing?

The issue is that we have been spoiled by a distorted approach to commerce and unethical promotion and are stuck in an advertising model that doesn't fit with this new media revolution taking place now.

Think Cluetrain. Think marketplaces. Think conversations.

When you meet people and friends on the street you don't have ambiguos or less ambiguos recommendations.

When friends ask you where to go to have a great dinner, or where is the best place to buy some blank DVDs you share your best recommendation, and the more you are in tune with the product/service by having been there or having used them makes your recommendation so much more worthwhile and credible to your listeners.

So, if we could only switch our mentality to see a different picture, maybe, and I say maybe, it would be possible to continue our natural and spontaneous desire to recommend without getting in ambiguous situations.

The shifting point must be at the core.

Let newsmakers make news of products and services they personally like while being supported by a system that rewards honest and ethical recommenders for doing this.

If vendors open-up to the opportunity of letting individual news makers promote informally and in personal ways the products they like, things could be a lot different.

Until now, we have had no etical recommenders. The mass market consumption model, and the advertising system we have built around it had only one goal: profit at each turn. It didn't matter the quality of the product, the medium or the political inclinations of the publisher. Anything could be sold and promoted for the glory of god money.

If I as a company simply avail myself to be talked about in customized, individualized messages by the many reporters, independent publishers and bloggers out there while establishing a set of pay-rates/commissions for such leads/sales I would automate my need to have a motivated sales force that works ethically and intensely at it.

If I can be chosen instead of having to buy my promotion channels won't my marketing message be more credible and effective?

Isn't this what the Herbalife, Amway and many others have done for a long time (although not as candidly and openly as I suggest above - in their case you had to spend first money with them and once again their core drive is very commercial: profit, profit, profit)?

Yes, you may say, but there may still be many newsmakers, bloggers and publishers who will sell themselves to the best product payers and will just write about those.

But here is the second critical point: ethics.

When you read someone's work, the credibility factor of that person is determined by your perception of the apparent level of journalistic independence, original vision, integrity to specific ideas and ethical attitude transpiring from that person/publication.

For example if this is an author that paddles products with little value and high return, whose content is shallow and poor in references, who displays tons of paid-for ads all over her pages, you would notice it.

So, while you can't altogether stop aggressive marketers to try to reap benefits by pushing for profit, you could make it very hard for them to survive in a new, emerging environment, where ethics, credibility and honesty would play much bigger roles than the special effects in displayed in the latest TV ad.

This approach creates a new fertile ground for ethical, honest and true conversations, where news reflect authors' views and preferences, and where vendors are happy to subsidize a financial model that automatically rewards the honest and credible.

So, I guess that from my viewpoint the difference comes down to the natural ethics of marketing conversations and not to the fact that one is being paid or not paid.

In ideal situations, where the market works according to fair rules, radio stations and djs get to choose the music they want to play. That is the value they bring to their audiences.

The music they play brings record sales to record companies and musicians.

If record companies and musicians would one day decide to say: "Hey, I want to reward who ethically and passionately promotes my records and helps my music get known." They could create a music distribution agency that makes as many of their songs preview clips available online for radio stations and djs to try up and sign-up for.

Once those publishers sign-up they become direct agents of that music and they can not only promote it in the way that is most suitable to them, but they can also sell it directly to their audiences as there would not be anymore any need for a middleman.

How much would you like this?

You can buy from their site what they recommend. Who recommends can also sell. Or not?

Many of the best shops around the world I would recommend my best friends to go to, are the ones where the shop owners are great, highly ethical advisors, who would not ever sell you something that you would not be satisfied with thereafter.

They are not after the quick-sale or the quantity. They are after the relationship, trust and loyalty bond that is created between them and you.

They recommend and sell products they like, they know well, they have studied and tested for a long time before adopting. But they sell it along side other products and brands without appearing any less credible to you and me.

It is their integrity to their mission of providing a quality service to their customers that makes them stand above the need to sell. Their primary goal is to help their customers achieve some goal, execute a task, realize a dream. And in the wake of their mission they apply their best nowledge to help you. Even if that requires them to say: "No, don't buy this item today. It is not as good as we thought and we recommed you to look for other solutions".

That is how they gain top credibility, and how they become absolutely stunning sellers of anything that goes through their hands.

It is their recommendation that sells, more than the product itself.

Yes, nothing new under the sun, but when you wake up you will notice that these well-known marketing and sales principles have been misused and exploited NOT for the benefit of the customer so far.

And rarely before we have seen real, credible voices standing behind them.

I, for example would find it very hard to accept any amount of money to publish something that I do not fully endorse.

And naturally, If I endorse a product, I also spontaneously like to customize the promotion message in my own way, as that helps me highlight and explain in my unique language the key selling points of this product to my own very special readers (and not just to everyone).
So, do revert the present ad game and imagine.
If publishers were to choose their advertisers based on the products they truly liked, things could be a lot different.
Suppose you had a blog about design online and liked/used/loved tools like Adobe Illustrator, Movable Type, Snagit, and more.

Assume you could go to your "ad agency" and check whether those companies were open to advertise on blogs/sites of your "class".
Imagine you selecting the products you are going to promote by signing up for them and establishing yourself if a) to take a pre-packaged banner/text ad to add to your web page/newsletter as is, b) to customize/design YOUR OWN ad for that product. (I would expect section b) to provide a bigger payback to publishers both in terms of commission for clickthroughs as well as for actual effectiveness. But this is all to be experimented).
Imagine having the ability to easily incorporate within your site shop area the products and services that you wanted to sell, as if they were your own ones. Or if you preferred, having the possibility of being rewarded for simply any lead you would send through to another merchant in the form a new qualified prospective customer.

I can see things I like, and I can experience a richer marketplace experience than I have now.

What do you see?

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posted by Robin Good on Saturday, August 7 2004, updated on Tuesday, May 5 2015

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