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 k / o
                                       politics + culture

Friday, October 14, 2005


There's a trio of posts about blogging tonight: Liza at Culture Kitchen, kos at dailykos, and Chris Bowers at MyDD.

What's interesting to me in these posts is how "influence" and "money" and "sustainability" get conflated. Did the folks who wanted Liza to give some "free" viral marketing to their new product at Culture Kitchen understand political blogs and how insulting to Liza that was? When Chris Bowers matter-of-factly writes that only 6 or 7 bloggers total make a living at it....(which is puny for a trend this huge...how many people you think make a living on refrigerator poetry magnets?)...and then goes on to tackle the political question of whether the blogs would have had a meaningful impact in 2000 or 2002...or whether we even had any impact in face of the Swift Boats in 2004...I think Chris makes an interesting implicit point: impact and money are related, it's just a fact. And on a real level sustainability, and the money that makes that possible, is a part of the blogging equation.

So, when Markos points to this interesting indiewire guide to creating a good blog ad...I think he's making an implicit political point too. Successful independent advertising would make blogs more profitable, and hence more sustainable and impactful as "new media" ventures. And there's politics in that. Both in how that would affect magazines and newspapers and radio, and also in how it would affect how blogs and bloggers view themselves.

I'm not in a position to make a big post out of this, but I would say that, pragmatically, I think Markos is right. Better, cooler, more effective ads would help make blogging more sustainable and prove that this model of publishing is here to stay. There is a huge discrepency right now in that blogs are at once subverting traditional print media and news and entertainment sources...but are also relatively cash poor for all the hard work put into them and eyeballs they get.

Media buys at ad agencies are huge expenditures. In that context, advertising on the blogs is chump change. When you think about the amount of money agencies spend every day to reach viewers in formats where folks on the receiving end are just so dead to most of what they see...it's insane. (In contrast, think how an ad on dailykos, unlike one in a newspaper or magazine, will get seen over and over and over again for the same price...like a billboard or a kiosk ad downtown San Francisco...but readers at dkos are both somewhat trackable and knowable and...most importantly to advertisers, likeminded people who choose to be there.)

In doing a solo blog, I've come to see, a little bit, where kos has been coming from. (You don't understand traffic, and how it works, until you see it for yourself.) If you had to ask me to bet...I would guess kos sees himself very much as a "new media" publishing venue. And that may be the best frame to see dKos through. In that sense, I think kos maybe intuitively understands something that I think is essentially spot on: unless and until blogs innovate advertising in the same way they've innovated online writing and communication they won't achieve the sustainability and profitability that will give them the impact Chris is talking about. Like so many things, it is about money, whether anyone likes it or not.

At the end of the day, money is the only language the folks Liza encountered really understand. And of course, once someone innovates blog advertising that works and actually subverts mainstream advertising and gives a competitive edge...money, and maybe "corporate blogs" will rush in...actually, that is probably an inevitability.



  • To come clean, I work in advertising. (I'm a crew member on "big time" ads for the most part.) If you are reading this in a city almost anywhere in the world...you'll likely see an ad I've worked on at some point during your day. If you live in the United States, you've likely seen hundreds of photographs that I had a hand in making over the last decade, oftentimes loading the film, or rigging the lights, or standing just out of frame bouncing light on the model. It gets weird even for me sometimes. Lol.

    (But, no..I'm not a big time shooter...though I know many, many of them. I've seen how we make the sausage, so to speak.)

    There's also a way in which blogging and photography are alike. The best bloggers aren't necessarily the best "bloggers"..they are the ones who see blogging as more than content...as a total business, or enterprise.

    They deliver. And obsess. And innovate. And...well..you get my point.

    By Blogger kid oakland, at 9:12 PM  

  • I thought it was interesting and clever when Kos himself ran some blogads for DailyKos on other smaller liberal blogs, in tandem with a frontpage post encouraging people to check out more obscure blogs. While one can straightforwardly read that as community-minded generosity, there's also a smart calculation behind it. He was emulating--in a blogospheric context--what Dean so famously did during the glory days of the primaries and "Dean for America," when he would selectively choose regional candidates to whom he would funnel some of the mounds (or 'bats') of cash he was raising online. The idea was to establish himself as a trusted and reliable power-broker by making smaller candidates grateful to him and convincing them that their interests were tied with his, such that they would support his candidacy and confirm his far-sighted leadership down the line. Clever (and sleazy) folks like DeLay do something similar in the way they buy loyalty through well-timed cash-infusions to small-time players, thus developing a network of footsoldiers who feel they owe their careers to him. It's clever politics and there's nothing wrong with it (unless you're DeLay and a slimy crook) and one could argue that it was that kind of careful patronage and tending of the Party grassroots that won Dean the DNC chairmanship in the end. I'm curious to see how or if the parallels pan out in the blogosphere.

    By Blogger wg, at 10:04 PM  

  • Media and message. Art and commerce. I guess the old conflicts exist in blogging.

    You're right about the best bloggers may not be the best "bloggers." There's more to it than content, if you want to have an impact on a large scale.

    I don't know what the future of this medium is or whether it's going to have an impact on our social and political landscape in the long run.

    We could be and remain a very small world talking to each other. Those in power won't ceed influence over to the bloggers without a fight.

    Money, being a whore, will go where the eyes go.

    By Blogger NYBri, at 10:52 PM  

  • It's all interesting. Some people may think I sold out on my site for having a banner ad for a band. Actually, my friend is the guitarist in the band.

    Some of the points were interesting in that kos post. I'm not sure how I feel about bloggers and labor. On one hand they are working.. but on the other it is for a cause that they have chosen, they haven't been hired. In a way they/we are volunteers.

    By Blogger Dean, at 12:13 PM  

  • re: Dean

    Sell out isn't a term I'd use.

    I think it's way more complex than that.

    Ie. the "sell out" concept implies that you can have your "hands clean." Which is simply not really true or possible for anyone really...how many people do you know who weave their own clothes? Blogs already exist in a network of contigencies...ie. who's paying for the page loads, and if it's the blog "owner" shouldn't they get to keep the ad revenue? The bill comes due somewhere.

    Imo, Our job is to

    a) understand the rules of the game and the marketplace

    b) have a progressive impact with the tools/power at our disposal

    c) be innovators and find new solutions. ie. do the best we can with the situation we've been given.

    In some ways the punk scene, the hip hop scene and the art scene are riven by the concept that you can "sell out"...and it's paralysing and idiotic. The same may go for the world of blogs.

    The questions and answers are all relative. Which is a pain in the ass because it means we have to think, and make individual judgments...instead of leaping to easy conclusions.

    By Blogger kid oakland, at 12:49 PM  

  • dean, yes, we are volunteering. My blog has no ads and I blog as a form of expression and community. My on line art work, I guess.

    (I'll leave the addiction aspect for another discussion).

    I started ePluribus Media and worked my ass off for six months for no money, because I believed in the project. Still do.

    What the discussion is about is the impact and success of the medium, eventually, and can that happen without money and money means compromise. kos can grow his blog and develop new technology and have an impact because he can now devote full time to it. It creates his living wage. Man, I wish I were to that point.

    One of the problems with ePluribus Media and others orgs like it is that no one can devote full time to it, because it lacks income. IF you decide to go full time and make money, then you "sell out" to cash.

    Old Art vs. Commerce thing all over again. Like with musicians and photographers and film makers and painters and novelists and...and...and..

    By Blogger NYBri, at 12:56 PM  

  • Good points guys.

    k/o: I kind of used the term impulsively, more so to point out that a quick judgment of an add at my site, as an example, may not capture my motivation for including something on my blog. But, what you say about the revenue makes sense. In terms of art and money, I think a distinction can be made between making commercial art and being true to one’s art as well as learning how to approach and deal with the business side of it.

    Nybri: I didn’t know you were the founder. You guys do some great work. I see what you mean about the finances. Maybe good bloggers need to find some rich spouses to help get the ball rolling! I kid.

    By Blogger Dean, at 6:36 PM  

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