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Navigate the blogosphere's biggest ad networks

Navigate the blogosphere's biggest ad networks Joe Kutchera

If there's one buzzword that has spread like wildfire through the entire media business in the last five years, it is blogs.

Universal McCann's global "Power to the People" Social Media Tracker study says that "blogs are a mainstream media worldwide and as a collective rival any traditional media," with 73 percent of respondents saying they have read a blog.

The majority of the 184 million blogs worldwide are of the personal nature, according to Universal McCann's study, and a recent eMarketer report states that there are 25 million bloggers in the U.S. alone.

The eMarketer study says that 67 percent of the U.S. online population -- 104 million people -- reads blogs, showing that blogging has become a truly mass media. The number of blog readers will continue to grow to 145 million by 2012.

The growth in readership reflects the consumer's desire to participate with information, not just consume it. Younger consumers especially seek edgier and more personal sources of content than what is offered by the formal approach of mass media.

While blog readership has exploded, advertising investment represented only 1.34 percent of online spending in 2007, and eMarketer estimates it will grow to 1.46 percent by 2012.  According to that estimate, U.S. blog advertising will increase from $283 million in 2007 to $746 million in 2012.

Today, corporate marketers are asking "do we need a corporate blog?" and "how do we participate in the conversation?" Look at any major media brand's website, and you will almost always find featured blogs as a way to update the brand's online persona.

As marketers become increasingly interested in participating in the conversation of the blogosphere and proactively focusing their customer service efforts on what is being said about the brand online, a number of blog advertising networks have emerged. These networks offer marketers scale and control in advertising on blogs and social media sites, and have succeeded by quickly growing revenues in recent years.

The following is an overview of major blog networks including BlogAds, Gawker Media, Technorati, Federated Media, Google, Forbes' Business Blog Network and Izea, owner of two blog advertising services: SocialSpark and Pay Per Post.

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Founded: 1998, although the Blogads.com service started in 2002.

Blogs in network:  More than 1,500, including PerezHilton, DailyKos, I Can Has Cheezburger?, CuteOverload, indieWIRE, Overheard in New York, Largehearted Boy and Wonkette.

Unique users per month: 20 million

Page views per month: More than 1 billion

Top editorial categories by page views: Gossip, gay and politics

Self-serve purchasing system available: Yes

Advertising programs available:

  • Time-based sponsorships with custom ad units including images and text

  • Banners

  • Widgets

  • Custom skins

  • Advertorial posts

  • Section sponsorships

  • Pre-roll video

  • Geo-targeted and frequency capping included with some of the above options

Investors: Staff and friends (no venture capital)

Unique network attributes: "First, we specialize only in influential blogs," says founder Henry Copeland. "Second, we're a one-stop shop, with blogs in every genre. Third, nearly every aspect of advertising with us can be done DIY, but if you prefer, our salespeople can assist. Finally, in addition to standard IAB units and custom executions, we utilize a custom ad-unit comprised of both an image and text specifically designed for blog advertising and sold at 100 percent SOV for a fixed period of time."

Why do marketers like to work with them? "Advertisers value our blogs, insights and service," says Copeland. "We work with an incredibly diverse and influential group of blogs. We've pioneered the idea of advertising in social media long before the term existed, so we have unique insights into what works and what doesn't work. Finally, our stable, well-informed staff bend over backwards to serve advertisers well. Both because of our age and our focus on quality service, we've got a bunch of uniquely strong relationships with blogs and advertisers."

Gawker Media

Blogs in network: 12

Unique users per month: 8.1 million

Page views per month: 250 million

Top editorial categories by page views: Tech, games and software

Self-serve purchasing system available: No

Advertising programs available:

  • IAB standard display units

  • Custom roadblocks

  • Custom panoramas

  • Editorially driven contests and promotions

  • Advertorial

Investors: No venture capital investments

Unique network attributes: An extremely high composition of influential cosmopolitans who are young, educated and affluent. Highly engaged, participative readerships with fervent affection for the brands. A 100 percent organic audience (no marketing) delivers high composition against targets with zero waste, yielding industry-leading brand performance.

Why do marketers like to work with them? "We're honest, responsive and creative," says Gawker publisher Chris Batty.

Federated Media
Founded: 2005

Blogs in network: More than 150, including community sites, destination websites and social networking applications.

Unique users per month: 50 million

Page views per month: 161 million

Top editorial categories by page views: Tech, entertainment and news

Self-serve purchasing system available: Yes

Advertising programs available:

  • Display on CPM basis

  • Custom, integrated conversational marketing campaigns

  • Video advertising

  • All forms of targeting

Investors: Panorama Capital, Oak Investment Partners and others

Unique network attributes: Federated Media works with the highest quality independent digital media on the web. In addition to CPM display and video advertising, it specializes in custom, integrated conversational marketing campaigns for major brand advertisers.

Why do marketers like to work with them? Federated Media is a digital media company that understands the goals and motivations of its marketing partners and helps them navigate the conversational media space. The company has deep experience in digital media and marketing and helps marketers realize their brand goals.

Founded: 2005 as a blog search engine, but the blog network began selling advertising in July 2008

Blogs in network: 26

Unique users per month: 24 million

Page views per month: 117 million

Top editorial categories by page views:  Technology, entertainment and politics

Self-serve purchasing system available: No

Advertising programs available:

  • Text ads

  • Banners

  • Targeting

  • Custom conversation ads

  • Custom conversation pages

  • Custom channels

  • Channel sponsorships

Investors:  DFJ, Mobius and Digital Garage are primary investors. Others include Sandy Robertson, August Capital, Reid Hoffman, Esther Dyson and Skype & Kazaa founders Niklas Zennstrom and Janus Friis.

Unique network attributes: Technorati is the No. 1 blog search site and has the most comprehensive information and data about the blogosphere. It indexes more than 1.5 million new posts daily and enables millions of people to navigate the leading and emerging stories and topics. The same technology that underlies Technorati's search and indexing functions allows it to create custom experiences: Brands can be the center of or adjacent to the most relevant content and audiences.

Why do marketers like to work with them? "Whether or not marketers end up running a campaign with Technorati Media, our goal is to help marketers navigate the blogosphere and build the most effective social media strategy for their brand," says Jennifer McLean, Technorati’s senior director of marketing.

IZEA: Social Spark and PayPerPost
Founded: 2006

Blogs in network: More than 200,000

Unique users per month: 145,000

Page views per month: 650,000

Top editorial categories by page views: General lifestyle, wellness and beauty, technology

Self-serve purchasing system available: Yes

Advertising programs available:

  • Sponsored posts

  • Blog sponsorships (interstitial)

  • Targeting by gender, age, traffic volume, category, keyword, income, geo location of blogger and geo traffic

Investors: Draper Fisher Jurvetson, DFJ Gotham, Village Ventures and Inflexion

Unique network attributes: The networks provide openness and transparency, while Izea provides tools that allow advertisers to research bloggers and build their own vertical networks.

Why do marketers like to work with them?  "We are the world leader in sponsored content," the company says. "Advertisers pay bloggers to review and buzz products, services and websites on their blogs in a controlled, disclosed manner. The advertiser is exposed to the blogosphere of influence and is able to drive traffic directly to their site via in-post links. The CPC on sponsorship campaigns is about 20 percent less than a comparable search campaign and drives an average of twice the amount of time on site."

The Forbes.com Business and Finance Blog Network

Blogs in network: Close to 900

Unique users per month: 10 million

Page views per month:  Not available

Top editorial categories by page views: Not available

Self-serve purchasing system available: No

Advertising programs available:

  • Standard IAB ad units

  • Rich media

Investors: Forbes.com

Unique network attributes: The Forbes.com Business and Finance Blog Network is comprised of a community of pre-screened, influential business and financial blogs. The network’s content focuses on senior business decision makers and high-net-worth investors. Participation in the network is by invitation only. All blogs are vetted by Forbes.com editors for appropriate content, ensuring they are keeping with the Forbes editorial brand.

Why do marketers like to work with them? The Forbes.com Business and Finance Blog Network allows advertisers to target a highly engaged, exclusive niche audience of senior business decision makers and affluent investors easily and effectively.

AdSense launched in 2003. Google acquired Feedburner in June 2007.

Self-serve purchasing system available: Yes

Advertising programs available:

  • Text

  • Static or animated images

  • Click to play video

  • Rich media

Unique network attributes: Precision, scale and flexible pricing

Why do marketers like to work with them? To quote Google's content network marketing material, “We believe marketing should be easy. So we've applied some of the most advanced technology to make sure it really is. The Google content network is all about making one thing as simple and straightforward as possible for marketers: reaching the right audience at the perfect moment."

Editor's note: Google was not able to provide information about the number of blogs its ads are distributed on nor the number of unique visitors and page views.

Blog Resources
AdAge's Power150 Blogs

Adify's Networks (including blog networks)

Blog Council: Community of senior executives in charge of social media at the largest corporations in the world

Blog Critics Magazine

BlogHer.com: The Community for Women Who Blog

Blog World Expo in Las Vegas

eMarketer Report -- The Blogosphere: A Mass Movement from Grass Roots

Google Blog Search

Internet Architects' Web Subway Map -- 2008 Beta version

Pew Internet & American Life Project

ProBlogger's list of recommended tools for bloggers

Technorati Blog Directory

Universal McCann's Power to the People Social Media Tracker study

USC Annenberg School Center for the Digital Future

Vanity Fair's Blog Map (Blogopticon)

Joe Kutchera is the director of Spanish-language markets at ContextWeb Inc., a leading contextual advertising company and operator of the ADSDAQ Exchange.

Joe Kutchera is the founder and managing partner of Latino Link Advisors where he advise clients on how to best develop content and digital marketing strategies, with an emphasis in Hispanic/Latin American markets. He worked with Flipboard on...

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to leave comments.

Commenter: Erin Fox

2008, September 18

Dominique, you are absolutely right, that one of the barriers to entry in accessing bloggers is the time investment of finding the right ones for your message. That is what IZEA has overcome with SocialSpark.com We make it easy to tailor your message to whatever blogger segment you are trying to reach. Thankfully we submerge ourselves in the blogosphere so marketers can spend more time maintaining their clients. We do all the work :)

Commenter: dominique lahaix

2008, September 12

Very interesting article.

Major issue when advertising in blogs is : relevance and value add.

This means that

1) marketers/advertisers should spend time in blogs, understanding their target audience, capturing its language and crafting messages that are laser sharp relevant. (ex: you don't advertise credit card the same way on teen blogs, parenting blogs or personal finance blogs)
2) a side effect is that most of the time, you have to work bottom up : collect the thousands of blogs that are your sweetspot and access them cross different ad network.

It's not a one click affair and it requires marketers/advertisers to immerse themselves in blogs as part of their day to day (not just for a specific campaign) but it works.

Commenter: Christophe Folschette

2008, September 12

do you want to find some interesting stories, interesting blogs by category, tagcloud overview by search query and much more, give a try to www.iterend.com actually in private beta, only restricted access! Try it out! Regards Christophe

Commenter: Bryant Garvin

2008, September 12

You left out one more AdBrite with over 70k publishers we have a lot of the "blogs" out there. We are second only to Google in number of publishers. Thanks for bringing attention to a medium that really deserves it. We just had a call with a major well known Brand today and spoke to the fact that using behavioral and other methods to target the end-user as opposed to the page they are on we have seen a huge impact on return by including those "smaller sites" in their buys. Just stepping back you are on AOL and see a nice rich media ad along with tons of video content news articles, really a lot of different things to take your attention away from the ad. Or you see the same ad on your friends blog who has maybe 50 readers and 100 page views a day.... Which one is more likely to stand out?