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Demystifying Blogs 3

Nick Denton is publisher of Gawker Media and the brains behind Nike’s “, again, that’s very niche, but that’s a very good example of a blog that is absolutely associated with Microsoft. If you do a Google search for Robert Scoble, he’s probably one of the sharpest guys in the country on corporate blogging, he’s Microsoft’s Chief Blogger or something, this funny title …

Denton: It has humanized Microsoft.

Watters: Absolutely.

Audience Member: Well they have such a powerful community. It was a brilliant PR move.

Watters: And it has pretty much fixed their problem with the developers. I mean, they’ve got other problems, obviously, but it’s pretty much fixed those problems.

Denton: It’s pretty easy to hate a big, faceless corporation, but to hate a geek who’s just like you …


Audience Member: Are there some blogging tools you guys recommend, instead of just developing one on your own?

Denton: I’d recommend, for a quick and easy Web log, Blogger, which is owned by Google, or Blogger.com. Blogger was the company that first popularized Web logs. It launched in about 1999, and has improved the product very substantially since then.

Audience Member: Is that software?

Watters: It’s actually a Web service. I mean, that’s where mine is right now, and there’s a free level and then you pay for certain things. TypePad is another one, but if you want to do it yourself, Movable Type.

Denton: All of our sites are built off Movable Type. It’s incredibly cheap. It’s a few hundred dollars. There’s a whole community of developers around Movable Type, so it’s quite easy to find people to either develop plug-ins for additional features, or just to install it.

Watters: It’s really easy to use, it’s completely templatable.

Audience Member: I’m on the agency side and I get questions all the time from my clients about "are you blogging?" You mentioned CPG clients -- I will say for example, picking a product out a hat, something like AXE, the men’s fragrance -- the content on it's Web site would be very easy to pull into a really cool blog, because it’s got a lot of relationship content about getting girls and stuff that's cool, and I think that could live in a blog and not be cheesy.

Denton: Is AXE a client or... ?

Audience Member: No, they’re not my client.


Denton: My apologies ahead of time.

Watters: I’m going to move back now, out of the line of fire...

Denton: Their PR people harassed us for, like a week. And they called me, they called two of our editors. We actually got to the point where this is actually an example of how blogs can backfire.  If it had been a slow news day, we would’ve done a post about how lame they were…

Audience Member: I was thinking more of that fictional character, whoever it is, the guy who has a book …

Watters: The secret to blogging is to blog a lot. You need to be up at least once a day if you’re serious about it, and preferably more. Because what you want to build -- it builds community. You need to have a very specific voice, which all of Nick’s publications do; and Belief.net definitely does with Jesse [Kornbluth] and I’ve forgotten who the other …

Lynn Chaiken/Beliefnet.com: Loose Cannon -- It’s a blog that has two sides of the political coin …

Watters: It’s really good. It’s on Belief net. So blog often, have a very definite voice, and what those things do is start to build the frequency, which then builds the community. So around CPG products, if you’ve got a product -- Pedigree’s actually been doing some of this -- if you’ve got a product that lends itself to community like pet-related things, it could -- you and I differ on this a little bit, Nick -- but that’s a place where it could make sense for you, if you’re really upfront that it’s your blog.

Audience Member: [It seems to be a good fit for] a high interest product and consumer, although the client can’t control it. On the other hand, where products that have low interest, where there's low consumer interest; a marketer would have to find a hook.

Watters: Exactly. Yes, consumer-generated media

Audience Member: I have a question about editorial integrity. One of the beauties of a lot of the blogs is that they are leads to the under-the-radar stories. How do we know, as marketers, that the content is trustworthy and that it’s factual? I assume there's not fact checking … 

Watters: No. That’s why it’s so important to have a personality.

Denton: I think some rules apply as in mainstream media, that there are magazines -- everyone knows magazines that are corrupt. The same thing is happening in Web logs. There’s a movie review site -- I don’t know if I should call it a traditional blog, but there’s a movie review site which I’m sure most people can guess at, which now has a reputation for having been co-opted, and having kind of been bought out by the studios. And that damages its reputation and credibility and ultimately it’s potential as an advertising media. And we try to maintain an independence, and it’s up to the readers to judge.

Audience Member: Are there success stories or negative stories about advertising standard units on a blog network?

Denton: About two years ago, when we started our blog, advertising on blogs was controversial. Just as it was in the early days of the Internet. Now [if we ran] pop-ups or pop-unders, then maybe people would complain, but generally there’s an acceptance that a good Web log needs money to survive.

Watters: Google’s driving a lot of ad traffic out of blogs [with AdSense]…

Audience Member: You talk about a number of TV shows where when you go into the social profiles and you see who’s viewing your network, one of the profiles in your network is a sponsor profile that’s very specifically noted as a sponsor profile; but it’s typically a celebrity or it could be something really kitschy like Tony the Tiger where people are actually going to click on that and find out all this different stuff and it’s known that it’s advertising, but if it’s done in fun, entertaining way that fits with the whole model; I mean, the results have been incredible.

Audience Member: What are the response rates to advertising in a blog network?

Denton: It depends. We’ve had click-through rates as high as 2 percent on particularly compelling ads; a lot lower on others.

Watters: They’re targeted by the content of the blog. If you’ve go to BlogAds.com, you can run down this list of a thousand different blogs by content and topic, so you kind of pick and choose within those kinds of things.

Nick -- any closing remarks, parting shots?

Denton: Not except to say that if anyone’s interested, I’ve got a list of things like monitoring services, so if people are actually interested in seeing what Web logs are saying about their product, I can give you a list of services like Technorati that do that, or that show the most popular means of that day on the Web. And I can give a list also of publishing systems and the biggest Web log.

Watters: Okay. This has been an interesting session, and blogs are the kind of things that either scare people if people just aren’t sure what they are, or people really get into them. It’s like any other tool. See if it works, see if it has applications for you. If it does, great. If it doesn’t, go to lunch.

Thank you.

Nick Denton is publisher of Gawker Media, an independent media company, which includes Gawker, an online review of pop culture, and WonketteWonkette, an analogous title for U.S. politics. Gawker Media, with properties in nine consumer...

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