I was too busy to blog this yesterday, but Socialtext became one of the first sponsors of Techmeme's new ad format and it might be helpful to share the rationale. What is appealing about the format itself is the ability to control the content yourself, simply make a new blog post. From an advertiser's perspective, this is pretty revolutionary. Zero-barrier to campaign adaption, in the conversational format we are already communicating in and where campaign is in conversational context.
Now, I'm not really doing this right, and truly adapting the ad to the context of what is being discussed. If there were memes to directly play off of, and quite frankly we weren't so busy incorporating feedback on Socialtext 2.0 and the close of a great quarter, I'd be playing a different game. I had confidence in this ad buy, a rare thing for our company, because of who we were sponsoring and influence.
Gabe is a good guy, and sponsorship is the last remaining ad format yet to be commoditized, largely by Google. Last time I looked, sponsorship was 10% of online ad revenue. You may know my interest in Cost-Per-Influence and Sell-Side Advertising, which I believe is the future of online advertising. The buy started with Gabe reaching out to me, a gesture that meant he sought affiliation with our brand. I gauged the relative influence (not how many impressions, but who was impressed and whether those would impress others) of Techmeme in my decision. If Techmeme writers as readers could cross-post my ad (in a way they did, by blogging about the news of the format, but that isn't supporting a Socialtext meme) -- it would be the same dynamic as sell-side advertising.
Erick Schonfeld pointed out that companies that really blog, like mine, could get on to Techmeme through meme merit. As it should be (btw, any Socialtext employee can post to this blog with only general good sense guidelines, so someone could commandeer the ad, within reason). The editorial and publishing sides of the house should take such sides, even if driven by an algorithm. After all, why else would users be there?
Let's explore that question. With me prodding Gabe like I have before (and without backchanneling).
I'd love to see the Techmeme ad format evolve towards its editorial content. Towards as in format, not as in business rules. Maybe keep the auction for 1st, 2nd and 3rd place -- but show the conversations linking to each ad post.
Scary thought, eh? The question is how that would effect the ad price. Would enabling ads in context of conversations scare off ad buyers? Only those oblivious to how little control they have over the message in the first place. For others, it may be more attractive. If an advertiser had confidence they could snowball positive conversations with their ad, buying an ad could amplify the effect. After all, broadcast casts what you want to be, networks amplify who you are.
Now what if the way advertisers were gaming the system, in a system of highly nested feedback loops, by creating great content as advertising to attract and influence others? Perhaps Gabe would run a whole page driven by advertisers they selected. Perhaps readers would find it as compelling an index as the one driven more by merit. The single criteria for fulfilling Sell Side Advertising is a system that is driven by incentives to create better ad content. And for that, I think we would all be better off.