OMMA East Day 2 Recap/Rant on Consumer-Generated Content

I missed most of the morning of the show, as I scrambled to get a proposal out the door. I did make it to the show by 3:00, though. I spent some time at Henry Copeland's panel on consumer-generated content. I liked this panel a lot, as it featured a number of executives who had used blogs and podcasts to help market products and services. Notice I said "market" as opposed to "advertise." Advertising alone isn't the answer, and some of the folks on the panel were talking a bit about how people in their organization participated in distributed conversations, instead of simply advertising on blogs and in podcasts and hoping for the best. The whole panel was further affirmation (for me) that corporate America needs to re-align itself to deal with these conversations and become meaningful participants. I can't think of too many marketers that are set up to do this.

During Henry's panel, I was thinking quite a bit about the last OMMA show and how Bob Garfield talked about how the Internet isn't ready for prime time. One of his biggest supporting arguments for this notion of the Internet not being ready for the influx of dollars that will pour into it over the next several years was that there's not enough quality content.

Not enough quality content? I couldn't reconcile that with the conversation we were having at OMMA East about the explosion of consumer-generated content. We're lacking content in one sense, but in the next breath, we're talking about a content explosion? That makes no sense to me.

Later on, during the closing "Spin Board" panel, I would mention this as a huge red flag. I recapped Garfield's earlier speech and noted that he did say we didn't have the content to get the job done. Then I talked a bit about consumer-generated content and advanced the notion of consumer-generated content delivering the content we need. I think there's something here.

But to get there, we need tools, processes and systems. Recently, a client asked me to look into whether blogs could deliver on a niche interest - skiing. Unlike the last campaign we did that had blogs as a component, I had no personal knowledge whatsoever of any potential venues. So what to do?

Of course I did the usual searches on Blogdigger, Technorati, IceRocket and Google's Blog Search. I couldn't find any blogs that consistently covered skiing on a regular basis. So I did the next best thing - I sent e-mails out to Henry Copeland, Jason Calacanis, Nick Denton, my rep at Burst! and the rest of the folks I know who sell ads on blogs.

Now, why don't we have a tool for media planners that would handle all this? Planners cannot be expected to know every blog within every content category, so why isn't there a tool that would allow one to book ads on blogs automatically and find the blogs they'd like to sponsor based on keyword searches?

Think about it. I could log in to an interface, search for "skiing," "snowboarding" and any other search terms that make sense. A list of blogs would come up on a page, along with rates and availability for sponsorship. I could dive into the content of these blogs and use the interface to find out how long they've been covering skiing, how often they post about it, whether they have categories dedicated to skiing, etc. And if I wanted to sponsor, I could simply pick my dates from a list of avails, check rates, and book the whole thing on my corporate Amex. As the flight dates drew nearer, I could upload ad tags through the interface and have them automatically come up on the blogs I've selected

So where is this tool? How come the blog networks of the world have no such self-service tool? How much time could they save by not having to fill out proposals? How much time could the planner save by doing this all on their own schedule and getting real-time feedback? How big would this be for advertisers who DO want to get involved in consumer-generated content and distributed conversations?

Let's do it.