It's highly likely you'll fail if you decide to play in the world of direct response offers and low CPM buys. That is the realm of the high-traffic portals, content sites and DR networks. Let them fulfill that function, since they've already chosen their fate and they have the traffic to make things sustainable for a bit. Bloggers shouldn't be taking $0.50 CPC and $5 CPM deals for advertising. That is, plastering their sites with "buy my crap" ads is only going to pay peanuts, and doing so fails to leverage blogs for what they're good for.
The name of the new game is engagement. And although the various advertising organizations are having trouble figuring out exactly what engagement is, there's a huge trend building behind the notion of advertisers actually communicating directly with their customers and prospects. It's what we're addressing with our Conversational Marketing practice here at Underscore.
Rather than advertise "buy my crap," certain advertisers are using online advertising to solicit feedback about their companies, products, processes and customer service. This is the space in which blogs should be playing a big role.
By way of hypothetical example, rather than take an ad that proclaims "Buy a Nissan Pathfinder," bloggers may soon have the opportunity to take ads that ask for feedback on how Nissan develops new models, or on an issue like fuel efficiency. Blog readers will then be able to follow the ad to a conversational forum (blog post, message board, e-mail discussion list) where they can give their opinions and the advertiser will respond.
In this way, blogs will be evaluated on the interactivity of their audience. Since people who visit blogs are more likely to understand the conversational nature of the Internet, they're probably more likely to respond to such solicitations of opinion. That's one of the things blogs bring to the table. And I'd rather see bloggers getting paid for the conversational nature of their audience than for how frequently they respond to "buy my crap!" offers.
Smart bloggers and blog networks will start talking about how engaging their audience is. We should start highlighting how blog audiences are more likely to give advertisers feedback, especially constructive feedback that can be taken back to product development teams, executive management teams and the marketing department.
I plan to do a follow-up post on this shortly, to highlight how we're helping to facilitate real dialogue using blogs for a particular client. In doing so, I'm also going to reach out to some of the marketing bloggers to help me tell this story. Why? Because it's worth getting out there, and it will help establish at least one more model by which independent journalism and commentary can make money on the web.