With more snow in my front yard than any average Giuseppe in Turin - the meteorologists and my weather-loving father are going nuts - it's the perfect time to settle in, put another pot of coffee on, and noodle around with the Weblog. And so, time for a few notes and thoughts on the medium itself - yes, I know, a good percentage of you rolls your eyes and mutters "technology review ahead - nuts" but I don't care. As I've said before, this blog is an experiment in the form as well as an outlet for discussions on politics and media, and frankly, I've been neglecting the plumbing for quite some time.
So a couple of thoughts, some additions, and some subtractions.
First this: advertising does not work for the average blogger, even the above-average blogger. It only works for the big group blogs and a tiny handful of full-timers. Advertising as a means of support for bloggers is a complete, utter, and frankly, rather embarassing failure. If Fred Wilson can't earn more than charity change for his blog - well-read, updated thrice daily, and a leader in an important category - than few others can. If Steve Gilliard has to hang out a rusty tin can on his blog and beg for nickels, then blog advertising has failed. If Joe Gandelman's still on the ventriloquism circuit instead of sitting in a fine office, collecting fees for his incredible service to blog journalism, then advertising doesn't work.
Sure, it works for Google, but I suspect that is because we were all suckers in the early days of this and slapped AdSense up on our sites. Well, AdSense doesn't work for me and it's coming down. I'm also sure advertising sales has created a nice little business for Henry Copeland and his BlogAds empire - a nice idea, fairly well-executed. But you know, a bunch of liberal bloggers who also enjoyed books and media criticism banded together to form the the Liberal Prose network - but it hasn't worked for me. It doesn't seem to me like anyone is actively selling the ads. Yeah, I got a few ads from Rosie's site, a rock band pushing its downloads, and a few other causes. But the money was small, and it takes too much time and space. So it's coming down.
Frankly, it's disappointing in the purportedly "open" blogosphere to find such abject failure in advertising - to find gatekeepers, a star system, and closed networks. In short: old media. The advertising model is the same fellas, stop fooling yourself into thinking it's not. Advertising on blogs is old media, with a little tip jar begging thrown in. Since this blog exists only for the conversation it stirs and for the outlet I need to keep away from padded rooms, my "paid" advertising is coming down - at least for now.
Besides, I need the space for more experiments.
Ironically, one of them is advertising of a sort - but it's free, open, and based entirely on the individual publisher's tastes - and not on the ad reps from BlogAds or the formulas over at Google, which are a little too open, except in Communist China. It's called Word of Blog, and I got it from Fred (who treats his own blog like an experiment as well) a few months ago. I really like Word of Blog, because I control what sites and people I promote. Sometimes it's a political cause, sometimes it's a podcast, like Jason's great Down in the Flood. Sure, no money changes hands - but the interface is easy, and it feels good.
The next one also comes from Fred, and it's the"charts" produced by the wonderful music recommendation/online radio site Last.fm - which is so easy, and so good it just has to find its way into the mainstream media canon in iPodian proportions at some point. Last.fm lets you build radio stations for (fully-licensed) online listening, and keeps charts of what you've been playing on its servers, and on iTunes. I've wanted to have my own personal charts on this blog since I started it, and was frustrated by the manual Typepad lists etc. This does it. Automatically. Hope it starts some conversations. [Blog charts would be a terrific service for NetFlix and Tivo to offer as well, come to think of it].
Finally, thanks to Bruno Giussani, I discovered coComments literally the second it went public and I really like it so far. The service gives you a browser plug-in that lets you save your comments on other sites to coComments' server first, then to the blog's site itself. That's slightly cumbersome and may be automated at some point, but it you're really into the conversation - as I am - it's invaluable. Because when you give up your comments to the coComments site, you gain a tracking mechanism - this allows you to publish your comments elsewhere on your own blog, and to create RSS feeds for your comment stream. [Note to coComments team: right now, the service is slow and moderately selective - it takes a while for comments to make the RSS stream - and therefore, alert me to follow-up]. Could this "change everything?" Will we actually need blogs anymore if the "conversation" takes on its own life in feeds? Dunno. But I'm gonna try it out for a while - I urge you to click on the box from time to time and jump into the conversations I'm involved in on other blogs.
Very cool. Just like the weather.
UPDATE: I realize that this post may have cast aspersions upon the members and organizers of the Liberal Prose Network. Let me clear that up: they're some of my favorite bloggers, great people, and if Blogads.com works for them, terrific - I dearly hope the money is good so they can afford to write even more! No, my complaint is really with the Blogads system - it's just another ad sales bureau and it was clear that despite the enthusiasm of the Liberal Prose folks, there was no ad salesperson on the other side pushing this....just some wishful thinking on our part. Then there's the pathetic Amsterdam junket, an ill-considered venture in which so-called "independent" bloggers take free airfare from KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, beds in a 5-star hotel, and promise an "interview" with the Dutch Tourism Board. Lame. Bad judgment. And even the great Ezra Klein and Lindsay Beyerstein threw their reputations in for chump change. [What's next, fellas -golf at St. Andrew's?] This is like record companies providing coke and hookers to play songs, folks. It's old school, as in the bad old school. The site claims: "The mantra here is transparency." The mantra should be "bloggers for sale - cheap." This is why blog advertising hasn't worked - there's nothing new there. Blogads.com is old media. I wish them well, but I don't have the room.