Back in May 2006, I wrote that content networks are the new blogs. With all kinds of great information out on the web, I posited that people would start needing aggregations of content. Though many of us on the web know how to roll our own collections of reading material, the general public doesn’t want to go through all the work. Content networks cover more than just blog networks, and there are a few other ways to slice the pie than just thinking about blogs as ad platforms. Here are some quick thoughts about content networks and storefronts.
On one side of the equation are content networks. These include things like Weblogs Inc, Gawker Media, and some of the other larger media creations. They include new offerings like Stowe Boyd’s /Edgewards (congrats, Stowe). In a way, Alltop can be seen as a content network (though it is mostly an aggregator pointing to the individual sites. Even I had a stab at it back in 2006, with the help of Kevin Kennedy-Spaien and Whitney and Becky and Megin and some others.
I continue to believe there are some great opportunities for content networks. I think that most of the models are trending towards ad platforms, and that’s okay. It’s what people know and understand, and people are making decent money doing it. Others are just gathering good stuff under the same banner so that others know where to find it. But there are other models.
Another way to use content is to help people market a product. Some people use this as part of their effort to do affiliate marketing. For instance, there are review sites built essentially as a means to sell products. There are also coupon sites, blogs, and other web platforms built just to sell things.
I believe there’s an opportunity here for bloggers. I think that well-crafted custom content would be a much better way to sell products and services than typical ads. More than half of what Copyblogger and Problogger teach you pertains to being able to write great content.
There are a few ways to implement this. It could be towards the sale of products or services, such as an affiliate marketing model. There are many blogs who trade great content for potential affiliate sale revenue.
Another model is as a lead generation tool, such as what Corante and Beeline Labs have successfully executed several times. In those cases, the sale isn’t direct and related to the site. It’s more a matter of creating a marketing funnel, where there’s a conversion point, and then the leads become actionable for business.
You could say that [chrisbrogan.com] follows the lead generation model. I do get some business from my website for CrossTech Media or for just speaking gigs. Mostly, I write to inform, share my explorations, and give you some potential new tools to consider.
I plan to investigate affiliate sales a bit more over the coming months, but not necessarily on this website. And in all cases, I think disclosure if what is most important when mixing a content site and a sales site. I don’t think they go well together naturally.
Disclosure: Still The Important Part
It’s a little tricky for bloggers. Are we disclosing our relationships? Are we spelling it out when we have a professional relationship with some product or service that we’re talking about? Does your audience know your stance? Seth Godin posted his position on this. I recently added a Disclosures section at the bottom of my About web page, so that you’d know where my most likely biases are. (By the way, if I missed something that I should disclose there, just point it out and I’ll add it).
I believe that if you’re blogging about how great a product is, AND you’re trying to sell some of that product, you might mention that relationship. In creating my Disclosures section on my About page, I opted to spell out the relationships I have with companies who’ve given me something to review.
In most cases, I’ve been lucky, because I’ve reviewed products that I really like, and I enjoy what they can do. When I get to the situation where someone sends me something and it’s not really all that and a bag of chips, what I’ll have to do is be fair and honest in that reporting. That might upset the company, and might cause a problem for the marketer who sent me the product, but if I don’t do it that way, the negative impact is this: I’d be telling you about a product that I wouldn’t endorse.
(By the way, do you think all the products endorsed on TV are actually appreciated and used by the celebrities? I think we have an opportunity here as bloggers to be a bit more open about it).
What’s Your Opinion?
What do you think about either of these models? Do you see the benefits? Where are the risks?
The Social Media 100 is a project by Chris Brogan dedicated to writing 100 useful blog posts in a row about the tools, techniques, and strategies behind using social media for your business, your organization, or your own personal interests. Swing by [chrisbrogan.com] for more posts in the series, and if you have topic ideas, feel free to share them, as this is a group project, and your opinion matters.