Blogs, podcasts, RSS feeds and their syndicated brethren have crashed the interactive advertising party in true celebrity style. Glamorized on the pages of numerous trade publications, these new delivery channels are helping fuel an already festive market where online ad spending is projected to reach 20 billion in 2006, according to recent figures from TNS Media Intelligence. In April, PQ Media reported that spending on blog, podcast, and RSS advertising alone is expected to climb 145% this year.
But before we welcome the party crashers with too many free drink tickets, it’s important to take a moment to celebrate the differences these new channels introduce. Specifically, we need to be careful about applying too many of our current approaches to interactive advertising to a category of content, a site format, and a user interaction pattern that’s different enough to deserve further innovation.
History As a Guide
Interactive marketing has driven its fair share of innovation over the past 10 years with rich media implementations that help marketers make an impact in new and interesting ways. But, rooted in all of this creativity is the necessary standardization that it takes to create an industry. The 30- and 60-second spot dominates broadcast advertising because it allows advertisers and broadcasters to develop and deliver advertising in an efficient and predictable manner. The same is true with magazine and newsprint advertising, where media kits and rate cards from one publisher to the next are more similar than not.
The introduction of cable television spurred innovation by creating a proliferation of new channels, an increase in broadcast capacity that gave birth to infomercials and home shopping networks. Database marketing gave rise to a huge new segment of print advertising that we now know as “direct response,” from postcards to catalogs.
Today, technology is changing the manner in which we consume content online. On the supply side, blog-authoring software has turned millions of Internet users into content creators, publishers and podcasters. It’s not unusual to see a blog feature the same diversity of content as a Web site. On the demand side, blog search and feed syndication have made it easier to find and read distributed media, and publishers are building audiences and generating the page views that marketers notice.
Site Format and Content Consumption
Before exploring various blog advertising strategies, let’s compare the common user interaction patterns between two types of example sites — a sports site associated with a major broadcast network, and a blog that focuses only on the 2006 Major League Baseball All-Star Game. Let’s assume that the online user bookmarks both sites, and checks them on a daily basis.
The sports site is both “wide” and “deep,” with primary navigation that offers a user plenty of different vertically oriented sections of content. The publisher generates new content into most, if not all, sections of the site on a regular basis, so the whole site is continually changing. As a result, pageviews accumulate across several different sections of content. At the same time, users can be sent to pages deep within the site. For example, a search on “World Cup Final” might provide an organic search result that bypasses the homepage and links directly to a story about Italy’s historic win over France.