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Newspapers, Wake Up!

Posted on Monday, Aug 21st 2006

Actually, Washington Post just did.

Jeff Burkett writes: washingtonpost.com BlogRoll Program Launched. Jeff’s instincts are right. There are bloggers with high quality content who would be willing to share ad revenues with the Post in exchange for serious traffic.

Steve Rubel applauds the effort, and offers some suggestions on how to go beyond a wimpy little text link to give the bloggers who participate in their network some real and valuable exposure.

My thoughts are a bit more long term. I see this move by a major newspaper as one that is starting to move the newspaper industry in the right direction.

What are the assets of a newspaper? Brand, Traffic and Ad Network. Today, all that Ad Networks like AdSense, Yahoo Publisher’s Network, and FM offer is a very expensive form of advertising for the blogs.

The newspapers can add to this offering credibility via their brand affiliation, as well as huge traffic to the blogs. If that means, they charge 50% commission instead of 40% that the others charge, hey, no problem. The traffic boost more than makes up for the extra commission.

You see, big brandname columnists like Tom Friedman and Stewart Alsop were built by their sponsors. New York Times built Friedman, and Fortune built Alsop. Om Malik, the blogging universe’s posterboy, has built his readership leveraging affiliations such as Forbes, Red Herring, and Business 2.0. All these journalists were paid to write by their respective media houses.
Now, if Washington Post, Business Week, Wall Street Journal, and others decide that they would sponsor some talented bloggers, and instead of paying them salaries, would pay them via an ad-sharing program, a great, scalable, win-win opportunity suddenly opens up.

This, I would argue, will be hard for Google to compete with. Newspapers, if they play their cards right, have the edge, and I hope, sincerely, that they don’t miss the boat this time.

Further Readings: here, here, here, and here.

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Sramana, thanks for the vote of confidence. We will do our best!

Jeff

Jeff Burkett Monday, August 21, 2006 at 4:10 PM PT

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