Welcome to the bloggy home of Noah Brier. I'm the co-founder of Percolate and general internet tinkerer. This site is about media, culture, technology, and randomness. It's been around since 2004 (I'm pretty sure). Feel free to get in touch. Get in touch.

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[Editor’s Note: I don’t make any money off this blog and at the moment have no plans of doing so.]

The hot question is what’s the revenue model. Everybody’s got a great idea, but none of us can put our minds together and come up with anything better than let’s slap some advertising on it and hope that people pay attention. Well, today, while reading John Hagel and Jeff Jarvis on the train to Connecticut I had an idea which I’ll get to after a bit of set up.

Journalistic integrity is bullshit. Now that’s not to say that journalists don’t have individual integrity, but if you ask me it takes a lot more integrity to stand up and admit to your bias than pretend you don’t have one. Reporting both sides of a story when the other side is all but non-existent isn’t fair and accurate, on the contrary, the situation you’re creating is one where two unequal sides are given equal attention.

Now I know the road I’m going down here is a bit of a treacherous path, people need to receive both sides of a story and I’m not arguing against that. I’m just saying that often journalists search out the other side and represent it in an unbalanced way. In Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth,” he cites a study of 928 abstracts of global warming articles, noting that not one questioned the existence of or human contribution to global warming. On the other hand, he reported that a large number of journalistic articles in that same timeframe presented the story as a two-sided one, often quoting skeptics. Sure, numbers can lie, but the larger point is that clearly many of these stories misrepresent the opposition as larger than they really are, an idea that can be even more damaging than not representing them at all.

Okay, so what does all this have to do with revenue models? Well, here at NoahBrier.com, I don’t have journalistic integrity, I’ve just got personal integrity. I have to answer to myself and myself only. The information posted here does not go through an editor or fact checker, it just goes from my head, through my fingers and out to you. I only post things I find interesting and fully admit that something I said yesterday I may not believe tomorrow.

The reason you keep coming back is you trust me as a filter for you. You come for the links or the writing. You want to read what I’ve got to say. If all of a sudden I started talking gibberish (which I may be doing right now) or started to sound like a commercial, you might decide to end the relationship. But until then you’ll probably stick around. Maybe you’ll even leave a comment sometime. We’re connected.

So why shouldn’t I use that connection for some financial gain? What would happen if I started accepting money to talk about products. Except part of the deal for the company was that in accepting the payment (1) I didn’t have to say anything and (2) if I did say anything it didn’t have to be nice. No part of the deal was that I had to mention I was paid, though. Why should you care? You’re here because you trust me. If I broke that trust by recommending a shit product you wouldn’t come back, leaving me without the audience needed to demand the cash from the ‘advertiser.’

In Everybody’s a Network, Jeff Jarvis quotes John Hagel. In an article from Friday titled “The Long Tail and the Structure of the Media Industry”, John Hagel makes the point again:

Here are two tests. Most media companies today are driven by product centric economics – they track in great detail what it costs to make a media product, how many units are sold or distributed and the revenue generated by product. How many of them effectively track the life time value of their audience members or customers – what it costs to acquire an audience member or customer, how long their relationship endures and how much revenue and profit is generated by audience member or customer? These customer centric economics drive customer relationship businesses.

Second test – how ready are most media companies to point their audience members or customers to media products offered by their competitors? From my experience, very few. A customer relationship business acts as an agent on behalf of the customer, helping to connect them with whatever resources are most valuable or relevant to them, regardless of source.

It’s the second test I’m interested in. I’m in the customer relationship business. I constantly send you to other sites without any worries of whether you’ll return or not. I know that if I recommend something interesting, you’ll come back for more. So why couldn’t I just extend this model and start recommending goods and services? As long as I wholeheartedly believe in what I was recommending, why does it matter if I was paid or not? Sure there are dangers with people selling out and recommending crap, but like I said before, if that happens they’ve damaged the relationship with the reader. In other words, I would have a serious financial interest in only recommending the best stuff out there.

Now I have no clue whether this would actually work or not, but at least it’s an interesting idea. Right?

July 24, 2006

Comments

  • Loren Feldman says:

    I like this thinking. Here’s an example.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IiPKKjzFtYo

  • Noah Brier says:

    That’s it man, that’s exactly it. If you trust me, who cares if someone’s paying me to do it. I talk about the company I work for. I tell people’s a good place. Do you say to yourself, “hmmm . . . I wonder if he’s only saying that because they pay his bills.” No, of course you don’t, because what interest do I have in lying to you about that?

  • Fraser says:

    More and more I’m tending to agree. Let’s say I include your input in my personal filter – I assign a coefficient to your recommendation and include your suggestions in future consumption decisions.

    The first time you include a crap review – regardless of whether you’re getting paid or not – I’d lower the beta on future recommendations from you. The second time you recommended a crap product?

    Poof.

    There goes your credibility and you’re gone from my personal filter.

    Does it matter if you’re getting paid or not? Not so long as I continue to get value from your recommendations. If you’re getting paid and I continue to benefit from what you offer? It feels like it’s a win for me.

  • Noah Brier says:

    Exactly, and I like that you assigned a coefficient to it, because I think this is something you might be able to measure . . . more on that at some point.

  • range says:

    I guess it all depends on your relationship with your readers and how you feel about marketing to them. I think segmenting it would be the best idea, because some bloggers are allergic to it.

    However, if your goal is to live off the blog, well you need to consider exactly what you are going to do.

  • Noah Brier says:

    Range, I’m not sure I understand, what do you mean segmenting it? How would you do that?

    Your point is well taken, though, the vast majority of bloggers aren’t out with the purpose of making money. They just want attention. That’s what drove me crazy with the New York Magazine article on blogging, it made it seem like everyone was in it for cash.

  • R says:

    i dig the idealistic nature of this post.

    i’m thinking that smart publicists already use this technique of targeting “trusted” sources but the element of commerce isn’t present (at least not overtly). of course smart publicists only allign themselves with good to great products, music, etc because they too are in the circle of trust…

    however, i’m wonder about how exactly someone finds the bloggers that are open to receiving this “no-strings-attached-payola? “(assuming they exist).

    if there’s a coalition/network then it defeats the anonymous nature of the blogger…correct?

    so if the blogger avoids the network but still wants to earn they would probably have to get proactive. would the blogger then have to take on the role of salesperson by selling the possibility of a review to artists, companies, etc in exchange for money?

    not trying to grill you but i’d like to think this idea through…

  • Noah Brier says:

    Hey R, don’t mind the grilling at all. This is admittedly a half-baked idea.

    As for how to find them, I expect it shouldn’t be hard, do a search for people talking highly about a similar product and go after them. Finding influencers on the web shouldn’t be that difficult. (There are definitely companies already doing this sort of thing, I know Sprint sent a bunch of bloggers cell phones.)

    As for bloggers losing their anonymity, I don’t know if that really matters. The big point is that we need to abandon the idea that you must admit when someone’s paid you for something.

    What does everyone else think?

  • r says:

    Noah,

    I know the search works because I tried it both with print media and blogs/sites in trying to get me ex-group PR. I targeted like-minded journalists/bloggers with similar tastes etc, but if I knew that your suggested model (half baked or not existed ) I …honestly I don’t know how it would have turned out. My campaigns were successful in some ways, not so much in others. I blame the product and producers (aka me, [long story])

    I do know that if your system was in place my activities would have been even more focussed. But to find these bloggers would require more than a simple search.

  • howard lindzon says:

    i am famous dude. Nice post and conversation

  • Noah Brier says:

    Is this an opportunity? Something between BzzAgent and PayPerPost. Actually, I just clicked over to PayPerPost and it really sounds similar:

    “Advertisers will post all sorts of Opportunities, from a simple “link back to this site” to product reviews with pictures. Each Opportunity will have different compensation based on the advertiser. It’s up to you to pick the Opportunities that best suit you. If it doesn’t feel right, if you don’t own the product, or if you can’t be honest we ask you to pass on the Opportunity.”

    Interesting . . .

  • Paul McEnany says:

    I love that you brought this up, because it’s an important balancing act that more and more bloggers will have to take on. With that said, part of trust is transparency. You may have enough integrity to only recommend products that you truly believe in, and still get paid, but what if one of your readers later found out that you were paid to recommend. Although it may not be dishonest in your mind, it does create the perception of dishonesty.

    For example, in the case of the Bush administration paying media pundits to argure for their educational programs, these pundits may have truly believed in the words they spoke, but their lack of transparency created a question about their truthfulness.

  • Hash says:

    Actually, I thought of PayPerPost as well when I read this article.

    It’s fine if you trust the author to only tell you about products that they actually like, or to tell you the truth about what they think on a product, whether it’s good or bad. In fact, it’s good for people like Marshall over at TechCrunch to write bad reviews for products he doesn’t (ex: PayPerPost) because it builds his credibility. In the end it also builds hype for that product, so as an advertiser I’m happy with whatever attention I’m getting good or bad.

    As a blogger, I’ll write what I want about anything. I don’t care if it pisses off the company or raises awareness of their product. What I want in the end is what you said “personal integrity” – with that my readers know that I’m being true to myself and them.

    Great post, I’ve added your blog to my Newshutch feed now because of it.

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