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May 2008

BlogWorld 2008 Affiliate Program Now Open

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That’s right. If you are planning to come to the show and you want to earn some extra spending money for Vegas, then sign up for our affiliate program provided my our good friends at ShareASale here.

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For every person you refer through the affiliate link on your blog who registers to attend BlogWorld you earn a 10% commission. The average registration is $300 which means you earn $30 for every person you sign up. Not bad.

For many of you this might the first affiliate program you ever tried. Honestly I was surprised at how simple the process was. It takes about 10 minutes to sign up as an affiliate, then you pick which program you want to offer on your blog, copy and paste the code onto your blog and you are off to the races. ShareAsale has a great FAQ page here.

Jim Kukral to Lead Monetization Track

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One of the lessons we learned last year from the first BlogWorld & New Media Expo was that coordinating over 100 seminars with 130+ speakers is too much for one man to do. Don’t get me wrong we were very proud of what we accomplished with the world’s largest blogging conference last year and the All Star line up of speakers. Dave Taylor did an awesome job and will be back this year but we wanted to get him some help.

So this year we will have “Track Leaders” for some of the critical content. The “Monetization” track would be at the top of that list. By far our most popular track last year it was important we found the right person to lead. Award winning blogger, affiliate marketer extraordinaire and international man of mystery Jim Kukral is that person.

jim Kukral Headshot

**Obligatory Bio info here**

For over 10-years, Jim has actively participated in the Internet marketing industry in multiple roles. Because of his wide range of work experience during those years, Jim is able to bring a well-rounded perspective to the industry. Jim has been blogging since 2001 and has established himself as a leading expert in the field. In 2006, Jim was awarded the Affiliate Summit Pinnacle Awards “Best Blogger” award. He is also the former publisher of ReveNews.com, a group blog focused on the billion-dollar online monetization industry. Jim is a graduate of The University of Akron where he studied public relations and marketing. In the time since finishing his education Jim has started to own web firms and projects and has marketed and promoted thousands of websites, blogs and other online ideas. Nowadays Jim focuses on the business of online video and online publishing tools, as well as actively participating as a speaker and presenter at industry events. Jim is also the owner and operator of Scratchback.com, an online ad publishing system to help website and blog owners make money online.

**end obligatory bio info**

To summarize Jim has been walking the walk earning money via his blog and teaching other bloggers how to do the same for a long time. On top of that he is an all around good guy and eats his spinach. For those of you who don’t know Jim take a quick look at his introduction of last year’s closing keynote speaker at BlogWorld Mark Cuban. This was the first time the two had met in person after Jim had created the infamous “Mark Cuban Please Call Me” website about a year earlier.

Please join me in welcoming Jim to the team.

We are accepting speaker proposals for the 2008 BlogWorld & New Media Expo here until May 31st.

Blogs Receive More Clout Than Ever in 2008 Presidential Campaign

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Presidential candidates began courting political bloggers before the 2008 nomination race even got started. Virtually every candidate hired bloggers on staff. Some successfully and some not so much. Many set up conference calls with bloggers (McCain has excelled here). Both the RNC and DNC are allowing bloggers access to the show floor during their national conventions.

For those who are able to navigate the many minefields of the Blogosphere these efforts result in millions in online donations and of course turning voters out to the polls and caucuses.

Arguably the two candidates most attuned to the Blogosphere during this presidential campaign were presumptive nominees John McCain and Barak Obama (notice the video?). Obama has certainly benefited the most from social media having raised $45 million dollars online in one month!. He has more followers on Twitter (31,000+) than anyone including Bloggerati Rock Stars like Robert Scoble and Jason Calacanis. Mommie and Techy bloggers regularly tweet and post on his behalf. Obama has near 850,000 members on his Facebook fan site and a huge presence on MySpace (though many of those friends may not be old enough to vote). Who can forget the Viral Videos from Obama Girl (nine million views!); which had more than a small part in raising national awareness and elevating Obama’s candidacy to legitimate contender status.

McCain on the other hand has a distinguished military career, has made many trips to Iraq and constantly praises the men and women serving in our armed forces earning him the respect of Milbloggers.

Now the McCain campaign in following with it’s overall strategy of reaching out to voters beyond his base is reaching out to left leaning blogs and even non-political blogs. Here is an excerpt from a Washington Times article on Friday.

Sen. John McCain’s presidential campaign is trying to tap a new audience of potential voters by taking his campaign message straight to liberal and nonpolitical issues-based blogs, which reach millions of readers but don’t often delve into conservative politics.

The strategy was in full swing yesterday when Mr. McCain invited non-conservative bloggers to join his regular blogger conference call, just hours after he delivered a major speech previewing his war strategy and other priorities for a first presidential term.

These candidates are both going to continue to seek the support of the Blogosphere and their tens of millions of readers. They are wise to do so. Bloggers and their readers vote. For the candidate that does it right, it just might mean the difference between winning and losing the Presidency.

PS. A couple of months ago I was joking with someone that Obama might be the first President to Tweet the State of the Union Address. I might not have been that far off.

If ARS Technica is Worth 25 Million What is Huff Po Worth?

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Just about two months ago 24/7 Wall Street included ARS Technica in their 25 most valuable blogs list and set the price market price at $15 million. If today’s reports of ARS Technica’s sale to Conde Nast are true the price was actually $25 million. That’s a 66% increase over 24/7’s valuation. Does that mean Gawker Media which topped the list at $150 million is really closer to $250 million?

Does that make the Huffington Post worth $116 million =?

Is TechCrunch then worth $60 mil? (side note does this purchase of ARS Technica by Wired’s parent company put a new spin on the recent Wired TechCrunch dust up?)

One thing it certainly does is make everyone else on that list very happy today. It should make every other serious new media content creator happy as well.

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Are Traditional Magazines Unbiased?

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And are blogs inherently biased?

The answers to those two questions are no, and yes respectively. The recent Wired/Arrington dust up is just the latest in a very long series of charges and counter charges between blogs and traditional media.

I am not picking any sides in this particular story. I read TechCrunch almost daily not because I am a techy and I am certainly not a tech investor but because there is always something interesting there and TechCrunch is at the center of the tech-Blogosphere. Which is one of the important communities at BlogWorld & New Media Expo.

I Also subscribe to Wired. Along with Fast Company they are two closest traditional media outlets to the Blogosphere. Mostly in tech but they certainly touch on and report on several communities within the Blogosphere.

Back to the issue at hand. Traditional media outlets for at least as long as I can remember have charged that their biggest advantage over blogs is that they are unbiased and have ethical standards and blogs are not and do not. (Study’s have proven otherwise).

This charge has been made in every realm of traditional media, from politics, to sports, to tech, to reporting on the war in Iraq to you name the topic I guarantee you some journalist or editor in that community has written the exact same thing Betsy Schiffman wrote on her Wired blog (that’s ironic isn’t it) this Tuesday. Specifically the quote from Peter Sussman who serves on the Ethics Committee of the Society of Professional Journalists. (there can’t be any more credible source than that right?)

We asked Peter Sussman, who serves on the Ethics Committee of the Society of Professional Journalists, for his take on the situation.

“The one thing that newspapers still have over new online outlets is the brand, the name and the standards. They’ve told readers that by the mere presence of a story on the Washington Post, that it’s been through a rigorous analysis or edit and it is up to their standards. The assumption is that unless you hear otherwise, the content you see in the Post has gone through that ethical screening.”

I am sure Betsy and Peter practice ethical standards and believe what he has said and try very hard to live up to those standards but here is the rub for Betsy, Peter, and every other traditional media type who has ever uttered this mantra……

WE DON’T BELIEVE YOU!

When I say we I mean bloggers, I mean blog readers, I mean every consumer of every form of news media that has ever been written or broadcast. We simply do not believe you are without bias. Why should we?

Time and time again bias in media has been proven, and when it isn’t proven we certainly have our suspicions.

Isn’t it one of the tenets of good journalism to be skeptical?

Why then do you not understand that the same rule applies to the consumers of traditional media content?

Ever heard the old saying don’t believe everything you read?

Ever heard the Mark Twain quote “Lies, Damn Lies and Statistics?”

We have all heard the line about the “separation between Church and State” between editorial copy and ad-sales. Frankly that’s poppycock (I love it when I can figure out a way to throw poppycock into a post!). That’s why Consumer Reports the watch dog for consumers and the (allegedly) unasailable source of consumer product reviews had to quit taking advertising dollars. The moment you do, you create a conflict of interest. Mark Cuban addressed this in his keynote at BlogWorld last year.

We don’t care if the ad-sales guy brings in the money, and the journalist writes the story and the editors edit and verify their story. We all know the publishers job is to MAKE MONEY. You are not and never have been in the news business. You are in the advertising business. Every journalist who writes for you knows where his or her checks come from. That doesn’t make them bad people and I am not saying they don’t try very hard to be unbiased in their reporting. I am quite sure they do. We just don’t believe there is zero influence in your writing.

I have told this anecdote many times but for new readers here it is again. I have personally worked for more than one company that his written it’s own product reviews that have appeared in industry trade journals. Now that is about as bad as it gets but the fact is it is far more common than you might think.

But bias doesn’t start or end with advertising. We all have our inherent biases. Our political views, the industry we are in, where we live, who our family works for, the stock we own, how old we are, our gender, the type of family environment we were brought up in, our economic status and millions of other influences that shape our view of the world. Each of these things affects the way we see and cover any story. Journalists are no different. Sure there may be some superfreak out there without bias but that would be the rare exception to the rule.

Now here is where I will give journalism and journalists the credit they’re due. No doubt Journalists try to overcome their bias. Organizations like the Ethics Committee of the Society of Professional Journalists, in-house ombudsmen and editors are a fine example of those efforts.

Many bloggers could learn quite a lot about journalistic standards and would do well to try and adhere to them. However Michael Arrington and Techcrunch may be many things but anyone who is more than casual reader would have to admit that they do try to adhere to some form of journalistic standard. To Mike’s credit he does disclose which companies he invests in. There is no doubt they have broke many big stories and have offered their readers interesting and informative content.

Isn’t that what journalism is supposed to be all about?

How Big Could New Media Be?

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I was doing some research this morning on the difference between ad revenue online vs. print for the newspaper industry. For several years now print ad revenues for newspapers has been declining while online ad revenues have been increasing at double digit rates since at least 2004 (earliest statistics from NAA).

As The Recovering Journalist pointed out in March of 2006, online ad revenue is basically replacing print ad revenue in the newspaper industry.

That got me to thinking just how big could the New Media industry become?

If you have ever heard me get on my soap box you know I believe new media represents the reinvention of newspapers, magazines, radio and television all at the same time. Eventually I guess you could throw feature length films in there as well ($26.7 billion). But lets just stick with the first four for now. 

According to NAA the newspaper business is currently a $59 billion dollar industry.

Broadcast radio sits at $21.3 billion.

Broadcast TV $57 billion.

The best number I can find for magazine publishing is $70 billion annually. This is a tricky category due to the segmentation between consumer, B to B, other niches and tendency of the industry to include trade show revenue  with print advertising but this seems like a conservative number. (If anyone has better data I welcome your input).

That gives us a grand total $2.7 trillion dollars in annual revenue up for grabs. Do I expect New Media to steal every dollar away from traditional media? No but those, revenues will not remain static either. 

Predictions of on line ad revenues eventually equaling their print and broadcast counterparts are numerous so it is only logical to conclude that for new media content creators time is on our side and the revenues will eventually come. That doesn’t mean every blogger will be rich (more on that in another post) but it does mean a lot more will be able to earn living doing it regardless of the genre of their content. And many thousands of bloggers, podcasters, Internet TV and Radio broadcasters will in indeed make it big and become “rich”.

So if you are passionate about your content, keep working hard and one day you very well may be more than just “Internet famous”.

Should Bloggers Blacklist PR Firms?

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I agree with much of Stowe Boyd says in his post about PR Spam but I am going to be the devils advocate here and I am hoping we can agree on what I am about to say.

If you are a professional journalist, or editor covering a particular industry or topic then part of your job is fielding PR pitches for products in that industry.

Think of it like a buyer working for a major department store. Let’s say they buy mens clothing. That person’s job is to buy things from people they know, and people they don’t know. In fact a good buyer is actively searching for, and appreciatively receiving unsolicited emails and cold calls from people they have never met who are trying to sell them some new line of clothing they have never heard of. Why?

That new line of clothing just might be the next big thing.

It is that buyer’s job to diligently review that line and listen to that sales pitch to decide if buying that line would give his company a competitive advantage.

A buyer who only buys from his friends and buys lines he already knows about is lazy and should be fired for not doing his job.

In Journalism and PR it is the same thing. Journalists and editors should be actively seeking new stories, from new companies about new products and learning about them with enthusiasm to give their publication an advantage by breaking stories before their competitors.

Will you occasionally get pitched something that is irrelevant to you or that is personally uninteresting to you? Of course. Too bad. Get over it or get a new job. Now if the same PR firm keeps sending you irrelevant information it is entirely appropriate to contact them and politely ask them to knock it off. If they keep “spamming” you then you should complain about them publicly until they get a clue.

Now here is the difference and the fine line between bloggers and “real” journalists. If blogging is a hobby for you and you don’t really consider yourself a journalist, or you don’t really know what journalism is or means then it is understandable that you might be offended when you receive an email from a stranger pitching some product you have never heard of.

Stowe offers some great advice in his post:

I also suggest to bloggers and journalists to do as I have done, and post a persistent link on your blog called ‘How To Pitch Me’ or the like, and state how others ought to — and ought not to — pitch you.

By the way small companies are the ones who are most hurt by being ignored. Big companies will always find ways to get their message out. They have the money and resources to change tactics and to kiss and make up to whoever they have offended. And don’t try to tell me that publishers don’t forgive when they are adequately sucked up to after being offended.

Small companies do not have access, do not have the resources or the cash to pursue every single media outlet in the world that might cover their product individually. It is impossible. So if you get what you consider to be “spam” from a small company take a moment to send them a polite email and explain that you don’t like the way they pitched you and offer them some free advice. Most likely they will appreciate the advice and you might just get the inside scoop when that company makes it big.

If the polite approach doesn’t work you can always blacklist them. It’s your blog you can do whatever you like 8).

**update**

Todd Defren defends his ably defends his firm and his profession.
Infopinions points out the difference between Lifehacker’s reaction and Chris Anderson’s.

Jeremy Pepper prefers OG PR.

PR Interactive says They aren’t teaching this kind of stuff in school:

While I can’t speak from the professional side, I can agree with him from the academic side. As a recent grad, I can tell you that I have had minimal exposure to pitching the media. This is, obviously, very difficult to do in the classroom setting, and most of my internships would let me pitch only when everyone else was swamped with bigger clients. For many of my peers, ,

Brian Solis says:

>Nowadays, any mistake made in PR is really an occupational hazard where one wrong move can cause a domino effect that has the potential to eradicate months or even years of hard work.

What Brian says is true but it is also wrong and shame on bloggers who hold PR professionals to an unreasonable standard. Show me a blogger who hasn’t posted inaccurate information one time or another or flamed someone and later had to apologize for it and I will eat my hat. We all make mistakes.

Btw Brian nails it in defining SPAM. It is not any email you deem to be unwanted.

Broadstuff disagree’s with Brian’s definition…..He’s wrong.

more to come I am sure.

Gary Vee on The Big Idea with Donny Deutch

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Gary Vee is just the latest new media guest on The Big Idea. Remember the episode with Robert Scoble, the blogger bus and BlogWorld Exhibitor Mogo Mouse?

Check out the segment with Gary Vee here.

Gary has his second appearance on Conan May 12 coming up and his book coming out May 13.

On another note Donny knows New Media is a Big Idea. Wouldn’t it be cool to get Donny to do a Big Idea show from BlogWorld?

Sports Imitating Life

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At least one Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Buzz Bissinger is imitating many of his MSM brethren in his opinion of sports bloggers. Check out this video from the Bob Costas Now program where Bissinger begins a 10 minute segment personally attacking super sports blogger (and BlogWorld 2007 speaker) Will Leitch from Deadspin.

Costas starts off the segment with a short pre-produced piece touting the benefits the Internet offers sports fans:

instant scores, constant updates, any stat that’s ever been computed highlights, breakdowns and analysis of every game from thousands of writers in hundreds of cities. What sports fan could complain about that?

Then the darkside:

but there’s also this, the wild west of the Internet. The Blogsophere. A virtual bulletin board where anyone can post anything. Opinions photos, videos; all bluring the lines between news and gossip, truth and rumor, commentary and insult.

And other than Bob confusing message boards with blogs what exactly is wrong with that?

Well as you find out later in the segment it’s that “anyone” part that has Bob all uptight.

While Leitch is trying to answer a question from Costas; Bissinger interupts:

I am just going to interject because I feel very strongly about this. (looking at Leitch) I think you are full of shit. Because I think blogs are dedicated to cruelty, they are dedicated to dishonesty, they are dedicated to speed

Bissinger then goes on to quote a random Deadspin commenter as proof of the poor quality of blog writing and asks Leitch how can he be proud of it.

Huh? Bissinger maybe a talented writer. He does have a Pulitzer and I loved Friday Night Lights (the movie) but he obviously doesn’t have a clue about the Blogosphere which is sad really.

Costas then reads several more comments and calls them “posts”. Bob is also clueless.

Are Bissinger and Costas responsible for every letter to the editor, those printed and un-printed? of course not. Neither is Leitch.

Now I actually agree with their larger point that the level of discourse on the Internet can be offensive and depressing at times but that depends on the blog, message board, or website your reading.

The moderation policy of any particular blog may be a reflection of that publisher’s judgement but not their writing skills.

Personally I prefer blogs that have some reasonable standard of moderation, like not allowing racial slurs, harassing other commenters, excessive foul language, etc. But that’s my personal preference.

A good argument can be made in this age of transparency that allowing anything goes commenting provides a level of transparency that today’s content consumer demands.

Further into the segment Bissinger takes issue with Deadspin’s publishing of a photo of Arizona Cardinals QB Matt Leinart doing a beer bong. He doesn’t say it straight out but he implies that no newspaper would print such a photo. To be blunt that is BS. Every sports outlet covered the story and many printed the photo. So what is Bissinger’s real issue?

That blogs are scooping newspapers and broadcasters?

He’s right blogs are faster and that’s one of the reasons why they are thriving.

In fact every issue Bissenger has with blogs is territory long treaded on by newspapers including bad journalism, poor fact checking, sensationalism, rumor-mongering, and yes juts plain old bad writing. Having a journalism degree does not make you a good writer.

What made me really laugh was Bissenger’s claim that somehow sports writers were impartial and bloggers weren’t. Anyone who has ever read their local sports page knows the beat writer is a total homer and you can tell in many national broadcasts which team the announcer is rooting for.

Bissinger shouldn’t feel bad, and we as bloggers should understand that journalists like Bissinger and Costas still reflect the majority opinion among their peers.

What they and other journalists need to realize is that blogging is just a tool that they could and should be embracing. The most successful bloggers are great writers. Bissinger’s performance in this piece tells me that he would make a great blogger.

Costas shouldn’t be let off the hook either. He leads us to believe that bloggers and commenters sharing their opinions are bad for sports. That is just plain crazy talk. Sports are all about opinions. Who’s the greatest player, greatest team, best hitter, bets golfer, best goalee, shooter, softest hands, most intimidating, who missed the tag, who missed the base, which shot was after the buzzer, who got robbed and on and on.

All sports fans love arguing about sports. Blogs are the best thing to happen to sports since sports talk radio. Which brings me to the biggest reason blogs are thriving in every vertical but particularly in sports.

Every dedicated sports fan has at one time or another read something in the local paper, heard something on sports talk radio, or seen a commentator on ESPN say something that has gotten you all riled up. You called up the station and then the host cut you off. You yelled at the TV and then realized your spouse was looking at you like you were crazy. Maybe you even started to write a letter to the editor until you realized it was going to cost you 75 cents to mail it and it would never get printed anyway.

Now all sports fans have a voice. Most blogs will run your comments with a pretty liberal moderation policy and other fans will argue with you. If you have a lot to say you can start up your own damn blog and spout off about your team all day and night if you like.

If you are good, you can even find an audience of fellow fans to cheer you on and rivals to antagonize you. That is why we love sports! That is why we love sports blogs!

I would love to recommend a handful of great sports blogs for Costas and Bissinger to read over the next few months and then have them come to BlogWorld this September and tell us if their opinions have changed at all.

I would start with MetsBlog, Athletics Nation, and Gaslamp Ball ( go Pads!). Which sports blogs would you recommend?

**update saturday 8 am PST**

watching the segment again and noticed that as Costas is reading more examples of the nasty comments people make at Deadspin directed at former ESPN announcer Sean Salisbury the audience and the guests are laughing. So we hate them but we laugh at them. In truth many of us contribute in the same “locker room talk” depending on the crowd we are hanging with at the time.

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