At the weblog business conference that I'm at, Liz just said that she and Nick are frequently pitched by media companies that want permanent links on the sidebar of Gawker. She explained that they haven't changed those links very often because of the difficulty they have in editing their templates (stupid weblog publishing systems!) but that the inertia of not changing the links works in their favor since it just includes sites that they actually read, instead of merely shilling for sites that request links.
I think it's a tremendous compliment to what Liz and Nick have accomplished with Gawker that it's already considered influential enough to elicit those kinds of linking requests. But it makes me realize that I'm not capitalizing enough on the value of the links that people have made to my site, and that I haven't pimped my weblog out enough.
So I have a couple of ideas. The first one is that I should redirect click-throughs from Gawker to the highest bidder. Or maybe people clicking from Gawker should get an ad on the top of my blog when they see the page, and then I could essentially sell ads to Gawker's audience without actually contributing to their site.
There's also an opportunity in all the crappy freebies that I can get by whoring out my weblog. I got an email from Vonage a few weeks ago, and I already had a good impression of the service from talking to Nick and Gen and Joi, all of whom had good experiences with the company. But when they emailed me, I got the same press release that they apparently send to journalists, and it actually lessened my interest in using the product. I don't have any interest in owning a land phone line anymore, but I'd probably have considered it if not for the fact that the only freebie I got from them was a couple of Word documents attached to the email. C'mon, you cheap bastards, shouldn't I get the Vonage box and a couple of free months' service?
Others aren't so stingy with the goods. Em and Lo, who are sex columnists for Nerve with a new book out, sent me this email a few days ago:
It's Em & Lo here from Nerve.com. (We write their weekly sex & relationships column "The Em & Lo Down.") We know this is a little unorthodox and that you don't normally do product reviews, but we managed to convince the publisher of our upcoming sex manual "The Big Bang" to give us some free copies to give out to our favorite bloggers. We swear the book is not earnest or hippy or even particularly hairy! If you'd be interested in checking it out, let us know where we should send it to. And whether you like the book and give it a plug, or just make fun of us for attempting to "market" to the "blog demographic," we're grateful for any online shout-out.
Excessive use of quotes aside, I thought that was a good idea on their part. Their audience is online, and they were forthcoming with the merch. Similarly straightfoward and generous with the product was Clip-n-Seal. Now, granted, I eat maybe a dozen potato chips in a year, but they had an interesting, low-key email that they sent out that didn't feel like a "pitch":
We're fellow bloggers and follow your log (We also dig Jack Horkheimer!). We just launched a new consumer product we invented and are trying to get the word out to other bloggers.
The angle of the story is blogger/web designer guy gets tired of slogging through the brutal post-dotcom-bubble economy and decides to invent a product and bring it to market. The result is Clip-n-Seal
If you're interested and review or link to us on your blog, we'll happily send you a Clip-n-Seal sample. And, if you'd like to buy some, we'll offer you a 20% discount. So far Zeldman mentioned us on k10k, which was cool. We're not sure if this'll work, but thought we'd give it a try.
It's clear that they're selling, but commerce doesn't offend me, condescension does. So, they get a link, and I get a clip for my theoretical chips. It's somewhat of a milestone that weblogs are finally seen as a target for marketers, and we've predictably heard a good number of mentions of Raging Cow at this conference the past few days. I don't think it's a negative thing, necessarily, that weblogs are a venue for marketing. Indeed, it's probably inevitable. The question, then, becomes whether people doing the marketing will be appropriately sensitive to the tastes, sensibilities, and preferences of webloggers when approaching them for promotional opportunties.
The answer for now seems to be that the bigger the company, the less likely they are to be effective in how they talk to us. So, until they get it right, I'll just settle for making fun of them and taking freebies from the little guys.
Update: My referrers list shows a link that was followed to get to this post, with the URL "http://mail.richardsi.com/exchange/ santashaker/inbox/raging cow being talked about at weblog business conference going on right now.eml?cmd=open". That means someone at Richards Interactive (the company behind the Raging Cow campaign) checked their Exchange mail through the web interface and found some mention that their campaign came up at the conference I'm attending. And yes, Richards folks, your work was absolutely mentioned. Repeatedly. In the worst possible light, as a definitive example of marketers who didn't get it.
If you're of the "any attention is good attention" school of thought, then that might be okay. But if you think that's the case, you're screwed anyway, long-term. So don't take this post as a measure of your success. It's an example of how prominent a failure can be.