Monthly Archives: July 2008

Interview with Brad Leclerc of The VineCast

A good friend of mine has been working on building up his own personal brand online, and he is focusing more on the audio medium than I ever did. While he does blog, his passion seems to come through much more when he is working on the VineCast, a podcast dedicated to Newsvine.

Could you please introduce yourself, what you do, and where people can find you online?

Sure. My name is Brad Leclerc. I’ve been blogging on and off pretty much since the advent of blogging, but didn’t try to make any money at it until pretty recently when I starting writing on TVGawker, and to a smaller degree, SolarHype. I’m also very active in the Newsvine.com community (you can find my account at brad-leclerc.newsvine.com) which is probably what started me thinking that there may be a way to get my online hobbies working for me to pay my bills, thanks to their revenue sharing system. I’m hoping that within another year or so (or less!) I’ll have enough fairly stable income from online sources to completely avoid a “traditional” job altogether and focus on my online projects, such as the VineCast, my newest project…and first podcast.

And that is the main reason I am interviewing you today, you have been working hard on bringing back the long dead podcast series the VineCast. Can you tell me a bit about the VineCast and your involvement with it?

The Vinecast was started originally about 2 years ago by a Newsvine user (or Viner, as I would usually say) who goes by the name “Dom Pody”, and others, and was setup like as a round-table discussion about Newsvine.com, be it news or articles posted to the site, or “meta” topics about Newsvine itself by an assortment of always changing panel members (a bit like Leo Laporte’s “This Week in Tech”, with less production value hehe). They came out with a new episode every few weeks, including one in which I was a panel member), and then it sorta dissolved away due to the people involved “having a life”, so to speak.

I tried reviving interest in it a couple times, and there were a fair amount of people who wanted more episodes, but no one really ready to take the reins, and at the time I was still working full time and didn’t have the time to do it myself either. That’s changed recently as I shift more and more of my focus on online endeavors, and so I basically said “Screw it, I’m bringing this baby back, and better than ever!”. Being friends with Dom, he gladly transferred the original domain to me (http://www.thevinecast.com), and I began to work out just how I was going to make it happen. Got myself a co-host(Viki Gonia), and started sending out invites to be on the panel to all the Viners I can stand to talk to. As of now I’m doing all the recording/editing and everything else beyond the actual podcast, which I happily share with Viki, and whoever else is around on recording day.

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Blog Advertising Difficulties: Blog Network Doesn’t Mean Big Money

There is a great set of posts and videos going around right now talking about advertising and blogs, and I wanted to chime in with my two cents.

Aaron Brazell started me thinking about this thanks to a video on his blog Technosailor about blog consolidation.

Then I saw a post on Inquisitr talking about what Aaron said and Duncan added his own thoughts and opinions on bringing blogs together under one flag to sell advertising as a group.

These are both people that I highly respect, and who probably have more knowledge about the business of blogging than I do, but in this area, I don’t think they know what the heck they are talking about.

I am the co-founder of Grand Effect, a great blog network, with great blogs, written by great bloggers. We were all independent and came together for the purpose of passing traffic to each other, as well as a bit of link juice and of course banding together for network wide advertising sales.

I assumed because there would be a great deal of higher quality, focused blogs that we could get some high advertising rates, and when you bring our traffic together, we have a fair bit of page views, but still the advertisers aren’t running to our doors. I’ve shopped around the network a bit to some companies trying to gauge their response, and so far it has been a really lukewarm response.

We just don’t have the five or ten million page views that the big brands are looking for, or a tight enough demographic or the required star/networking power to make those big deals with friendly companies. We also aren’t high enough currently on the thought leader chain in the blogosphere for certain brands, making things even more frustrating as we work hard to show how powerful our brands have become.

While we have a lot to offer an advertiser that can come in with a three to five dollar CPM rate, we haven’t been able to secure that yet across the network of nine sites, and so bringing together a few blogs under a banner is definitely not enough to entice companies to sign up and tap into that combined traffic.

Also, I have found that the more page views that you bring together, the lower these companies want their overall CPM rates to be. So while a 50,000 page view blog might be able to sell some advertising space for a consistent $2 CPM, or $100 per advertising spot per month, a 500,000 page view blog, won’t instantly get $1000 for the same advertising positions.

Everyone also seems to be forgetting the time and effort that needs to go into selling these companies on buying advertising from you. This can take an immense amount of time depending on the company and it can also be difficult when the coalition is young and thus the brand everyone is flying is unknown. I always thought 9rules should have done something to help its membership make money through a network advertising service, but I realize now, in working with Grand Effect, that it just takes so much time.

You either have to develop an advertising platform, use one that already exists (thus giving them a cut) or do things manually. Development costs a fair bit of time and/or money. Using one that already exists can be frustrating because it might not have the features you want, and they’ll want their cut. Doing things manually can take huge amounts of time, and lends itself to mistakes.

How does everyone expect to manage network wide advertisements? Who will take the lead to create relationships with companies and sell them on advertising positions, and does this person get extra money? Who will handle the receiving and disbursement of advertising payments?

The information that the others have put up don’t really cover the important questions, instead lingering on about other less important things like freedom of creative control on your own blogs, and trying to quickly pull everyone under your wing in hopes of selling big advertising blocks.

Too many unanswered questions. I think people are going to jump in with both feet, only to find themselves disappointed. Doesn’t anyone plan things out properly in the blogosphere anymore?

Blog Advertising Difficulties: Blog Network Doesn’t Mean Big Money

There is a great set of posts and videos going around right now talking about advertising and blogs, and I wanted to chime in with my two cents.

Aaron Brazell started me thinking about this thanks to a video on his blog Technosailor about blog consolidation.

Then I saw a post on Inquisitr talking about what Aaron said and Duncan added his own thoughts and opinions on bringing blogs together under one flag to sell advertising as a group.

These are both people that I highly respect, and who probably have more knowledge about the business of blogging than I do, but in this area, I don’t think they know what the heck they are talking about.

I am the co-founder of Grand Effect, a great blog network, with great blogs, written by great bloggers. We were all independent and came together for the purpose of passing traffic to each other, as well as a bit of link juice and of course banding together for network wide advertising sales.

I assumed because there would be a great deal of higher quality, focused blogs that we could get some high advertising rates, and when you bring our traffic together, we have a fair bit of page views, but still the advertisers aren’t running to our doors. I’ve shopped around the network a bit to some companies trying to gauge their response, and so far it has been a really lukewarm response.

We just don’t have the five or ten million page views that the big brands are looking for, or a tight enough demographic or the required star/networking power to make those big deals with friendly companies. We also aren’t high enough currently on the thought leader chain in the blogosphere for certain brands, making things even more frustrating as we work hard to show how powerful our brands have become.

While we have a lot to offer an advertiser that can come in with a three to five dollar CPM rate, we haven’t been able to secure that yet across the network of nine sites, and so bringing together a few blogs under a banner is definitely not enough to entice companies to sign up and tap into that combined traffic.

Also, I have found that the more page views that you bring together, the lower these companies want their overall CPM rates to be. So while a 50,000 page view blog might be able to sell some advertising space for a consistent $2 CPM, or $100 per advertising spot per month, a 500,000 page view blog, won’t instantly get $1000 for the same advertising positions.

Everyone also seems to be forgetting the time and effort that needs to go into selling these companies on buying advertising from you. This can take an immense amount of time depending on the company and it can also be difficult when the coalition is young and thus the brand everyone is flying is unknown. I always thought 9rules should have done something to help its membership make money through a network advertising service, but I realize now, in working with Grand Effect, that it just takes so much time.

You either have to develop an advertising platform, use one that already exists (thus giving them a cut) or do things manually. Development costs a fair bit of time and/or money. Using one that already exists can be frustrating because it might not have the features you want, and they’ll want their cut. Doing things manually can take huge amounts of time, and lends itself to mistakes.

How does everyone expect to manage network wide advertisements? Who will take the lead to create relationships with companies and sell them on advertising positions, and does this person get extra money? Who will handle the receiving and disbursement of advertising payments?

The information that the others have put up don’t really cover the important questions, instead lingering on about other less important things like freedom of creative control on your own blogs, and trying to quickly pull everyone under your wing in hopes of selling big advertising blocks.

Too many unanswered questions. I think people are going to jump in with both feet, only to find themselves disappointed. Doesn’t anyone plan things out properly in the blogosphere anymore?

Google PageRank Update and Microsoft BrowseRank

Google has been fighting hard to make their PageRank system relevant once again in helping people quickly understand if they are on a worthwhile site or not, and there has been some notice, including a post by Matt Cutts, that Google will be updating their PageRank once again over the next few days. Some people have already reported new ranks, but none of my sites have seen any love from Google as of yet.

What interests me the most is that Microsoft might get in the “ranking” business with BrowseRank, their own version of PageRank which they hope can’t be gamed in any way.

From Cnet:

The Microsoft researchers argue that PageRank has a number of problems. For one thing, people can game the system by building bogus Web sites called link farms. Those sites feature hyperlinks point to a Web page whose importance a person wants to inflate so it appears higher in search results. Another PageRank issue is that the indexing process doesn’t take into account the time a user spends on a particular site.

But user behavior, monitored in anonymous form by Web servers and Web browser plug-ins, can be better, the authors argue.

“Experimental results show that BrowseRank can achieve better performance than existing methods, including PageRank…in important page finding, spam page fighting, and relevance ranking.

The researchers gathered their data from “an extremely large group of users under legal agreements with them,” according to the paper.

It almost sounds like Microsoft wants to tap into people’s search patterns much like Alexa uses their toolbar to record traffic on sites, Microsoft wants to monitor which sites are being browsed, and where visitors are coming from and leaving to.

It is a lofty goal, for sure, but as we have seen in the online space, Microsoft rarely makes the right moves.

Will PageRank matter if Microsoft gets into having their own version of the system? Or better yet, is PageRank still relevant today? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

Powerful Ad Service with PerformancingAds

Now that PerformancingAds has officially launched, I wanted to take some time to talk about my experience with it so far.

I was lucky enough to have early access to PerformancingAds as it was being developed, and a fair bit of my feedback and criticisms were dealt with early on and while I am sure I will always have more criticisms as the service develops, for all intents and purposes, PerformancingAds meets ninety percent of my advertising management needs.

Who Created It?

If you recognize the Performancing brand, then you already know who is behind the PerformancingAds service. For those of you that don’t know, Performancing is a blog with a similar audience to this one and has had writers who have always become very successful in making a living through online endeavours.

Performancing has always been home to some of the best content online, and some of the strongest secondary brands.

Ryan Caldwell has been spearheading this project, and as he has with other things he has built, he has put nothing less than his full heart and soul into making this project a success.

Why Another Ad Management Service?

One of my first questions to Ryan was always “why would you want to start another ad management service?” There are so many players in the space, and so much competition, and while I know Ryan as a success in everything he attempts, I wondered if he was taking on a niche that was just too heavily saturated.

Was there room for another advertising service in the blogosphere?

Performancing Ads

Features

Ryan didn’t want just another service promising the world and he worked hard to deliver something that would fulfill the needs of many bloggers currently trying to monetize their blogs. He would bring a bunch of great sites together in a directory, while also working hard to bring in companies willing to advertise.

Automate advertising inventory
PerformancingAds allows you to manage your 125×125 pixel advertisements on your WordPress blog. Not only making it easy to show the ads, and position them, but also adding your site to a marketplace where advertisers can easily find your site.

Take PayPal Payments
It allows you to take all forms of PayPal payment, even if your personal account doesn’t normally allow credit card payments.

Book on your own site
One of my favourite features is that PerformancingAds allows you to book ads on your own site for free, making it easy to control affiliate program ads or place ads outside of the normal payment system.

Advertising exchange system
PerformancingAds also has a traffic exchange system, where, like other banner exchange systems, you can have your ad placed for free on other sites, and in return, you allow banners to freely be placed in one of your advertising locations. Don’t worry, there is no dropping “cards” to game the system here.

Quick Payments
Also, unlike other systems, any balance in your account gets paid on the first of the month. No waiting thirty or sixty days to get your money.

Featured Sites Already Using PerformancingAds

PerformancingAds CouponThere are many great blogs already using PerformancingAds, and some have already had some amazing success, including one publisher that has already sold ten ads during the short open beta period.

Links go to PerformancingAds advertising pages for listed sites

Affiliate Program

Here is the best part in my opinion. Even if you don’t want to manage your own ads on PerformancingAds, you can still make money using their affiliate program.

You’ll earn $10 per unique sign-up and 5% of the recurring revenue on all advertiser ad buys.

That could quickly add up to a fair bit of passive income if you get a few advertisers signed up through your affiliate link. If an advertiser spends $500 per month thanks to finding PerformancingAds through you, that means an extra $25 per month in your pocket. If you found ten people of similar ad buying habits, that could mean $250 per month in income, which is nothing to sneeze at.

The Catch

Didn’t think I was going to mention any negatives, did you? I believe in transparency, and despite the advertisements I have on this site, I won’t compromise my ethics. There are some downsides to PerformancingAds which I have already addressed to Ryan. Some he can do things about, and others, he can’t.

The first issue is that you need a WordPress plugin to power the advertising service on your blog. If he releases new versions of this plugin, because it isn’t in the WordPress plugin directory, I will only know about new versions from the PerformancingAds main site.

The next issue is related to the cut that PerformancingAds takes from ad sales. They take a fifty percent cut. This to me is frustrating, and could really limit their growth. Also, with the way they currently run the distribution of revenue, they take 50% of the rate that you set. So if you put up advertising spots for $20, you get $10 and they get the other $10. For the service that they are providing, as well as the marketplace, this might be worthwhile, but I think that the split should be done differently.

I have already made some suggestions regarding this, and I know Ryan and company will take them seriously.

The other small issue is that booking ads on your own site was not very refined last time I used it, and that could easily lead to some frustrations from publishers, but I haven’t tried it out since the launch announcement.

Conclusion

If Ryan and company puts the same level of passion behind making PerformancingAds a success as they’ve done on other sites, then I am sure it will be a success.

The biggest barriers right now in my opinion are the limited number of advertisers knowing about PerformancingAds, and the revenue split keeping away people that feel uncomfortable with a 50/50 split no matter the potential marketplace size or power.

Full Disclosure: I will be working for Ryan starting in August, and I have been a close friend of his for a while now. I have had access to the service from its infancy, and have information on new features coming down the pipe, but this hasn’t clouded my judgment, at least, not all that much.

UPDATE: The revenue split has changed, with 60% going to the blog owner, and 40% going to PerformancingAds, with a sliding scale based on some currently unknown criteria.