Category Archives: blog search

Add a Community to Your Blog with BlogFrog

Posted by Kat Armstrong.

I recently met with BlogFrog CEO Rustin Banks to discuss adding communities directly to your blog. Your readers want to interact with you and with each other. Adding a customized BlogFrog community to your site allows your readers to ask questions, share photos and chat live with each other – without ever leaving your site.

With comments, your readers can only leave their thoughts about whatever it is YOU have to say. They don’t have an easy way to interact with each other. Your subscribers are obviously like-minded. After all, they are each interested in whatever you are talking about. Using BlogFrog compliments whatever blog comment service you are already using. The comments section is there for people to leave feedback and additional thoughts based on what you have written. Adding the additional components from BlogFrog adds a whole new layer, allowing your readers to talk to each other and spark new discussions.

My first instinct was to ask why we should use BlogFrog. After all, we have sites such as Google+, Facebook and Twitter to discuss things on with other individuals. Rustin was quick to point out that we are limited on these sites. We only have the capability of talking with our followers. We aren’t really giving them a way to talk to each other unless they want to jump through hoops and figure out how and where to follow the other parties on various social sites.

Believe it or not, it won’t cost you anything to use BlogFrog. The beauty is that you will be getting paid to use the service in a manner of speaking. You can enable high-quality advertising and make a higher CPM in most cases than what you will be able to find on your own.

Once you have signed up with the service and chosen your elements, it’s very simple to add BlogFrog to your own site. You’ll basically add a widget to your main page. The components are platform agnostic… install your new community on any template which allows JavaScript.

My assistant Kat is fond of saying that building a community isn’t about connecting people to you – it’s about connecting them to each other. BlogFrog has created the perfect way for you to give your community the tools they need to interact with each other, build upon what they already know and perhaps change the world.

Blog Herald doesn’t understand why full-text feeds work

For the past couple of months Blog Herald has been subtly attacking me. I thought it was just one of those suckups trying to bait me to link to them but today I saw the real reason for Duncan’s tone: he thinks I don’t want him or anyone else to make money off of content (that link takes you to his post titled: Steve Rubel doesn’t get it: RSS advertising sucks).

He’s wrong about my views, but he’s not the only one (I was forwarded some email from a private mailing list where some of the participants skewered me in the same way that Blog Herald just did but in a more personal way — all because I want full-text feeds).

Ahh, I see Kent Newsome sees through Duncan’s post.

So, let’s get to it: what are my views?

1) That I won’t subscribe to any feed that isn’t full text. Well, except for my brother’s blog.
2) That treating RSS readers well will get you more Web browser readers.
3) That full-text sites will be more profitable because of this than partial-text sites.

So, let’s look at the world of RSS. First, you MUST separate the world into two buckets:

1) The way they are today.
2) The way we want them to be tomorrow.

Personally I want a world where everyone uses a feed reader and subscribes to their favorite blogs, news sites, etc. But let’s be honest. Such a world is a LONG way from being here. We could go into the reasons, but that’s for another post at another time. Let’s not rathole on this.

Instead, let’s look at how things are TODAY. Today only a very small percentage of people use RSS and RSS News Aggregators. Even if you include the people who don’t have any clue that they are using RSS (like those people who use live.com or MyYahoo to subscribe).

The reason RSS advertising doesn’t work today is:

1) The audiences are too small.
2) The audiences are too geeky and too full of smart people. Hint, those people don’t click on advertisements unless they are very targetted!

Now when I talk with audiences I see two trends: 1) Blog-heavy audiences, like the Northern Voice conference, have about 80% usage of RSS News Aggregators (these audiences do NOT represent the mainstream user). 2) Blog-lite audiences, like Ireland’s IT@Cork conference, only see about 2% RSS usage (these are far more mainstream — in fact, I’d argue that the mainstream user is far less likely to use RSS than that. Heck, if you really want to get mainstream, only about 1/6th of the world’s population even uses a computer).

But, now, how do you get traffic to visit your content? Well, I’ve been studying that too. There are a few ways:

1) Get your content listed on a news site with a lot of flow. Something like Yahoo or Google or MSN’s news page. Not many of us have access to that. With one exception that I’ll note below.
2) Get a journalist with a lot of flow to link to you. When the New York Times links to you you’ll get lots of flow.
3) Get lots of bloggers to link to you. I do get lots of flow when lots of bloggers link to me.
4) Get the memetrackers like Digg, Memeorandum, TailRank, Slashdot etc to link to you.

Yeah, there are probably others, but in terms of buckets of how you get traffic, these are the major ones.

OK, you might be reading my words in an RSS aggregator, right? What happens when you click on a link? It takes you to a Web browser, right?

Ahhh! That’s how you can make money!

Aside, there are at least three ways content owners today make money off of advertising:

1) Show a banner ad when you visit the page (the content owner gets paid everytime you visit that page. For instance, I just went to cnn.com and there’s a banner ad there and they probably got a few cents from my visit.
2) Click-to-pay advertising. You see all those Google ads all over the place? Chris Pirillo’s blog, for instance, has Google ads (so does Blog Herald). These sites only get paid if you actually click on the advertising. For instance, some of the words you click on can be worth up to $60 PER CLICK to Google and other advertising companies (like Mortgages). 
3) Interruptive advertising. News.com uses a lot of these kinds of ads. They are Flash movies that fly over the page, or pop up, or run across the page until you click their close or “skip” buttons. These are also paid by impression, or everytime you load the browser up. 

Anyway, back to traffic. To get it, first you should appease the connectors. Er, the bloggers, the journalists, and the geeks.

You see, when I get together with journalists their RSS usage is WAY WAY WAY higher than the rest of the population. Journalists are like me. They sift through lots of information looking for the gems for their readers. That’s how they build audiences. RSS lets people read about 10 times the amount of content than if you just use a Web browser. That’s why journalists, connectors, bloggers, geeks who care about productivity, etc use RSS. It’s also why advertising in RSS isn’t yet working. These people aren’t good targets for loosely-targetted advertising.

Here’s a question: if you were an advertising company, what advertisement would you put into this post? One for diapers? Digital cameras? RSS aggregators?

Most of the algorithms for advertising would just look at the words I typed. So, now you’ll get ads for all the above. Loosely-targetted. This isn’t like going to a search engine and actively searching for, say, digital camera info, and getting a Nikon advertisement. Geeks, connectors, journalists LIKE that kind of advertising. But we don’t like interruptive styles of advertising. Which is what we get in RSS feeds today.

So, how does anyone make any money?

Well, let’s stay in TODAY’S world. In today’s world you get journalists, geeks, bloggers, connectors, to read your content and link to it. That’ll bring a larger audience to visit your Web page. How do you do that? Serve out full-text RSS. Why? Cause by doing that you treat the connector with the most possible respect and give him/her the easiest way to consume your content and link to it.

Then you put advertising on your page. That could be a banner ad. That could be a Google AdSense block (or Yahoo or MSN’s equivilent). Or you could even be really rude and put a Flash ad interstitial (I’ve seen more and more of this kind of “interruptive” advertising). Or, you could get really creative like Honda did and create advertising people will link to as content itself.

Since only a small percentage of your audience will be using RSS (even if you’re a tech blogger, less than half of your audience will be using RSS on the average day) you’ll make money.

Now, the fear is that the model will go away tomorrow thanks to RSS being built into IE 7, Safari, Firefox, Opera and other browsers. Whoa! Alert, alert, if that happens that means the unwashed masses won’t be seeing your interstitial Flash advertisements anymore, or refreshing your banner ads, or seeing your Google AdSense blocks.

OK, in such a world advertising will have to change. But, let’s be honest, what percentage of people will use RSS in such a world? I’d argue that it’ll be a small percentage for a very long time. My mom just doesn’t read enough sites to care about RSS. I doubt she will until she gets into blogging (which is possible, but I don’t expect it anytime soon).

Plus, what makes the usage model of reading a Web page in an aggregator so different from reading it in a browser window? Why couldn’t Google put the same AdSense block into RSS that it puts next to Chris Pirillo’s content, for instance? Oh, wait, Google is already doing that.

But, that’s also ratholing in an argument that really deserves its own post.

What people who say that full-text RSS hurts their advertising possibilities don’t get is that if you treat connectors, bloggers, journalists better, you’ll get MORE audience to your Web pages, which will get you more advertising hits.

Or am I missing something here? Either way, you can call me all the names you want, but I won’t subscribe to partial text feeds. Yes, I’m more likely to link to Web pages that also serve full-text feeds out. But don’t mistake my demand that my content providers treat me better with some theory that I don’t want them to make money. That simply isn’t true and represents the worst of “stick-your-head-in-the-sand” kind of anti-change thinking. If you want to make money in this new world you are far more likely to do so by working with your best customers to find new ways to build audiences and serve better advertising toward them.

The one exception above? The folks who run Yahoo, MSN, and Microsoft’s main pages are heavy users of RSS. Why? Cause they are paid to find the best content. If they aren’t using RSS aggregators today I’d argue they should be fired. Why? Cause they aren’t being as productive as someone else (I can prove that an editor who reads content in an RSS aggregator is far more productive than someone who only uses a Web browser).

But, what do you think? Are content providers going to gain anything to tell connectors, journalists, bloggers to screw off?

PS: Dave Winer has an interesting post this morning on why formats like RSS 2.0 work.

New Technorati Favorites

Cool new feature from Technorati: Favorites. Interesting cause there’s another new site called “Top 10 Sources” which Maryam and I will be on tomorrow (Werner Vogels, Amazon’s CTO is there today). I like the Technorati approach better cause anyone can participate. My favorites are here, although I’m about to leave so haven’t had much chance to fill this in properly. Yes, you can click this button to add me to your favorites list:

Add this blog to my Technorati Favorites!

How Christopher Coulter reads my blog

If you hang around in my comments you know that Christopher Coulter rarely has anything nice to say about what I write. So, this post is in his honor. If you hate my blog, visit NetDisaster and mess with it back! Here, let me take you there. Here’s my blog and now you can spray graffitti on top of it. Loads of fun! (It gets worse from there, you can do a variety of different kinds of blog defacing there).

Have fun Christopher! :-)

It’s snow fun at Keystone

Turns out that most of what we’re doing here is meeting with PR, marketing, and other executives from Colorado Ski Country. DL Byron has the details. It’s pretty smart. They get a few bloggers to come up and give them consulting, maybe get a link or two, in return for some free snowmobiling and skiing. Considering that some of my friends are getting paid $4,000 a day for doing consulting like this it’s a fair trade. But, how many people talk about how they are being compensated on their blogs? I’m taking vacation days from Microsoft to be here, by the way.

Yesterday we spent quite a bit of time with Kate Osborne of Keystone (here’s a photo I shot of her). She runs PR. Deals with press from all over the world. Says she’s treating the bloggers the same way she’d treat the New York Times. With one exception: the New York Times pays for everything she sets up. She says that most of the professional press insists on paying their own way. To me, this is a HUGE difference between the bloggers and the professionals. She says, though, that many pros get around the rules of the newspaper brands by going independent. If you’re an independent journalist turns out the rules are more relaxed.

Anyway, the resort here is massive. I also find myself wishing Kate had a blog. She knows EVERYTHING about the market. She is an instant authority. How do I know that? She can tell you what each of her competitors do right too. What are Keystone’s advantages? She shows why they get more families here: more diversity of things to do. They are working on making their snowboarding features better. That’s where the growth in the winter sports industry is right now.

Some other things I’ve learned? Colorado is in the midst of the best winter in decades. Almost 300 inches have fallen.

Best promotion that Keystone has done? It opened its season with its second annual “36 hours at Keystone” event. Last year 20,000 people came. This year? 40,000. Why? Cause you can ski for 36 hours for $36 and you get lodging for $36 too.

It’s interesting, though, just how business-savvy the folks are here. Make no mistake: this is a huge business employing tons of people. And, like at most businesses I’ve talked with lately there’s a lot of fear of change. They are very worried about how their brand is being perceived on the outside world. No different than the 180+ businesses we talked with about blogging for our book.

We’ll see if we can get the execs here over their fears and show them some of the relationship building advantages (and morale building advantages!) of letting their employees have conversations with their customers on the Internet.

Along these lines: congrats to Steve Rubel for joining PR maven Richard Edelman (they are working to get more companies blogging too).

Update: here’s Maryam and me snowmobiling yesterday.

Guy on community…

Guy Kawasaki talks about building a good community. I think he forgot the most important one: hang out with the community! Why have I been successful where other people at Microsoft haven’t? Cause I hang out at geek dinners and other events. Tonight we had a blogger dinner. Just being there is important. Bringing Maryam is even more important cause she builds a stronger community by not talking geek stuff so much.

Another important rule? Include the Z list. How do you do that? Link, and link often! (Something that Guy hasn’t done yet in a big way).

Another way? Don’t make the community come to you. Go to the community. Huh? Answer your email! (I’m behind, but I’m on vacation). And, use CoComment and head off to other people’s blogs and answer their posts there.