The People Ready Three Way Conversation

June 24, 2007

I’m pretty sure advertisers are worried. Eyeballs are moving away from traditional media, and more and more people are using technology to avoid advertising. The advertisers don’t control the conversation anymore and are scrambling to figure out how to get that control back.

I spend much of my day avoiding advertising.

I got into blogging partly to join the other voices that aren’t bought, sold, or in the pockets of large corporations and big media. I prefer not to read paid-for product reviews. When choosing to buy a service or product, I look at an aggregate of many blogs and traditional news sources and average those opinions. One reason why Web 2.0 sites like Yelp or Digg are compelling to me is because they contain hundreds of average Joe opinions from which one can figure out the general trend.

This sort of “advertising” is organic, and comes from the end users themselves. I feel it’s relatively more trustworthy than the opinions of a few individuals – no matter how expert they may be – because those opinions may easily be bought (or rented) by advertisers.

So marketers are scratching their heads. People are doing product research online, and many are reading blogs. So how do they get bloggers to write favorably about their stuff?

The obvious thought from any unimaginative capitalist: pay them, bribe them with free stuff, or target A-list bloggers and hope the rest of the blogosphere blindly follows them.

That doesn’t work too well.

But hey, let’s think about some alternatives.

Try making a product that’s inherently exciting, that makes bloggers want to write about it. Try putting a little more effort into the actual product or service. Make it stellar. If it’s exciting and “digg worthy,” buzz builds largely by itself past the original introduction.

Consider what makes a viral ad campaign truly viral. Things are way cooler when average people with no vested interest in the product start talking about it.

What’s the biggest advantage of doing things this way? You don’t have to pay anybody. Your ad campaign runs itself. On this blog, I write about tons of stuff on my own, with no consideration of compensation. It stems from genuine interest. I write about Apple products incessantly, for free. Why? Because they make products I actually want to buy, and I get so much pleasure from using said products that I feel moved to write about them. What’s ironic: because Apple isn’t paying me to write about this stuff, my opinion is likely more valuable to other consumers. I know that is hard for many ad people to understand, but it’s true. Not everything centers around money. Paying for an opinion may actually devalue it.

Try actually getting involved in the blogosphere on a reader level. Some examples: Marc Andreessen of Ning started a killer blog. Jason Calacanis reads blogs, comments on others, and uses Twitter. Robert Scoble is everywhere and actively responds to comments on his blog. These guys disclose their relationships to advertisers. They get it.

Back to People Ready

This whole “people ready” ad campaign doesn’t work for me. It’s Microsoft PR spin. It’s not a product, nor a service, not cool, and just lazy and uninspired. I still have no idea what it means or what it’s trying to say.

This “three way conversation” stuff I find vague and meaningless, too. To me, a conversation means someone says something, you respond, they listen. This Federated Media concept in actuality is two people conspiring on a message and then yelling at a third person (the audience) who is only marginally interested in what the other two people are talking about. The third person has no say in the message. And in my case, I’m trying to get out of a conversation with the first two clowns and they follow me, screaming at me through a megaphone, as this conversation shows up on blogs I read.

A sneaky ad campaign and this myth of a “conversation” likely came about because many bloggers won’t write about “people ready” on their own.

Scanning all the opinions on both sides of this situation, you can easily see where folks stand based on which side they identify with: the corporation / advertiser or the consumer. All the VCs, business owners, and marketers generally align with the former. Everyone who believes (perhaps naively) that the blogging voice can represent something other than corporate interests leans to the latter.

For what it’s worth, I’m firmly in the position of the consumer. Nobody paid me to take this side of this supposed three-way conversation.

Additional Reading (opinions from both sides of this issue to be somewhat fair): A Diary of a Rat, ChasNote, Brad Linder, Newsome.org, How To Split An Atom, Jackie Danicki, A VC, Scott Rosenberg, Adrants, BuzzMachine

Comments

  1. I think it seriously depends on what you’re selling and who your market is. If you want to sell BMWs or laptops or Bermuda vacations, don’t buy blogger ads. If you want to sell DIY home improvement books or poker how-to DVDs or books about eBay, blogger ads will work.

    The fact is, the majority of people don’t have Tivo and probably never will. It’s a luxury for techies. The common man uses stuff like “on demand” TV programming or they deal with the commercials. (I have a Tivo, by the way. It sits in the closet because it doesn’t cooperate with the cable company and I hate satellite.)

    Likewise, there are plenty of people who still use cassette tapes and CDs instead of iPods. And so long as iTunes continues to suck, people like me will continue to buy and trade CDs. (I love my iPod, I hate my iTunes.) And there are plenty of people who listen to the radio.

    (PS – The Glitch looks lame to me. But I’m sure plenty of young men will love it. So if that’s your target market… advertise there.)

  2. Webomatica says:

    Hmm, good points. You make me think about how target markets can vary widely. In my instance I might be in a sense paying for the priviledge of not having ads. That actually was a big appeal of cable TV originally – movies with no ads – but you had to subscribe to it.

    I might be a person that would resubscribe to my lapsed newspaper or Wired Magazine subscriptions if it were an ad-free version. It might only be 15 pages long but I’d be willing to pay extra for it :)