Here on The Blog Herald, as on so many other sites in the blogosphere, there are ads, 125×125 pixel squares. We’ve got six here, some blogs just have four, others run eight. The ad, made popular by Michael Arrington on TechCrunch, is something of the de facto standard in the blogosphere, at least when we’re talking blogs about blogging, and related niches.
I like the format, an ad doesn’t need to be much bigger than that. I would prefer it if it was 120×100 pixels instead, but that’s OK, I can live with 125×125 pixels as well.
Problem is, the readers might get saturated, screening out these ads. I recently did a post on this over at Wisdump, and there are some interesting comments there to give strength to this line of reasoning.
So what comes next? It’s hard to monetize a blog to such an extent as to actually making money. Sure, you can do direct ad sales, but will the advertiser be pleased with the turnout? Perhaps, that depends on both ad and target audience, but it also depends on if your readers actually see your ads.
Let’s be really pessimistic and assume that 125×125 pixel ads won’t work anymore.
In a way, there’s already a trend against ads not working as well as they used to on blogs. PR agencies have been trying to get positive reviews and posts on their products almost from day one, but with PayPerPost, ReviewMe, and whatnot, there are more organized ways to get recognition. You can make a decent amount of money by selling your content this way, and several hotshot bloggers are for sale. How true they stay to what they really think is for the reader to decide, I’m not going to butt in and point fingers here. That’s not my point.
The worse our ads perform on blogs, the more we’ll see paid reviews and posts surface. Bloggers will certainly make more money, but credibility will be an issue, actually, it is an issue already, and that’s not just because print media is pointing fingers and looking for the dent in the armor or the giant Print Slayer know as Online Publishing.
If you read a review on a blog, do you know if it’s actually the blogger’s opinion your getting, and not just a piece of dictated PR bullshit?
No, you might not.
On the other hand, when you read that Big Special from That Magazine, do you really believe that they don’t take into account what kind of advertising deals they’re getting?
You really shouldn’t.
I’ve been in the print industry, I know people, and I hear things, first hand. Review grades can be for sale. You don’t trash your most valued advertiser. If it’s time for a special edition to complement your publication, that usually comes straight from the marketing department.
My point is that you don’t know what you’re getting, content-wise, because these days a good PR rep is your best friend, he buys you drinks, and he’s actually quite nice. And his company is paying your mortgage.
The difference is that the online publisher, the blogger, is usually alone and vulnerable. The print media publisher is a full-fledged company. Quite a difference, but sometimes they act just the same.
Which brings us back to not seeing the ads. We really need to do something about that, and bloggers not wanting to do paid posts will have to if they are to survive in the long run. At least if they aim for direct income, there are other ways.
Maybe that’s the solution then, to make money with services promoted by your blog. I know I’m pretty successful doing that, at least, and so can others be.
To this date I haven’t written a paid post. I won’t condone bloggers who do, that’s seeing things in black and white, but just the same I don’t feel comfortable doing it myself.
I’d rather take my chances with those 125×125 pixel ads.
Thord Daniel Hedengren is a designer, writer, and blogger, and also the former editor of The Blog Herald. He used to be a hotshot in the gaming industry in Sweden, but sold everything and went International. Most recently he wrote a book called Smashing WordPress: Beyond the Blog, and does loads of kickass design.