Welcome to The Blog Report

I'm so glad you stopped by and hope you find this blog an interesting read. I've been blogging since April of 2006, currently the author of six public and two private blogs. In the beginning I knew absolutely nothing about blogging. Over the years through trial and error, frustration and elation, and a few tears I've learned a lot. However, the learning process when it comes to blogging continues to evolve. Here you will find a hodge podge of my blogging experiences, useful codes and how-tos, sprinkled liberally with my opinions. Enjoy!

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Saturday, January 19, 2013

Why Blog Widget Advertising was Doomed

A method of blog advertising using site specific widgets that displayed a 125 x 125 ad (aka card) became rather popular with bloggers .  Each blog advertising network (eg. Spottt, Entrecard, Adgitize, CMFAds and there were others) had it own widget design that showed the card and a bar to click to visit that blog, although some went to showing only the card.  The all operated in the same fashion.  You signed up for the site, added your blog then waited for approval.  Once approved you uploaded your blog card and it would be place in rotation with other ads being shown of other members' blogs.  The requirement was of course that you used the widget on your blog so other members' cards would show in rotation.  From the get go, this advertising model was destined for failure.  In short, the sites failed to follow a good business plan that would keep a good balance between income and expenses while planning for growth.

In the brick and mortar world, a business takes years to grow and establish good will.  Most start-up businesses fail within the first year simply because they do not know their market or whether there is a demand for the business.  They fail to consider the importance of repeat customers, word of mouth, many don't take overhead costs into consideration and they aren't ready for growth when it happens.  All of this can be seen with the blog advertising networks.

All of these networks were based on free membership.  A new blog is lucky to last 3 months before the blogger realizes it is hard work and moves on to something else.  Now, if you were to walk into a bank and tell them you had a plan to start a business with no perceived income and a 3 month lifespan for each customer, they would think you are totally bonkers.  You certainly would not get any money from them.  So, these networks were started with an investment from the founder which would include the costs of the domain, software and servers or storage.  Then the founder would be faced with equipment costs, routine maintenance costs, and all costs associated with running that network (aka business).  All of these funds came from their own pockets or perhaps via loans or donations but essentially with no income, the founder had to find some source of revenue.

The option to switch over to a paid only service was never really there.  The members themselves were not a good source of revenue.  Only a small percentage of the membership would pay for advertising while the remainder were more interested in making money from the system, some who would even cheat the system to do so.  Attracting outside advertisers was difficult because the model was based on bloggers who have low traffic, not necessarily the best use of their advertising dollars.  While that could have been compensated for with a large membership, the widget networks were too small to attract big spending advertisers or backers.

The admin faced the problem of keeping these networks up and running 24/7 which is a huge demand on one person. Enlisting friends and family likely helped initially but the reality is with growth comes the need for support staff.  Members want their problems addressed quickly otherwise they will move their free membership elsewhere.

Finally, the admin faced the problem of disgruntled members and believe me there were a multitude of problems.  If the problem was big enough, there was a mass exodus of members some who would go on to start their own widget based blog advertising networks creating competition.  While the admin could censor comments on their forums, they could not control what other bloggers wrote about them on their blogs, forums, Facebook or Twitter.  In that respect, they failed to realized the power of bloggers, especially bloggers who felt they had been wronged by the system.  The problems came not only through the lack of PR skills and narcissistic behaviour from some of the admin but from outside forces in the form of malware and viruses on blogs within the system.

As members encountered more problems with the widget based networks, saw their bounce rate increase and realized that at some point they could be penalized by other advertising affiliates, they stopped using the networks.  The smarter admins gave their members notice they were closing and left on good terms which means if they were to ever start up again, some of their loyal followers would return.  Others simply left their members high and dry, shutting down without notice.

Back in the hey day of widget based networks, about 2008 to 2010 and dwindling after that really was a different time for bloggers.  Blogrolls, memes and link farms (via Mr. Linky et al) became very popular.  The focus for a lot was on making money via their blog rather than blogging.  Social interaction was encouraged by the widget based networks by dropping cards, participating on their forums, actively leaving comments on other blogs and even supporting other members on Twitter, Digg and Stumbleupon.

In the end, all I can say is it was interesting while it lasted even though it was an incredible waste of time that would have been better spent on building blog traffic via other methods.  Of all the time and effort I spent on a daily basis on some of these networks, there is very little to show for it.  Readers and visitors dried up within a week of not using the network.  I don't miss the daily dropping but I do miss visiting some of my favourite bloggers that were in the system.  The mind numbing dropping combined with little if any lasting results will likely serve as a reminder that these types of systems were doomed before they even got started.


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