Monday, January 24, 2011

WhisperRant: Campaigns as Content

They're easy!
Time for another WhisperRant or rumination on blogging about blogging as things continue to evolve and take shape in our little 'sphere. This is less of a rant and more of an observation, and I'd like to know your thoughts. Lately, I've noticed a huge influx of major ad campaigns landing on blog pages all over the place. And there's good reason for that--namely, it's easy content (upload and you're done!), looks pretty on your site and makes nice with the PRs from whence it came (we all love a bit of good karma in this business). But when it comes to some sites, many in fact, those of the superbloggers or those with traffic nipping at the heels of or even excelling the circulation of some of the glossies are posting some of these campaigns as editorial content. But we all know the magazines make their money from advertising, and charge brands a pretty penny to print these very same images on their glossy pages.

They're pretty!
So I did a little googling, and here's what I found out. One blog, Searching For Style, dug up a few examples of rates from media kits where the information is provided on the "advertise" section of a magazine's website. She writes: "Brands rarely pay the listed prices, but this is a good indicator: US Vogue, 1 page, full colour, in the first quarter of the magazine: $151,000 (USD) and US Elle, 1 page, full colour, in the first quarter of the magazine: $131,000 (USD). Even if a small brand were to be able to pay $100K for a page, you can’t exactly pay for one page a year in Vogue, you need to advertise more regularly for it to have an impact. So basically, these huge advertising sums paid by the big brands of the fashion world pay for the glossy paper, the chauffered cars, and the expense accounts of the magazines and their staff."

Following her lead...I went and checked up on a few rates myself. Here's what I found (click here to investigate yourself):

To advertise in Cosmopolitan UK you're looking at a minimum of £16,000, for Good Housekeeping, a minimum of £15,000, both have circulations in the 400,000 range--which is definitely on par with what certain blogs (not this one, mind you!) rake in each month in uniques. Company Magazine, which only clocks it with a circulation of 217, 324, naps minimum £10K per ad and SHE, with a circ of 144, 228, nabs from £9,460. Harper's Bazaar starts at £11, 679 and goes all the way up to £40,881 for a spread in "Position A," or the most desireable part of the mag, like front or back pages. And US Weekly, the American gossip magazines whose content rivals and overlaps with many a celeb/gossip blog, can ring up close to $100,000 for a spread in its cheesy-but-oh-so-gripping pages.
Searching for Style goes on to write: "So how do the magazines give thanks? They feature the big brands products in their editorials. There’s a term called PR value which states that a one page feature of your brand in a magazine is worth four times the price of a one page advertisement. Its more valuable when the magazine says “this is great” then when readers see an advertisement from that brand. So that is why big brands pay the huge advertising sums. And as a result, magazines need to talk about the big brand’s products, whether they like them or not."

This little contentious and increasingly more publicly acknowledged point takes us back to the 2009 FTC decree that bloggers must indicate when they are being gifted, bribed, bought or paid in any way on their sites. Have you ever seen a disclaimer at the bottom of a glossy Vogue editorial that quips: "This shoot was sponsored in part by Gucci for $78, 284"? No. And I'm not saying they should, I'm merely revisiting the point as it was relevant in the whole controversy over blogger disclosure versus the traditional print magazine methods of advertising (let's leave editor gifting out of it for now, shall we? That's all whole 'nother kettle of gifted fish).

So my question is to you, dear readers, since bloggers must disclose when they are being paid, and in the flurry of Gucci, Burberry, and all the other brands of the corporate fashion rainbow campaigns springing up on screens everywhere (and NOT in leaderboards or sidebars!), I've not seen any such disclosures, we must conclude that we bloggers (myself included) are running the campaigns as editorial content. For free.

We all know that the issue of what blogs and bloggers are worth monetarily is a continuously contentious one that only continues to snowball as bloggers work harder, reap bigger audiences as reward, exert more influence only to run into a system that prefers to continue to shell out tens of thousands of dollars per month, hundreds of thousands per year, for a slot in "Position C" of one of the major print magazines. Something somewhere's gotta give eventually. I'm not saying bloggers should start dodging emails bearing campaign images and press releases from PRs and demand £10,000 for a two-second post. Nor am I saying that magazines shouldn't continue to reel in their funds from this tried-and-tested system, brands should pay to appear in magazines. And they should pay to appear on blogs. Or should they? Wasn't that the whole point in the first place? The grassroots against the corporate, the individual she or he at home behind her laptop versus the perfectly groomed machine trolling the halls of Number 4 Times Square and equally intimidating addresses? Uninfluenced by gifts and advertisers? But blogs, many blogs, do have space dedicated to ads and ads alone, and bloggers need to cash in on their exertions somehow--internet bills do need paying at the end of the day. What the answer is here, I don't know. I guess this issue of campaigns as content comes back to the increasingly more relevant problem of what is editorial versus advertorial content? Where and how do you draw the line? All I am saying is that this subject is food for thought, a reason to pause and kick around an intellectual hackey-sack and ponder, why is it that, to essentially run the same image, a magazine with a circulation of 100,000 pockets £10,000 and a blog with over 300,000 monthly uniques (not to mention the power of click-to-buy) sees nada. What do you think???

Further Reading


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