Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Spam by any other name. . . .

Newspapers and other dying media are contemplating a social-media strategy for getting advertisers' messages in front of consumer eyeballs.

They're eyeing Twitter, and they call the concept "paid tweets." But I think we all are familiar with the practice under a different name -- spam. Because if a publication's Twitter feed has a similar ratio of ads to "content" as the print product, what Joe Public is going to get in The Daily Blab's feed is upward of 60 percent advertising.

Ad Age can shade this anyway it wants, but when you take an advertiser's money, then use Twitter's infrastructure (on Twitter's dime) to clog up a captive audience's Twitter feed, that makes you a spammer. The only difference, in that case, between The Daily Blab and HootchieMama0896 would be that more of the audience would be more interested in the latter's wares (as opposed to "wears," which would be non-existent).

I MEAN, really:
When Kim Kardashian can ask $10,000 just for sending a marketer's tweet to her 2.8 million followers on Twitter, traditional news companies have to wonder whether they can cash in too.

Many news sites have successfully harnessed Twitter to distribute their stories and build their audiences, after all, but they aren't making money from news tweets yet. Now, though, early exploration is emerging from Los Angeles to New York to Montreal.
Paid-tweet purveyor Ad.ly, the 4-month-old Los Angeles startup, has pitched its services for the most obvious approach, inserting paid tweets among news tweets. So far the big takers are individuals such as Ms. Kardashian, but Ad.ly says major publishers are coming to the table, too.

The New York Times isn't ready to try paid tweets, despite nearly 2.3 million followers for its main Twitter feed -- heady enough territory to ape Ms. Kardashian if it wanted to. "We're taking a bit of a wait-and-see approach on that one," said Denise Warren, senior VP-chief advertising officer at The New York Times Media Group. "We want to be sure that audiences really understand the difference between the paid tweet and the real tweet."

Instead, however, The New York Times Online has started selling packages of ads that appear specifically for visitors who arrive through social media such as Twitter and Facebook. Advertisers can buy certain shares of such readers, typically around 25%, so a page receiving a million visitors via social media would show a participating marketer's ad to 250,000 of them.

The effort, begun last fall, is still too young to gauge. "I couldn't give you projections yet for what we think this is going to yield," Ms. Warren said, declining to identify advertisers that have bought the program. "What we've seen, like most publishers, is that there's more of an acceptance by marketers to embrace these kinds of tools. We're definitely seeing much more interest in these programs."
THE OLD MEDIA, as most anachronisms without a clue are wont to do, are looking for a cheap and dirty way to avoid fundamental change. Usually, that just leads to profound embarrassment before the inevitable -- and ignoble -- demise.

Yes, newspapers (and magazines, and broadcasters) need to find new ways to get the message -- and the ads -- in front of consumers' eyeballs (and ears). But that process is going to be a lot more involved than hijacking Twitter's bandwidth and, in the process, annoying the crud out of the public.

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