Blogs for sale

Last week’s Brooklyn Blogfest made headlines when it was uncovered that event sponsor Absolut Vodka gave gifts and promotional exposure in exchange for editorial coverage from bloggers who neglected to disclose ties to Absolut.  The ad campaign, created by New York’s Ketchum agency, promotes a special edition Absolut Brooklyn beverage endorsed by Spike Lee, who was also a guest speaker at Blogfest.  The ensuing backlash has invigorated discussion on ethics in the relatively nascent medium of branded blogging.

Last year the FTC published new guidelines for bloggers stating that “’material connections’ (sometimes payments or free products) between advertisers and endorsers – connections that consumers would not expect – must be disclosed.”  The commission investigated Ann Taylor earlier this year for a LOFT campaign that offered bloggers gift certificates in exchange for proof of editorial coverage.  While no fines were issued, the case is largely viewed as a warning to companies to take the lead in ensuring that participating bloggers disclose the nature of branded campaign.

Continue reading “Blogs for sale”

MySpace’s death rattle?

After five years at the top of the social networking pyramid, MySpace spent the last two years becoming the new Friendster. It’s a tag the company wore happily when it outdid Friendster in 2003, but in 2010 it’s nothing short of a scarlet letter. This week Rupert Murdoch folded Slingshot Labs, MySpace’s technology development arm, in what is the closest News Corp. has come to an admission of social networking “Game Over.”

In all likelihood MySpace will continue to loom in the social networking galaxy for years to come come, shimmering in the distance as a dying white dwarf star that grabs what financial dust it can from the ether. Music lovers might still use the site on occasion to check out new artists, but for the most part any self-respecting teenager will tell you that MySpace is “so 2006.”

So what went wrong?

Here are the three biggest MySpace missteps that newer sites like Facebook and Twitter can avoid: Continue reading “MySpace’s death rattle?”

Travelocity: Chatroulette marketing a success

Travelocity made headlines this week when it revealed the metrics of its Chatroulette marketing campaign and declared the site to be a successful platform for reaching consumers. Other early pioneers of Chatroullette ad experimentation include Burger King, which used its King character to give users coupons, and French Connection which actually asked users to prove that they successfully seduced someone on the site to earn store gift certificates.

According to Travelocity, the company received 350,000 impressions and had 400 conversations with potential consumers who chatted with “chat specialists” that use the popular Travelocity gnome mascot as their avatar. During non-business hours the company kept the cameras rolling and left the gnome to his own devices– holding up signs with messages like “Traveling from person to person doesn’t count.” Continue reading “Travelocity: Chatroulette marketing a success”

Why Apple shut down LaLa

In another disappointment for U.S. music fans, Apple announced last week that it would shutter online music service LaLa on May 31st— only months after purchasing the company for over $80 million in December 2009. Started in 2006, the company allows users to create and share music playlists, access music collections from any computer, purchase MP3s, or buy the right to stream songs indefinitely for ten cents. The site gained notable exposure in the music community when taste making blog Pitchfork Media began using LaLa widgets and playlists to accompany it’s music reviews. The announcement leaves room for speculation as to Apple’s motivation and its next move in the music space.

Many predict Apple will use LaLa’s “cloud” technology to launch a music subscription service within the iTunes platform– LaLa, unlike iTunes, stores music on servers which users can access in addition to direct dowloading. In a world of lost iPods and constantly updating technology, that convenience could add substantial value to an already established brand. The Wall Street Journal also reports that Apple will likely start an site this year empowering users to play music without the currently required iTunes software. This would open Apple’s music business to a larger audience and position the company to tap into a growing mobile market. Forrester Research projects that today’s 2.1 million music service subscribes will mushroom to over 5 million by 2014, due in part to an expansion of music streaming on smart phones. Continue reading “Why Apple shut down LaLa”

A temporary setback for net neutrality

FCC Proponents of net neutrality were dealt a harsh blow last week when a U.S. appeals court ruled that the FCC could not stop Comcast from slowing service on peer-to-peer file sharing site BitTorrent. The unanimous written decision from the judges never rebukes net neutrality philosophically, but claims the FCC overstepped its powers in the realm of broadband regulation.

In all likelihood, Comcast’s victory will be the catalyst for a larger showdown that could play out in one of two ways. In the first scenario, the FCC will push back by redefining broadband as a Title II service and reassert it’s right to enforce net neutrality. Doing so would require the FCC to make a compelling argument for the switch and could be met by a challenge from the Telecommunications and Cable industries that would take the issue back to the courts — possibly to the Supreme Court eventually. A second scenario, and perhaps the more appropriate solution, is that Congress directly defines the FCC’s authority (or lack there of) in the realm of broadband regulation. Continue reading “A temporary setback for net neutrality”

YouTube rentals: The new Netflix?

YouTube rentals: The new Netflix? (iStock and YouTube)If you were looking to get rich off that adorable video of your baby dancing to Rihanna’s “Rude Boy,” today might be your lucky day.  This week, YouTube quietly rolled out a YouTube Rentals beta program open to any user looking to monetize their content.  All you do is upload your video, choose a few settings, wait for YouTube staff approval, and then sit back and watch the money roll in.

Or not.  Conventional wisdom dictates that consumers aren’t likely to pay for something they’re used to getting for free.   In fact, they can get down right annoyed and angry about.  On the other hand, try telling that to “The Simpsons” and “Sex and The City” who made a killing at the theatrical box office on content people were used to getting pro bono.  Continue reading “YouTube rentals: The new Netflix?”

Branding in a new era of journalism

Branding in a new era of journalism (iStock) When Joel McHale’s character Jeff Winger on the NBC show Community spouts some dubious statistics in this week’s episode, he is promptly mocked by a friend who quips, “I think some of this research may have been done on Wikipedia.”  The user-generated encyclopedia gets its share of jabs from journalists, professors, and comedy writers alike, but that doesn’t stop 365 million unique visitors from happily trusting it as an information source every month.

This and other related topics were the subject of a SXSW Interactive panel last week titled “Process Journalism: Getting It First, While Getting it Right.”  Several panelists, including writers for the New York Times and discussed a new generation of journalism in which sites like Twitter and YouTube have become essential to breaking news stories.

Through a variety of case studies including stories about Steve Jobs’ health and a Seattle murder, the speakers illustrated a new triple-threat of resources that professional journalists now tap: Technology, Social Networks, and Citizen journalists.  Continue reading “Branding in a new era of journalism”

Will brand sponsorship bring back music videos?

Dr Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (OK Go and State Farm)For most bands in the slumping music industry, the day of big budget videos is a luxury of the past.  But last week undisputed kings of the viral music video, OK GO, found a new avenue to make their art a reality: corporate sponsorship.

The band’s clip for “This Too Shall Pass,” which features a mind blowing two story Rube Goldberg contraption, was bank rolled by none other than State Farm Insurance.  In a brilliant move, the band also arranged the deal so that State Farm paid for the right to make the YouTube clip embeddable anywhere on the web.  The band’s singer Damian Kulash recently wrote a piece for The New York Times questioning EMI’s decision not to allow embedding of YouTube videos and State Farm graciously presented a work around solution.

This is the first example of prominent corporate sponsorship of a major music video that we know of and State Farm’s bet has paid off handsomely– the clip received close to a million views a day in the first week of launch.  The video includes a toy car with the State Farm logo as well as a State Farm teddy bear and a closing thank you to the brand for making the video possible. Continue reading “Will brand sponsorship bring back music videos?”