Take it from a media buyer. The blogosphere will not be able to sustain itself on the direct response "buy my crap" model that large sites use to cover their costs. Let's do the math, shall we? Let's say your blog gets a million page views a month. Let's further assume that you can sell three ads per page view and that you're sold out for the month of August. (I know it's a stretch. Bear with me.)
You manage to serve 3,000,000 ad impressions during August. Now let's assume that the direct response advertisers you've attracted to your site buy their ads on a Cost Per Click basis and not on the more draconian Cost Per Acquisition model. Typical CPCs run about $0.20.
Response rates for direct response ads, based on industry averages and what I've seen running in the blogosphere are around 0.10%. At that click through rate, your 3,000,000 impressions end up generating 3,000 clicks. At $0.20 per click, you make a whopping 600 clams a month, or $7,200 a year, assuming you manage to sell out every month.
That also assumes you don't have to share the ad revenue with anyone. If you're part of a blog network, you may have to split that revenue with the network.
AdSense and other pay-per-click programs that cater to direct response advertisers tend to pay for beer money to all but the biggest bloggers. I've said that before, so I won't belabor the point.
If you do the math, it becomes obvious that in order to support itself, the blogosphere needs to sell itself not on response-generating ability, but on something else.
To me, that "something else" is audience engagement. And not the audience engagement the advertising community has been struggling to define.
One of the tactics we've executed under Conversational Marketing has been the use of ad space as a conversation starter. In that case, the "advertising" is valued based on the conversation it is able to generate. In other words, if people are engaged by the notion of expressing their opinion on an advertiser's blog (or on their own blog), the ad is deemed successful.
Blogs are really good at getting people engaged. Since most people who frequent blogs are familiar with the dynamic of how conversations unfold online, and they're used to commenting on things that interest them, blogs have value as conversation starters.
If we steer advertisers toward valuing conversation as opposed to a blog's ability to get people to respond to a "buy my crap" message, we win. We win, and so do online communities in general (message boards, e-mail discussion lists, groups, etc.)
Two things have to happen, though.
1) The blogosphere needs to embrace Conversational Marketing over the direct response model 2) Advertisers need to embrace Conversational Marketing
I'm working on #2, and so are a bunch of other folks who see the real value of blogs. If you're a blogger, help us work on #1.
It starts with ditching the direct response ads. If you have ads running on your blog that are on the Cost Per Click model, lose them. Turn them down. Stick to CPM for right now. When advertisers who get shot down ask why their CPC ads aren't good enough to run on your blog, tell them your ad inventory represents an engagement play, not a direct response play, and tell them to come back when they want to talk with their potential customers instead of talking at them.
Or would you prefer to continue working your ass off, blogging constantly and getting nothing more than beer money?