200910080111Hopefully we won’t be posting too much any more about the whole FTC guidelines for bloggers things, but here’s a story from Business Week that explains the amount of money changing hands at times, and turns out it’s a lot more than a measly $4 comic book:

More than 75,000 people follow Jason “Shoe Money” Schoemaker on Twitter for his candid takes on news and strategies in search engine marketing, his expertise. Recently, they got something else: a 140-character promotion for the new NBC (GE) comedy series Community. The TV network paid Schoemaker a total of $2,000 for two Twitter posts, both of which included a brief disclaimer that the message was an ad.

First off, if anyone out there wants to pay us $2000 to tweet about something, we’re all ears! But that said, there’s no way we wouldn’t make it clear that it was a paid ad ’cause that would just be icky

Paying bloggers and tweeters to blog and tweet about products is an increasingly common way for marketers to reach their audiences — hadn’t you heard, social networking is all the rage?

Indeed, the traditional way for companies to market their products — obvious paid adverts — is crumbling away just like the dude at the end of 30 DAYS OF NIGHT. Take magazine ads:

Total magazine rate-card-reported advertising revenue for the first half of 2009 closed at $9,095,979,740, posting a -21.2% decline against the previous year, according to Publishers Information Bureau (PIB).  Ad pages during the first half totaled 79,245.30, at -27.9% compared to January through June, 2008.  Total PIB revenue for the second quarter of 2009 closed at $4,905,073,446, posting a 22% decline against the same period in 2008, according to Publishers Information Bureau (PIB).  Ad pages during the second quarter totaled 41,854.95, at -29.5% compared to April through June, 2008. 

Ouch, ouch, and OUCH.


TV advertising isn’t doing much better; although there are more ad spots than ever, advertisers want to pay less for them. And overall, the picture is excruciating:

Advertising tracker TNS Media Intelligence this morning issued the grim news that ad spending plummeted 14.3% to $60.87 billion during the first six months of 2009 compared with the first half of 2008. The second quarter of 2009 became the fifth consecutive quarter to post year-over-year declines.

Among those cutting back on advertising was media itself. Walt Disney Co., News Corp. and Time Warner Inc. all reined in ad spending in the first half of the year. Spending by Time Warner was down 11.1% to $574.3 million; Disney expenditures were down 11.7% to $517.6 million; and News Corp. cut its ad spending by 6.9% to $672.3 million.

While advertising is a horrible business, in general, it’s also part of the culture, whether it’s an image of Gisele Bündchen in her H&M underwear, “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!” or the Popeil Pocket Fisherman. It’s obnoxious but it’s also clever and, at its best, incredibly creative. Time was when massive fall magazines were the catalogs of taste and honed desire. It was all very recognizable, like a highway billboard.

But with Tivo and the internet, just how are we getting the message of what brand of beer or lipstick is going to make us the sexiest? Product placement and social networking are a lot more subliminal and harder to pick out. In addition, consumer to consumer recommendation is taking over for endorsement; when The Beat is looking for a place to eat, we don’t pick up the Village Voice any more, we fire up Yelp on our GPS-equipped iPhone and find out what’s around the corner.

It’s evident that Madison Avenue is as gobsmacked about the New Media World as many of its clients. However, these crafty, highly paid people are students of human nature — they’ve probably already figured out ways to sell us toothpaste that we don’t even know about.

This matter is of primary urgency. Advertising has traditionally funded most mediums except audience events like movies, theater and music (and books and comics publishing.) Ad dollar erosion is why newspapers are dying and magazines are folding. (When subs fall, you don’t make your rate base, and when you don’t make your rate base, you can’t charge as much money for advertising.) The lack of online advertising equivalents to the full bleed double spread is what makes so much Internet material a labor of love and not much else. (If we had more advertising for The Beat, we could hire more writers, add more features, and work fewer but better hours.)

So if The Community got their $2000 worth, that’s okay. And if greater transparency is needed on that kind of thing, that’s okay, too. Until people get used to paying to read or watch things on the Internet, as they do for concerts or books or comics, advertising dollars will continue to be the fuel for the engine.


  1. This confirms my first thought when this cropped up: I really doubt the FTC is ever going to be concerned with comics bloggers reviewing comp copies without the proper disclaimers. There are much bigger concerns here.

  2. I’ve come up with an elaborate and detailed response, but have boiled it down simply to this: Yes. Thanks Heidi.

  3. No twitter here … a friend recenetly took a seminar on how to market your book/comic book through Twitter. He said it was basically a glorified method of sending spam to everyone.

  4. If comicbook creators and pulp writers can use multiple pseudonyms to mask the fact that they are writing/drawing everything in a magazine, why can’t I create multiple pseudonyms, set up a confederation of reviewers, and have everyone disagree with each other?

    What’s to prevent a company (or an individual) from setting up a fake identity to sell a certain product or viewpoint?

    Heidi, I guess you were a trailblazer…

  5. Fortune magazine said Betty Crocker was the second most popular woman in America in 1945, after Eleanor Roosevelt — who was at least a real person. I’d guess it’s not a far step from companies creating official fictional spokespeople to creating unofficial fictional spokespeople!

  6. What’s to prevent a company (or an individual) from setting up a fake identity to sell a certain product or viewpoint?

    People have done that — a fake identity is known as a sockpuppet — but the fakery can be detected in a number of ways, and if the person is using a sockpuppet to support a political argument or to benefit himself financially, the damage to his reputation can be serious.


  7. How’s online advertising been doing? Not so bad, in many respects. Search-related advertising rose; digital video ads increased a lot. Advertising connected to directories and classifieds fell considerably.

    Internet-advertising revenue in the U.S. plunged 5.3% to $10.9 billion in the first half of the year compared to the same six-month period a year ago, according to the Interactive Advertising Bureau and PricewaterhouseCoopers, which compile online-ad spending totals every quarter.

    The industry association tried to put a positive spin on the numbers: While online-ad revenue is down, the web is still faring better than most other ad-supported media channels. [. . .]

    This [downward spending] trend is due to the economy, not the diminished interest in the area by consumers or advertisers,” said John Deighton, professor of business administration at Harvard Business School.

    He pointed out some trends he’s watching: Time spent on social-networking sites has tripled, while advertising doubled, according to Nielsen data. “[Revenue reveals] small numbers but very substantial growth,” Mr. Deighton said.