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There is something about AOL’s mystique that seems to attract a lot of deep thinking and furrowed brows about its future. The company, which has been around almost as long as the modern Internet, has gone through many faces and phases: Internet Service Provider (still a revenue generating business, though one in inexorable decline), ad network, content producer, hyperlocal network. But despite all the legs on its revenue stool, there’s still a great deal of doubt about AOL’s viability as an advertising vehicle in two pieces out Monday: there’s a NYT story examining the quality and competition issues dogging the Patch local network, and another take by paidContent’s Staci D. Kramer, discussing CEO Tim Armstrong getting the profile treatment by the New Yorker magazine. Subscribers can read the New Yorker profile here, while non-subs can get a brief overview.
Seeking Alpha Payday
Financial commentary and data site Seeking Alpha has long relied on the Huffington Post model of accepting content and paying contributors in the form of a platform to reach a sophisticated audience of c-suite execs and investment analysts. Apparently the site feels it needs more incentives than free promotion to get “premium” content and the higher CPM ads that tend to go along with that proposition. Seeking Alpha has announced that it will start offering contributors cash based on pageviews, but Reuters’ Felix Salmon doubts that the site will be able to pay the “thousands of dollars” per month the writers it wants will expect. Read more.
Google’s Spanish Lesson
Google’s European legal problems regarding possible privacy violations are continuing. This time it’s in Spain. The case is related to a 2008 challenge that the search giant mounted to the government-sponsored privacy guardian, the Agency of Data Protection. Google claims that there’s a double standard to the body’s enforcement, claiming that the watchdog doesn't compel news organizations to change or delete content on freedom-of-expression grounds, yet, at the same time, it doesn’t afford Google such protection. Expect another long, drawn-out battle on this one. Read more.
E-Commerce’s Publishing Edge
Over the past year, most major publishers in the fashion space have turned to e-commerce as a way to buttress digital ad sales that still can’t fill the void left by print declines. But each publisher has a sneaking suspicion about e-commerce partners like discount deals site Groupon -- namely that these allow marketers to bypass the usual publishing model. As NYT media columnist David Carr, in his look at sites like quasi-publishers/e-commerce companies Gilt Groupe and luxury marketer Net-A-Porter, quotes Gilt CEO Susan Lyne, “We’re not in the publishing business, we’re in the editing business.” For many traditional pubs, that might be a little too fine a line. Read more.
Ever since Facebook’s first attempt to promise marketers the ability to target users with the ill-fated Beacon initiative, the social network has kept trying to figure out where to draw the line between finding a solid revenue generating model and spooking its users’ over privacy concerns. The news site AllFacebook sees trouble ahead with a little-noticed change that could excite developers with a direct marketing bent: it’s now easy for developers to ask Facebook members to share their mobile numbers and home addresses. Read more.
Google’s image search tool hasn’t gotten much traction in the UK, says Michael Taylor, UK Associate Account Manager of Efficient Frontier. But it should be, he argues, thanks to higher click-thru rates and lower cost-per clicks. However, there are some downsides, such as conversion rates that are weaker compared to regular search. But that’s probably due to the fact that when someone searches for, say, an iPhone via image search, the consumer is still in research-mode and not a likely candidate for a direct purchase. Still, as a branding vehicle, the promise appears pretty clear. Read more.
Another day, another social shopping site gets funded. This week, it’s ShopSocial has raised $1.2 million in financing, Techcrunch’s Robin Wauters reports. The site, not to be confused with ShopLocally – it, too, recently received funding – was founded by BuzzLogic co-founder Todd Parsons. Unlike a lot of these types of sites, ShopSocial has an interesting ad feature: users get deals on merchandise courtesy of the marketer if they hit a button within a display unit advertising the brand. Read more.
Some companies can turn anything into a direct response ad. Take Performable. In a blog post, Josh Porter, VP of Product & Community for the customer experience social media company, cites some advice from Zendesk’s Justin Flitter, who says that negative comments about a product or service represent an opportunity to change a mind. For one thing, you’ll likely head off more complaints if you take the time to reach out to try to address the problem. And at the very least, no one will complain that the brand is aloof or out-of-touch. Read more.