Thursday, May 17, 2007

Scoble on Feeds: Does Feed-Reading Behavior Point to Adrolls?

Tim Ferriss highlights an over-the-shoulder video (embedded below also) he shot of leading weblogger Robert Scoble discussing and demonstrating how he absorbs content from over 600 feeds from weblogs and other sources. The short answer: pretty much the same way that anyone else does from a technology standpoint. Robert's equipped with Google Reader, with which he scans headlines - including content more personal than professional - checks out the authors that he cares about most and leaves the rest for another day. Probably the key insight that Robert tends to focus on bloggers who he knows or may meet personally moreso than the big-name sources who play to the masses. But in the process of creating his own weblog that's fed from this culling process he's creating both an intimate fabric of insights that amplify the value of a small and very personal community which in turn get amplified by the general media's attention to Scoble.

This points to a couple of key points. First, the technology used to look at weblog feeds today is about where news feed readers were about twenty years ago in Wall Street's minicomputer-fed desktop displays - perhaps not even that, as they don't even have very sophisticated alerting features for the most part. So much for "cutting edge" technologists. This points to tremendous upside for using feeds to develop more mature content products. The second point is that most advertising in weblogs is utterly wasted - everyone's trying to go for huge audiences to build up substantial ad revenues through mass programs such as AdSense or semi-tailored programs such as FM Publishing when in fact the people who you really want to influence constitute very tiny audiences who should command far greater rates. Ads in a person-to-person publishing environment should be far more equivalent to stock traders seeking trading partners in a relatively small community of professionals.

Where I think that this goes is that just as today we have blogrolls to provide endorsements of others' weblogs we will see some time in the not so distant future "adrolls" - small and not-so-small networks of like-minded people who are willing to accept ads in content that they receive along with trusted peers. Adrolls would be opt-in networks in which people would specify specific types of ads or other sponsored content that they like to see and/or to specify the types of companies or partners from whom they would like to see them. Members within an adroll network could share their taste in ads with other adroll members and/or keep some tastes private based on filtering criteria - or perhaps triggered by other content filtering mechanisms. Why bother spending on ads on thousands of web sites and search engines to reach a few hundred key decision-makers when you can tap into the handful of sites that they really care about on an opt-in basis with the ads that they're most interested in? The messaging that one may get through an adroll may be significantly different from today's Web ads - more equivalent to direct response marketing than mass advertising - but in the end far more cost-effective.

Early thoughts, but bear this theme in mind, I think that it's what we need to look at to take full advantage of the power of social media as an advertising medium. Original video:


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