Advertisers Don't Trust Or Value Completely Open Systems

Henry Copeland of BlogAds points out the great paradox of blog monetization — advertisers have embraced unedited bloggers as trusted media brands, but they still don’t trust the people who comment on those blogs (via paidContent):

The appeal of blogs to marketers is their singular brand identity, making it possible to accurately target their ads. Copeland: “Advertisers say, ‘I know I can trust Blog X, but I also know that Blog X has 100,000 readers – and God knows what those
100,000 readers are going to say.’

This is why completely open systems of “user-generated content,” e.g. social networks like MySpace and Facebook, and social news sites like Digg, still have so little commercial value relative to their scale. It’s not that advertisers don’t value how the web has opened the door to new voices or enabled new, dynamic, networked media models — it’s that they still need a reason to trust these new voices and to trust how these dynamic media operate.

The big problem with open systems is anonymity — when you don’t know who the users are, as in blog comments or on Digg, you can’t really trust or predict in any meaningful way what they might do.

That’s why Copeland praises Gawker Media’s invite-only comment system, where anyone can comment…but only if they EARN the privilege by applying to be a commenter:

He praised Gawker publisher Nick Denton for maintaining a controlled environment around its sites’ various comment pages. For one thing, Gawker Media requires commenters to formally apply and those that break the rules can have their commenting privileges immediately revoked.

As competition intensifies for a share of the online advertising pie — especially for a share of big brand advertising dollars, which are still mostly spent on trusted offline media — online media companies will need to provide highly trusted environments that brands will feel comfortable with, even in the context of new media models.

Sites built on open systems, which turn content creation and publishing into a free for all, will find it increasingly difficult to get their share of brand advertising dollars. Sites that that can harness the dynamism of the web, and can do so in a defined context that provides advertisers with the right degree of predictability and comfort (think Google search results), will likely be the big winners.