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It’s been easy for some to dismiss the blogosphere as a fringe publishing phenomenon. Publishers, who have had a monopoly on mainstream publishing since the invention of the printing press, don’t react terribly well to competition – especially competition they can’t really get a handle on.
In the wood-panelled offices on the 78th floor, you can hear the gruff voice of the media baron:
Media baron: “Who is this blogosphere? Can we sue him?”
Jones: “Err, sir the blogosphere is not a person, but really a collection of millions of independent bloggers who run their own blogs on which they publish content.”
Media baron:“Well, then Jones – let’s buy this blogosphere!”
At this point Jones sighs. He knows that this growing and fragmented publishing movement is more than a fad. It represents very real competition to traditional media publishers — which also, by the way, includes online publishers.
Bloggers are not just competing for audience, but advertising revenue too. Google, which is now not only the mega of mega-search engines but also pretty much the world’s biggest advertising agency, probably has South Africa’s biggest market share in terms of online advertising.
Oh, and did I mention the search behemoth still doesn’t have a dedicated Google office or a dedicated head for this country? It’s been advertising these posts for more than a year now, and is evidently not in much of a hurry to fill them. In fact, Google does not have a single dedicated sales person or South African employee. Yet the company is altering the media landscape in this country as dramatically as anywhere else in the world.
So how does a company make so much out of so little? Google has created a superior contextual search advertising model, networked across millions of sites, big and small. This comes with a strong do-it-yourself ethos manifested in their dead-easy-to-use web-based administrative systems, which allow you to place Google ads easily without much guidance or intervention from the company.
But Google’s ad model has essentially allowed little guys – the micropublishers, the bloggers — to get in on the advertising game that was once dominated by traditional media. It means smaller advertisers who can’t afford to place with big media can place ads via Google on these sites. On the other side of the coin, smaller publishers can also carry online advertising and make revenue via their blogs and websites. Google pays them every time a person clicks on an ad they are carrying. For some bloggers this may be pocket money. For others it may be substantial revenue. But as a collective whole, this represents massive revenues that the blogosphere is raking in.
So, forget about the fact that bloggers are competing with traditional publishers for audience — they are also taking a share of the very competitive advertising pie.
And Jones needs to tell his boss that this is a wonderful thing. Traditional media companies can fight, they can run, they can hide or go into denial. My guess is that those traditional publishers who adapt, embrace and support citizen media will be the most successful.
This tallies up to what Rupert Murdoch had to say when talking about the rise of the internet. He said last year: “To find something comparable, you have to go back 500 years to the printing press, the birth of mass media – which, incidentally, is what really destroyed the old world of kings and aristocracies. Technology is shifting power away from the editors, the publishers, the establishment, the media elite. Now it’s the people who are taking control.”