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BLOGGING  December 2004

BLOGGING December 2004

Subject:

Blogging for Bucks : The Marqui Affair

From:

Steve Cavrak <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

UVM Blogging <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Mon, 13 Dec 2004 09:52:07 -0500

Content-Type:

multipart/alternative

Parts/Attachments:

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text/plain (125 lines) , text/enriched (167 lines)

        Date:   December 10, 2004 8:15:07 PM EST
        From:     [log in to unmask]
        Subject:        Blogging for Bucks : The Marqui Affair
        To:       [log in to unmask], [log in to unmask]

Flog on a blog: The next ad frontier
Weblogs a new way to reach consumers

By KEITH McARTHUR
MARKETING REPORTER
Globeandmail.com

UPDATED AT 8:11 PM EST  Tuesday, Dec 7, 2004
http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/ArticleNews/TPStory/LAC/ 
20041207/RBLOG07/TPBusiness/TopStories

On her personal blog -- "The Life & Times of Sooz" -- Susan Kaup writes  
regularly about her friends, her Internet radio station and Boston's  
indie rock scene.

She also writes about Marqui Inc., a small Vancouver content management  
company that is paying a select group of 17 bloggers $800 (U.S.) a  
month to write about the company on their weblogs.

"It became clear to us that as a small company, we had to find new,  
creative ways to get to market," says Stephen King, Marqui's chief  
executive officer.

Marqui produces Web-based text editing software for clients including  
the BC Ferry Authority and the David Suzuki Foundation. As the company  
expands into the United States, it hopes to win new business by  
expanding its on-line presence -- especially through blogs.

Marqui's efforts have spurred a vigorous debate about ethics in the  
rapidly accelerating corner of the Internet known as the "blogosphere."  
Web purists say the blogosphere is one of the last spaces on the  
Internet that's still largely free from corporate influence -- but not  
for long.

"My guess is that a lot of brands will trip all over themselves as they  
learn about blogs," says Pete Blackshaw, chief marketing officer for  
Cincinnati-based Intelliseek Inc., which tracks companies' Internet  
exposure.

"You've got a lot of senior managers that will say 'let's go influence  
the bloggers' without really knowing the consequences of this very,  
very opinionated group."

Mr. Blackshaw says he doesn't recommend paying people to blog, because  
consumers will see through the effort.

Mr. King says Marqui knows it has to be fully transparent to be taken  
seriously. The company has published the terms of its contract with  
bloggers on its website. Marqui promises to pay even if bloggers say  
bad things about the company and its services.

"I think this is extremely risky," Mr. King says. "In a traditional  
marketing sense, what you try to do is control your message. And what  
we're saying is that the world's changed and a company with integrity  
has to go out there and let the world discuss its products."

Bloggers can earn an extra $200 a month if they generate business leads  
for Marqui. The firm plans to pay out as much as $180,000 a year to its  
roster of bloggers, which will roll over every three months.

The company, formerly Maestro CMS, might not be able to control what  
its bloggers say, but efforts to boost its presence in the blogosphere  
are working. According to Intelliseek's blogpulse.com, references to  
Marqui on blogs have increased tenfold over the past month -- partly  
because of the ethical debate over blogging for pay.

So far, the most common method of establishing a corporate profile in  
the blogosphere is to get employees to write about their company, or  
for a CEO to blog. Big-name corporate bloggers include Sun Microsystems  
CEO Jonathan Schwartz and Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks.

Craig Flannagan, marketing manager in Canada for the Microsoft  
Developer Network, says he uses his blog, which is hosted on a  
Microsoft site, as a marketing tool to keep in touch with customers.  
Blogs are a great communications tool because they're raw and  
unfiltered, he says, without intervention from copywriters or lawyers.  
But those same attributes mean that bloggers have to be careful not to  
post anything that would hurt the employer, Mr. Flannagan says.

Many of Marqui's bloggers say they're participating in what appears to  
be a new and exciting experiment. As Ms. Kaup jokes on her blog: "Stay  
tuned to see if I turn into a brainwashed Marqui monkey!"

Jason Calacanis, co-founder of New York-based Weblogs Inc., is among  
those most concerned about the pay-to-blog model. He says the  
separation of advertising and content works well in traditional media  
and should be maintained on blogs. He says that although many of  
Marqui's bloggers are going out of their way to distinguish the  
sponsored section from the rest of their blogs, it leaves readers  
skeptical.

"Every time they write anything remotely related to that category of  
software, a certain percentage of people are going to remember that  
they were on the payroll of that other software company. And it's going  
to taint everything they do," says Mr. Calacanis, whose company  
publishes several commercial blogs, which are supported through  
traditional advertising.

A group of former McGill University students have started another  
company to match bloggers with potential advertisers.

Umair Haque, co-founder of London-based Blogversations, says thousands  
of people have signed up for its service, with slightly more  
advertisers than bloggers. Sponsored discussions are scheduled to begin  
in mid-December.

Mr. Haque says his bloggers will be paid to write about topics  
recommended by sponsors, but won't have to toe the company line. He  
says he's aiming to help marketers cut through the clutter of  
traditional advertising.

"We think it's more interesting for people to read what bloggers have  
to say about a given discussion topic, without any of the restrictions  
of traditional advertising media."

  Bell Globemedia
   2004 Bell Globemedia Publishing Inc. All Rights Reserved.


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