Silicon Valley Watcher - Former FT journalist Tom Foremski reporting from the intersection of technology and media

MediaWatch: Nick Denton - The Micropublishing Dream Is Dead

Posted by Tom Foremski - May 20, 2009

Advertising Age has an interesting interview with Nick Denton, a former Financial Times journalist and head of Gawker Media, which publishes several high traffic web sites such as Gizmodo.

This extract was striking:

Ad Age: One cherished notion of downturns is that it's the best time to launch a media property. Any plans along those lines?
Mr. Denton: I have one scheme in mind -- but I'm ever conscious of the need for scale. Remember the dream of micropublishing? A few years ago, we still believed that costs were so low and online advertising so magical that the most arcane of subject matters could attract a viable audience. That dream is dead. We'll spend our time and money on sites such as Gizmodo, Kotaku and Gawker -- where we already have the scale or soon will.

This is interesting because Mr Denton is a poster child entrepreneur for "blogger" new media. Gawker was born from that early promise of micropublishing yet Mr Denton now has to hoe the old media line: provide large numbers, hopefully to reach a scale that reminds the advertising agencies of the old media -- as if nothing had changed in their world.

Since the mid-1990s we've been talking about how the Internet would allow hyper-targeting of audiences with content and with marketing messages. Why buy a scatter-shot advertising campaign with a potential reach of 20 million people when you can target just the 10,000 people you really want?

Advertising agencies still want to just buy "numbers" rather than the right numbers. They would still rather buy a "Super Bowl" type ad than than try to drill down to reach the right people.

When I met with Russ Fradin from Adify, the Cox-owned advertising network, last year, he said it was because advertising agencies don't want to deal with hundreds of separate invoices for placing targeted ads on sites.

So, is the micropublishing dream dead? Or has it not yet arrived? That's my view. The micropublishing opportunities are still ahead of us because the ad agencies haven't shifted from their old ways of doing business. But we know they will shift.

They will shift because there are excellent arbitrage opportunities. The ad agencies that can manage the complexities of targeted online media buys will do much better than the good old boys.

There are lucrative business opportunities for those ad agencies that can do this well -- especially within a performance based model such as in affiliate marketing.

When that happens, micropublishing will flourish because it will have the support of targeted marketing dollars. This will enable publishers of micro-sites to continue to produce top-notch content that attracts a specific audience. It might even restore that virtuous interaction between content and advertising -- a familiar media business model.

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Please see:

The Fallacy of Internet Ad Personlization...and the Bleak Future for Social Network Ads

Gawker's Nick Denton: 'Original Reporting Will Be Rewarded' - Advertising Age - Digital

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