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Today’s viewing of MetaFilter is pay for by .......(more inside)
posted by RobertLoch to MetaFilter-Related at 12:07 PM (40 comments total)

First off I apologise if this suggestion has already been made.

The idea would be to have a line of text, perhaps just below the community blog graphic, that says:

‘Today’s viewing of MetaFilter is pay for by X company/website” with a link provided to that site.

Matt would work out how much it cost him to run MetaFilter on a daily basis, including server charges, associate therapy, even a wage for himself god forbid, and then companies would be given the opportunity to cover this cost on a daily or weekly basis.

Why I think that it would work is that first off it would be very unobtrusive, and secondly because any company that took up the offer would likely be looked on positively by the community and thus it would be good exposure for them. Also it could be very interesting for the community at large as it would give users a direct idea of exactly how much/often Matt subsidised us.

posted by RobertLoch at 12:08 PM on November 19, 2001


Why can't said corporation just buy a textad?
posted by bjennings at 12:10 PM on November 19, 2001


The idea is for this to be more exclusive and thus more expensive advertising.
posted by RobertLoch at 12:17 PM on November 19, 2001


is something like this even needed...?
posted by moz at 12:20 PM on November 19, 2001


what makes it more exclusive? it could be said that the text ad, being where it is, elicits just as much user interaction if not more than a sponsorship would. granted, the association with the metafilter (TM) brand is valuable, but traditionally speaking sponsorship of community products is not terribly valued.

also, does this thread parallel the growth of the web? are the suits taking over?!?!?


posted by elsar at 12:21 PM on November 19, 2001


I'd say that it was exclusive in the sense that each and every reader on a particular day would be exposed to it. This suggestion is slightly different from standard advertising or sponsorship in that a direct connection is being made with the specific cost of running the site. I think that companies that decide to foot the bill would be looked upon in a very positive light.


posted by RobertLoch at 12:32 PM on November 19, 2001


I talked to someone that worked at a major search engine, and they suggested this too, that I do big one-day-only ads that everyone would have to see (probably above the date, along the top of the front page). They said it was rather lucrative for the search engine when they did this. I have no idea what I'd charge though, probably in the $100-500 range.

The most obvious question is where is the demand to do this? I haven't gotten a single request from any real companies since I launched the TextAds, they've all been blog authors or band members or little one man shops.

The textads are small and unobtrusive. They respect the reader and allow the reader to ignore them easily. Something "bigger" and more prominent would obviously not be unobtrusive. Why would I do something annoying with the site? Just to make some more money?

If I announce I'll do this, do you think Apple, Macromedia, and Nokia will be banging down my door to give me cash? I don't think they will, hence, I doubt I ever launch something like this.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 12:34 PM on November 19, 2001


I think that companies that decide to foot the bill would be looked upon in a very positive light.

And the more advertising I add to MetaFilter, the less positive light the site is in, and is increasingly unappealing to advertisers. I think the textads are enough, I'm not going to "sellout" more of the site.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 12:37 PM on November 19, 2001


I wasn't talking about something 'Big' just a single line of text.

No I don't think that anyone will be banging down your door, however (and I don't know your website statistics or what demographic data you have) I would suggest contacting Ad agencies and/or individual companies directly. It is for you to show them why exposure on your site could be beneficial to them. Personally, and professionally, I can see why certain companies would benefit from being connected to your site. (again without data I can't be more specific, but it is my gut instinct that MetaFilter could be a very viable marketing medium)


posted by RobertLoch at 12:47 PM on November 19, 2001


I think that companies that decide to foot the bill would be looked upon in a very positive light.

Like, f'rinstance, dotcomscoop?

[Prior MeTa thread for reference. Please note that RobertLoch was never accused of any impropriety in that thread or elsewhere, as far as I know. Just adding some context.]
posted by gleuschk at 12:47 PM on November 19, 2001


And the more advertising I add to MetaFilter, the less positive light the site is in, and is increasingly unappealing to advertisers. I think the textads are enough, I'm not going to "sellout" more of the site.

Fair enough. It was just a suggestion.
posted by RobertLoch at 12:50 PM on November 19, 2001


I would suggest contacting Ad agencies and/or individual companies directly. It is for you to show them why exposure on your site could be beneficial to them.

That's not what I do, I have no experience in doing it, and I wouldn't ever want to spend my time selling anything. I doubt I would ever have any success in such a venture.

I appreciate the suggestion, but I'm not going to go out of my way to promote the site. The beautiful thing about the textads is that they almost run themselves.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 12:54 PM on November 19, 2001


I take your point. It is a shame that people who work in advertising agencies don't have more of an imagination. Say BMW offered you $30,000 to help you develop your site etc. it could get them a massive amount of publicity (net wise), put them in a good light within an affluenct community, and what would the downside be to them? That is not even the cost of 1 car.
posted by RobertLoch at 1:06 PM on November 19, 2001


put them in a good light within an affluenct community

How would an ad that everyone was required to look at put them in a good light? Personally, I'd totally avoid their product from then on.
posted by Big Fat Tycoon at 1:14 PM on November 19, 2001


MH: I think the poster has a good idea, albeit one before its time. I think Metafilter would be a superb PR tool to launch/get awareness for certain niche products and services. The poster's idea is analogous to a public radio program sponsorship. But to make it work (or to raise text ads attractiveness), you would have to be interested in having market research done on who reads Mefi. The whole proposition has commercial undertones, so you may be against it. Then again, I think Metafilter is your most significant creation, and, if you wanted, Mefi could provide your livelihood. Anyway...
posted by ParisParamus at 1:18 PM on November 19, 2001


Sorry BFT, In that example of was not talking about placing an Ad. Just BMW making a donation on a whim to help something that they thought was great survive more easily. The benefit would come from secondary publicity, such as Wired writing an article on it. That sort of crap.
posted by RobertLoch at 1:23 PM on November 19, 2001


Today’s viewing of MetaFilter is pay for by ...

All your viewing of MetaFilter are pay for by US!!!
posted by kindall at 4:27 PM on November 19, 2001


I think MeFi's demographics are what keeps it from being a money maker. Without doing research this site seems to be visited by:

(a) anti-big business liberals
(b) college students

Not exactly a marketers dream. People without money who hate ads. These are broad generalizations of course, but without numbers companies aren't going to dump money down.
posted by geoff. at 4:42 PM on November 19, 2001


It is a shame that people who work in advertising agencies don't have more of an imagination. Say BMW offered you $30,000 to help you develop your site etc. it could get them a massive amount of publicity (net wise), put them in a good light within an affluenct community, and what would the downside be to them? That is not even the cost of 1 car.

It's called a sponsorship, and it usually doesn't work. The reason it doesn't work is because both the sponsor and the sponsoree (almost always a non-commercial or non-profit entity) have to have strong brands; that is, the transfer of money in one direction has to equal the transfer of good will/loyalty/respectability the other way. But the reverse is also true: there has to be a strong brand on the sponsor end as well. Sponsors with money and a small brand tend to get no takers, because of the "not well known" nature of the source of funds, and even when they are better known, they are refused because of a bad fit in image. But sponsorees with such a strong presence on the web tend not to need the money nor want the risk of appearing to "sell out." So, the deal-breaker, in general, is almost always an imbalance in image (or brand) between the two parties.

Such sponsorships are nearly as old as the web; I have proposals on my computer from 1995 where I pitched the concept to a client.

I should add that it's an error to assume that people working in advertising haven't thought of a particular way to sell ads. They've thought of everything before you and probably drove it into the ground in client meetings, focus groups and niche media years before. I can't count the number of times that non-advertising people (and even some in the business) have seriously sworn me to secrecy about the new revolutionary advertising technique they've come up with, only for me to find it necessary to show them examples of where it's been done a long time ago. (The number of people who think they first thought of above-urinal ads alone is huge).
posted by Mo Nickels at 5:11 PM on November 19, 2001


1) I think it sucks that 'new media consultants' are out here trolling for more fodder for unimaginative articles. Find somewhere else to do your homework.

2) Then once you realize nobody wants brought to you by... ads, it changes to BMW making a donation on a whim to help something that they thought was great ?
How does BMW think the site is great? Why do they care unless there is something in it for them? Yeah you said they get publicity, but then it's not donating on a whim. It's them buying an ad.


posted by monkeyboy at 5:23 PM on November 19, 2001


I should add that it's an error to assume that people working in advertising haven't thought of a particular way to sell ads. They've thought of everything before you and probably drove it into the ground in client meetings, focus groups and niche media years before.

I agree entirely with what you've said. Don't get me wrong, I certainly don't think that anything I say is original, or that such suggestions are necessarily justifiable. In my experience I have found that because certain initiatives can't be directly quantified, clients aren't interested. My argument, if anything, is that marketers and clients should go with instinct more, and have a punt.

Monkey Boy, grow up. My comment on BMW was made more to demonstrate scale than anything else. The original idea that I posed may or may not have merit, but was made in good faith and with the intention of helping.
posted by RobertLoch at 5:37 PM on November 19, 2001


Do the research before you conclude Mefi's mostly read by the impoverished.
posted by ParisParamus at 6:48 PM on November 19, 2001


I personally am typing this comment from atop my gargantuan pile of currency from 22 of the world's countries, stashed deep in the bowels of a remote island location.

Not to mention my collection of erotically shaped tubers which is worth a cool sawbuck at least.
posted by Kafkaesque at 7:04 PM on November 19, 2001


"That's not what I do, I have no experience in doing it, and I wouldn't ever want to spend my time selling anything." -- mathowie

"I've thought about this quite a bit, sir, and I would have to say considering what's waiting out there for me, I don't want to sell anything, buy anything or process anything as a career. I don't want to sell anything bought or processed or buy anything sold or processed or repair anything sold, bought or processed as a career. I don't want to do that." -- Lloyd Dobler
posted by bradlands at 8:10 PM on November 19, 2001


Say BMW offered you $30,000 to help you develop your site etc. it could get them a massive amount of publicity (net wise)

Wrong. The target advertiser/sponsor for Mefi would be a niche product or service or event with little or no previous visibility/exposure. Also, the difference between Textads and what the poster proposes is a minor one.
posted by ParisParamus at 8:10 PM on November 19, 2001


Brad, you shoulda seen Matt outside my window with the boombox playing Peter Gabriel. I cried, we hugged. It almost made up for Matt taking my 212 number when he left.
posted by anildash at 8:29 PM on November 19, 2001


ParisParamus, disregard that comment on BMW I was just talking about a 1 off publicity stunt, and probably not a good one at that. I agree with your sentiment on who the target advertiser/sponsor should be, and also agree that my suggestion is nothing more than an extension to the original idea of Textads.

Matt, Textads are great, and it is cool that they run themselves. My advise on finding advertisers, for what it is worth, is to go to overture and see who is paying. With their paid for placement system, the site provides a wonderful index/overview of who is slashing out cash and for what. I know a lot of people that swear by this as a proven technique for finding new advertisers. And I'm talking about sites that get a lot less traffic that yours.
posted by RobertLoch at 9:09 PM on November 19, 2001


Textads are great, because they're cheap enough for people to buy one for their blogs or vanity sites (I did), so you get to self-link and see self-links without breaking any rules of etiquette. I know I've personally found a couple sites worth bookmarking from the textads. In that sense they fit into this site perfectly. However, big companies are never going to buy them, obviously, because they have no control over the way the ad looks, how zippy the colors are, or whether or not you get the opportunity to shock the monkey.

Of course, RovertLoch's suggestion probably wouldn't draw in the big bucks for exactly the same reason listed above. However, it would be a step up from the textads, because you get to scale up the advertising cost due to the exclusivity. This would maybe draw in the small-to-medium companies looking to court the niche market, just like ParisParamus was saying.

So, I guess my point, which comes 10 lines too late, is that if Matt can pay the bills and maintain equipment and whatever else he might want to do with the money the textads are making, then the header ads are a bad idea. But I for one wouldn't take it personally if they started showing up. I would even click through just to spread the love around!
posted by Hildago at 10:19 PM on November 19, 2001


"I haven't gotten a single request from any real companies since I launched the TextAds"

I could swear I saw a Cold Fusion ad at some point, Matt, but I guess not...it's possible I just dreamed it, though (don't ask).

You'd think MeFi would be a Cold Fusion posterchild and they, if anybody corporate, would be throwing the bux0rs your way....
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 2:05 AM on November 20, 2001


RobertLoch: why don't you go round up some MeFi text advertisers?
posted by Carol Anne at 4:38 AM on November 20, 2001


Why are we dogpiling RobertLoch for making a suggestion?
posted by rcade at 5:44 AM on November 20, 2001


Why are we dogpiling RobertLoch for making a suggestion?

Cheers rcade, I was somewhat wondering that myself. I was actually fearful of posting, not because I thought that the idea was overly stupid, but in case it had already been suggested before. I had a reasonable look at the archives and did not find anything along the exact same lines.

One thing that I would say from reading a number of threads in this section, is that there is a hell of a lot of really good ideas. Matt's openness in combination with the good intentions of an obviously caring community makes for fascinating reading.
posted by RobertLoch at 9:55 AM on November 20, 2001


Why are we dogpiling RobertLoch for making a suggestion?

I think some previous history may have something to do with it, and the fact it's a touchy subject with most everyone here, the hows and whys of getting big advertisers to pay for stuff.

Everyone here is used to being bombarded with advertising 24/7 in the US, so when someone suggests adding more of it to this site, I think people tend to get upset easily. Robert sort of kept suggesting it was possible, when people were saying it wouldn't work, so that probably encouraged a dogpile.

Robert, you mention "overture" above, but I don't have the faintest clue what the heck that is. Like I said before, selling advertising isn't what I do, so I'm not familiar with anything "in the business."

You'd think MeFi would be a Cold Fusion posterchild and they, if anybody corporate, would be throwing the bux0rs your way....

I had asked a few people at Macromedia if they wanted a "sponsored by" button and a case study writeup for their site in exchange for free product. I got all the way to getting Jeremy Allaire's email, but chickened out of asking. I should pursue that again.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 10:15 AM on November 20, 2001


Overture is Goto under its new name. What they have done is allowed companies to buy top search engine placements. The value of this to a publisher is that it allows you to see who is presently advertising in a particular category.

For instance, and this may or may not be relevant to this community, you could have a look at who was advertising selling computer games and then make them aware of the advertising opportunities available on this site.

Obviously there are endless categories, the trick is working out which ones best suit your audience. I'm not certain which ones that would be, others here might have a better idea.
posted by RobertLoch at 10:36 AM on November 20, 2001


What they have done is allowed companies to buy top search engine placements. The value of this to a publisher is that it allows you to see who is presently advertising in a particular category.

Oh, ick. I'm not a fan of that approach at all. I thought you were talking about something revolutionary but Goto is a giant sham (how long has goto.com been losing money? why are they still in business?).

When a user goes to a search engine, they are there to find information. If the results are skewed to people paying for results, the information is tainted. The person paying the most for a result gets their information out ahead of anything truly helpful to the user. I wonder how companies come up with approaches like this. Do they think people are cattle incapable of critical thinking skills? Why would someone use a search engine with results that are basically nothing but advertising? Could you imagine going to your local library, asking where books about auto mechanics are located, and being pitched on the incredible new TimeLife series Do It Yourself Car Maintenance instead of getting the appropriate information?

In all these "get big advertiser" scenarios, the user experience is sacrificed in order to make a little cash. I don't know if you noticed Robert, but TextAds are easy to ignore, and non-invasive for a reason. It's the only advertising I could stomach.

Another key point is I'm not planning on ever doing any demographics on the userbase here, so I doubt any sizable advertiser will ever be interested or lured here. I'm not going to go after any of them, so again, I doubt anyone ever thinks of advertising here beyond the textads. I'm not going to start doing things I don't want to do, like mining user data, courting advertisers, and destroying the user experience here just to make a few bucks.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 10:53 AM on November 20, 2001


how long has goto.com been losing money? why are they still in business?

"At the end of June 2001, Overture had more than 45,000 active, paying advertisers, up from approximately 42,000 advertisers at the end of March 2001, and up from 37,000 at the end of December 2000. During the second quarter of 2001, each advertiser spent an average of $1,405 with Overture, up from an average of $1,277 per advertiser in the first quarter of 2001."

Maybe that's why.
posted by kindall at 11:03 AM on November 20, 2001


I agree that is somewhat compromises search engines. Everyone is at it though. The Overture network itself includes America Online, Terra Lycos and AltaVista to name a few. Yahoo also just formed a partnership with them and now 'will include Overture's paid advertisers in its search results.'

Overture made a profit last quarter and are in a comparatively good state. I would prefer to be them that Altavista, for instance.

No, I wasn't talking about anything revolutionary. Basic stuff that works.

Matt, I obviously misconstrued your situation, I thought that you were actively looking to raise more revenue. I appreciate that you do not want to compromise this site, and agree that if whilst attempting to keep afloat you ruin it, then it might as well be dead anyway. That said my suggestion was for something relatively non-invasive.

In respect to data mining I admire your sentiment. That said, personally if you ever did choose to do a little audience research and asked for volunteers (you would probably only need a couple of hundred to make it worthwhile) I for one would certainly give 15 minutes of my life to help out. I would imagine that many others may feel the same, maybe not, I don't know.
posted by RobertLoch at 11:41 AM on November 20, 2001


I had an idea for fixing the no-new-users problem: sponsored membership. You'd pay a small fee ($2, $5) to sponsor a friend to join MeFi, and if a bunch of us all got a friend on here and shelled out for it, we'd buy Matt a new motherboard. This might also be an interesting way to integrate the MeFi community with your other groups as well. You could also bop your friends on the head and say "Hey, I didn't spend $2 for you to troll, dork!"

MIT's new open source free market research tool, if anyone is interested. I don't know details but it might be useful/hackable.
posted by phoenix enflamed at 12:34 PM on November 20, 2001


If I announce I'll do this, do you think Apple, Macromedia, and Nokia will be banging down my door to give me cash?

It wouldn't happen. I can picture the Sponsered by Adobe line or icon on a day when we all blast them for their Dmitry scandal and someone takes a nice screenshot of the ad together with a scathing post and it makes the rounds as ironic photo of the day.

The great part about commercial websites and magazines is that you can control content thus creating a safe harbor for companies in need of good ass-kicking. This is open discussion and its not surprising that only ads from members to members work best.
posted by skallas at 8:03 PM on November 20, 2001


I like TextAds because it's a way for the community to support the community. A "sponsored by company X" could make MetaFilter dependent on a company.
posted by gleemax at 11:52 PM on November 20, 2001


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