Pay me to blog

Tech blogger Jeremy Wright posted this, plus his blogging services on eBay last November. Seven days, 39 bids, and a final selling price of US$3,350 later, Wright says the message was clear: 'The business world wants weblogs - and they want them now.'

Tech blogger Jeremy Wright posted this, plus his blogging services on eBay last November. Seven days, 39 bids, and a final selling price of US$3,350 later, Wright says the message was clear: ‘The business world wants weblogs – and they want them now.’

In fact, the experience gave Wright and fellow weblogger Darren Barefoot the confidence to launch InsideBlogging.com, a consultancy based out of Vancouver and Winnipeg that helps companies blog.

‘[Marketers] are beginning to recognize that without a blog they’re missing out on an effective way to communicate directly with their customers, establish themselves as an authority in their industries and dramatically improve search engine results,’ says Wright.

Indeed. Once a form of communication among niche audiences and only the most technologically savvy brands, blogging has now hit the mainstream. Consider that big-name brands such as Nike (Art of Speed), Microsoft Canada (thespoke.net) and Audi of America – through the exclusive sponsorship of car enthusiast blog Jalopnik.com – are trying to reach out and be heard via this new medium.

Search engine companies certainly believe. Microsoft’s latest entry in weblogging is the recently launched MSN Spaces, which will compete with AOL’s Journals and Google’s Blogger. It was built with space for four banner ads and Microsoft is reportedly examining advertising as a way to support the service. In fact, there has been so much focus on blogging in the last year, that U.S. media research firm Bacon’s Information recently decided to track 250 top blogs to provide clients with content information.

Although still only a month old, InsideBlogging.com‘s clients include Toronto-based interactive headhunting firm recruiting.com, Inkspress, a Wichita, Kan.-based promotional products developer, and Vancouver’s eBusiness Connection, an online resource centre for small businesses.

Wright and Barefoot tell companies how to work blogging into their business models and assist in implementation. ‘I would say most tech-based, service-based, consumer goods, consulting and knowledge companies would benefit from a blog,’ says Wright.

Marqui, a Vancouver-based communication management systems firm, sure thinks so. It hired a team of heavily read tech bloggers last month to promote its Web-based text-editing software service on their own personal blogs.

The brainchild of Marqui CEO Stephen King and Macromedia co-founder Marc Canter, the Blogosphere Program pays bloggers to write about the company, at least once a week, and display the company logo. Bloggers receive US$800 per month for three months, and an additional $50 per qualified sales lead.

But the company did initially get resistance. Before launch, Marqui took its idea to webloggers and found many were not happy about the corporate intrusion. Most felt that if done openly they would be less anxious about it, something that both Canter and King agree was crucial to the program’s success. Thus, Marqui posts the contract on its Web site and webloggers are encouraged to divulge the extent of their relationship with the company.

Furthermore, Marqui guarantees that as long as webloggers abide by the annual contract, they will receive their fee regardless of what they write about Marqui’s service.

While it’s too early to tell how well it’s working, more than 244,000 people have Googled the company’s name since Marqui made the announcement and, at the very least, the Blogosphere Program acts as a focus group.

And that’s a key value of the medium, says Wright who notes it’s a critical error to look at blogging as just another way to advertise.

‘A chunk of it needs to be valuable to the reader – more so than to the company.

This will take guts, wisdom and experience in the medium.’