While many publishers devote a space on their Web site to highlighting content from the more prominent blogs in their space, IDG’s Computerworld has launched a new product called Tech Dispenser (www.techdispenser.com) that assembles a network of bloggers who share not only editorial content but also advertising revenue with Computerworld. "It’s not a terribly unique idea, it’s more of a combination of a bunch of trends going on in the market," says Tom Pimental, director of online analysis and audience development. "There is a lot of algorithmic aggregation going on and a lot of different advertising networks. This combines them into one."
Computerworld editors vet the blog content, a process that requires them to work with Computerworld’s proprietary filter tool six to eight times per day. Blogs are assessed not just for quality but also potential copyright infringements. Tech Dispenser launched in May, with 50 participating blogs, and currently offers more than 60. By the end of the fiscal year, the site is aiming for 200-300 participating blogs.
Processing that much content required Computerworld to develop a sleek filtering tool to help editors. "There’s a reason why robots handle aggregation;because there’s so much of it," says Pimental. "But robots can’t judge quality. That’s where the Computerworld editors come into play. In May, we published over 1,000 pieces of content through Tech Dispenser and I can’t imagine that’s even a third of the content the editors went through."
The other back-end priority was devising a way to let bloggers sign up and get paid. "We have to make it easy for them, it’s not like they’ve got a team of developers themselves," says Computerworld vice president and general manager Martha Connors. "If you don’t make it easy, they’re just not going to participate. We’re getting readers because it’s content picked by editors who know what hot stories are. The second thing we offer is a share of the advertising revenue to bloggers."
Chicken or the Egg?
Advertising sponsorships range from simple text ads to skyscrapers (at a $40 CPM) to sponsorships with minimum performance guarantees. But as Computerworld begins selling against Tech Dispenser, it faces a chicken-or-the-egg dilemma: To draw advertisers, it needs to build traffic. But to entice bloggers who can help build that traffic, Tech Dispenser needs advertising revenue that can be shared.
Although currently Tech Dispenser can only track about 18 of the participating blogs, Connors says they’ve generated 1.5 million page views for the first month. "There’s a real size to this," she adds. "It’s very different from our traditional online publishing model. A page view on Computerworld.com is worth $200 per thousand, because we put up display advertising, we promote lead generation. It’s our own page with our own media. With the blog network, we have to get them to do it. They’re not going to put anything on there unless the revenue share gets good enough, in which case they’ll be motivated to do more."
With Tech Dispenser, Computerworld.com isn’t looking to take on just other tech publishers, but also Google. "In theory, we’re competing with Google when it comes to blogger revenue," says Pimental.