Nieman Foundation at Harvard
HOME
          
LATEST STORY
The New York Times is trying to make VR films that aren’t one-offs, and that keep readers coming back
ABOUT                    SUBSCRIBE
May 27, 2009, 6 a.m.

Gawker VP says sponsored posts will bring in majority of revenue one day

Expect Gawker Media’s latest advertising innovation to draw criticism, if not blood, when it sees daylight today. The blogging empire is temporarily welcoming a new site into its fold that’s written and paid for by HBO to promote the network’s noir vampire drama, True Blood. And the word “advertisement” won’t appear anywhere in the project’s vicinity.

Entries from the blog, BloodCopy, will appear as cross-posts in the mix of Gawker Media’s eight verticals, which include Gizmodo, Kotaku, and the flagship. They’ll be set off by a border and labeled as BloodCopy posts but otherwise indistinguishable from editorial content — except that the blog is written by an undead, bloodsucking ghoul.

“With vampires, we thought we could be a little looser with the disclosure and create some disbelief,” Chris Batty, Gawker’s vice president of sales and marketing, told me yesterday, dismissing critics of the advertorial as “humorless.” He also made a bold prediction that surprised me so much I made sure to confirm I’d heard correctly: “If we’re around in three or four years,” Batty said, “the majority of our advertising revenue will be in sponsored posts like this.”

Now, I’ll let others hash out the very-legitimate ethical questions this all raises. Gawker managing editor Gabriel Snyder, echoing a 2007 incident, has already denounced the ad sale: “What’s advertising should be called advertising and what’s edit should be called edit. It hurts both to blur the distinction.” But that’s an easy angle compared to what’s also going on here, which is the fruition of a long-held belief that advertising should act more like content.

“We’d like people to look at what we’re doing with HBO and see that it’s possible for advertising to tell a story,” Batty said, telling me a story of sorts. “True Blood is a narrative, so its campaign should be a narrative, and blogs are the best forum for that, we think.” He also threw around terms like “in-narrative exercise” and “marketing paradigm,” but the upshot is that it makes much more sense for advertisers to deliver messages where readers expect to receive them — within a site’s stream of content — rather than shoved to the side in a display ad.

A good example is this Lifehacker post, written and paid for by paper-shredding purveyor Fellowes, which ran as part of a series in March. In that instance, as you can see below, the content was labeled both “advertisement” and “sponsored post.”

Batty compared the HBO campaign, which starts today at noon, to custom publishing in the magazine industry. “We’ve got rack space, basically, to sell across the Gawker titles,” he said. That was a familiar comparison: Gawker chief Nick Denton has often likened his company’s advertising to glossy spreads in high-end magazines. (Denton, incidentally, passed along my request for an interview to Batty.)

BloodCopy will live amid the Gawker Media family for three weeks, until the premiere of True Blood‘s second season. The campaign “costs a lot more” than Gawker’s already-expensive site takeovers, Batty said. We’ll see whether there’s also any cost to Gawker’s editorial integrity.

POSTED     May 27, 2009, 6 a.m.
SHARE THIS STORY
   
Show comments  
Show tags
 
Join the 15,000 who get the freshest future-of-journalism news in our daily email.
The New York Times is trying to make VR films that aren’t one-offs, and that keep readers coming back
With its new Pluto-focused project, upcoming episodic series, and experiments with “meditative VR,” The Times is experimenting with different applications for the new technology.
Newsonomics: Can a Bezos buddy act help fend off Gannett’s bid for Tribune?
Tribune Publishing’s Michael Ferro says he wants to bring The Washington Post’s Arc CMS to its newspapers. Is that a grasp at credibility or a model for other news companies to outsource their tech stacks?
Die Welt’s analytics system de-emphasizes clicks and demystifies what it considers a “quality” story
Every story’s performance reduced to a single score: a reductionist take on journalism or a way to make a news organization’s values concrete?
What to read next
0
tweets
From Nieman Reports: Why your news site should be more readable for the visually impaired
Over eight million Americans have trouble with their vision. Here’s how newsrooms can (and should) design with them in mind.
0A new podcast from Mic and The Economist aims for a global perspective on the 2016 election
“Part of the appeal here is that this an unexpected combination. But I think we’d argue that we’re not that different,” said Economist deputy editor Tom Standage.
0The New Yorker Today is the magazine’s new iPhone app for its online articles (plus cartoons)
The app will be free for a time while The New Yorker figures out how many articles readers can access before hitting the paywall.
These stories are our most popular on Twitter over the past 30 days.
See all our most recent pieces ➚
Encyclo is our encyclopedia of the future of news, chronicling the key players in journalism’s evolution.
Here are a few of the entries you’ll find in Encyclo.   Get the full Encyclo ➚
National Journal
San Francisco Chronicle
Drudge Report
The Dish
Google
CBS News
Hechinger Report
Wikipedia
Crosscut
Newsmax
American Public Media
Minneapolis Star Tribune