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A conversation with David Rose, little magazine veteran and publisher of Lapham’s Quarterly
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Dec. 12, 2011, 2:30 p.m.

The Guardian’s n0tice platform adds ads and revenue sharing

The community message service tries to reinvent the Yellow Pages for the digital space.

Earlier this fall, we wrote about an intriguing new initiative at The Guardian: n0tice, an open platform for community messaging. (Think Craigslist, as run by a global news organization.)

One of the most interesting aspects of n0tice as it rolls out to users has been the business model it’s been developing in the process. The platform would be ad-supported, the plan went, but through a system that fits in well with The Guardian’s notion of “mutualization” — one that would allow noticeboard owners to offer up their message boards to advertisers. The idea was to rethink what classifieds might look like when they’re done collaboratively.

Today, that collaboration is no longer just a nice idea. n0tice has launched ads on its community sites, allowing noticeboard owners to profit from the social spaces they’re creating online. Those owners — who can create custom message boards for free (or for “nothing, zero, zilch,” as the site’s FAQs make clear) — can offer their customized noticeboards to advertisers both paying and non-, creating a space for other community members to publicize products and events, and otherwise publish classified ad listings (“offers,” in the n0tice terminology). The ads live on noticeboards’ sidebars, and owners can sell featured positions — which includes visual enhancements as well as priority rankings on the page — for £1/day or the equivalent base-level regional currency. (Payment takes place through PayPal and its 25 currencies, allowing n0tice — though it’s run in the U.K. — an international scope.)

So n0tice is taking the Craigslist approach to ad sales — Mostly Free, with A Few Key Exceptions — except that advertisers pay based on ads’ appearance rather than on their content.

The idea is to bring the age-old logic of advertising — joining messages with the people who might want to see those messages — to community space, and via digital tools. Those who have commercial or classified messages to share with a particular community can reach that community in a highly targeted way. And, given n0tice’s local focus, a geographically targeted one, at that. Think of it, suggests Matt McAlister, The Guardian’s director of digital strategy, as a kind of Yellow Pages for the digital space.

n0tice is also announcing — collaboration again! — a revenue-share arrangement to accompany today’s ad rollout. Noticeboard owners will keep 85 percent of the revenue generated on their noticeboards; n0tice will take the remaining 15 percent. (Noticeboard owners also have the option of donating their earnings to charities.) And the owners, in keeping with the platform’s focus on social analytics tools, will be able track their revenue over time.

While the n0tice team, McAlister told me, is still working on one of the most intriguing aspects of n0tice’s revenue plan — a “space and time”-oriented ad model that makes the price of an ad contingent on both its geographical reach and its length of appearance — today’s launch hints at the potential for advertising done in collaboration with a community, and on a hyperlocal scale. And it suggests that innovation in that space may well have a back-to-the-future orientation. Now that the ads have rolled out, n0tice has also created a mechanism — based on QR codes — that gives users an easy way to print offer pages. The logic? To allow people to take online ads and post them “on real world noticeboards.”

POSTED     Dec. 12, 2011, 2:30 p.m.
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