Sunday, November 4, 2007

Is Nuffnang only about money?

Is Nuffnang only about money?

By ED on Nov 4, 2007 in Advertising, Blogosphere, Public Relations, Reviews

After I have written my post entitled End of Nuffnang, I received quite a few comments and emails which led me to transfer this topic into The BizWalk as a case-study of sorts. With this in mind, a more corporate manner of viewing Nuffnang is only natural.

Many comments and feedbacks so far pointed to one thing, that Nuffnang is not meant for everyone. It is not meant for everyone not only for the reason of content relevance. It is also not meant for everyone, if your site’s traffic is not among the top ranges. However, having “high site traffic” is also very controversial after Faddy’s comment in the previous post.

Let’s take a look at several other factors surrounding Nuffnang.

Just a short while ago, Nuffnang silently implemented the $1 surcharge for all payments to bloggers, which caused a stir. Following that, Advertlets took advantage of the situation just like any other competitor would and announced their undertaking of the necessary costs involved. But Advertlets wasn’t Nuffnang’s biggest problem still. The biggest problem is - the bloggers!

As bloggers began writing with doubts on Nuffnang’s implementation, Nuffnang’s founder replied rather unprofessionally. It was unprofessional in the sense that, there was an expectation for the bloggers to understand Nuffnang’s plight when there was little to justify just a move. As some bloggers speculated, Nuffnang had no choice but to bow down to public resentment. The obvious lack of appropriate PR handling of this saga saw Nuffnang being ditched in a pathetic state. This was what I conversed to Jeremiah as “the first blood drawn” from Nuffnang.

Over this time, we have also noticed that bloggers are not only looking at the money but also the “customer experience”. While some may argue that bloggers ain’t exactly “customers”, we have to take note that without the bloggers advertising engines cannot survive. It is upon the blogosphere and social sites that these advertising engines strive best in. Therefore, bloggers are still very much both customers and publishers.

Talking about “customer experience” with Nuffnang, it is a very interesting one. By now, quite a handful of PR & marketing professionals have taken both Nuffnang and Advertlets on a test-drive. Nuffnang’s response time is utterly disappointing, for most. I know some would say the PR & marketing professionals are more critical about response time and efforts, that’s why it is important to note that even the average blogger shared the same sentiment.

On the other hand, Advertlet’s responses are faster, more active and transparent. Advertlets has been able to provide that “personal touch” which Nuffnang has failed miserably. No doubt Advertlets seemed to be capitalizing on every mistake Nuffnang makes, which competitor wouldn’t? The recent saga over Google pagerank has seen PayPerPost coming up with a ranking system of their own. This is an unusual case, for the fact that Google and PayPerPost are not directly in conflict of business interests in the first place. What can we expect from direct competitors then?

It didn’t stop at that. Issuing a cheque without a signature may seem trivial but these days in blogosphere, such a minor mistake can still hurt the business.

Does bloggers care only about the money? Obviously not. By now it is evident that bloggers are not only wanting to earn a side-income with their blogs, but they want good customer service and response too. This is one department that Nuffnang has failed, and has not make any significant changes too. In our real world business, lack of communication or any acceptable customer service is extremely fatal. Customers not only want a solution these days, but also place great importance on how these services are delivered. In Nuffnang’s case, it can be suicidal to assume that bloggers care nothing except for advertisement incomes. In my featured post this month, pitching to bloggers ain’t really as simple as it is in reality.

Last but not least, how can we not talk about Nuffnang’s transparency and truthful representation of their advertising solutions?

By now, a lot of bloggers would have already started questioning on why advertisements are not served after waiting for months. In my previous post, I raised the issue of the indication of 20 unique visitors in their signup page. The comments and feedbacks so far tell us that even if a blogger does not meet the 20 unique visitors, they will still be able to sign up. Why does Nuffnang allows that?

Now, this is the catch.

The many blogs that are displaying Nike advertisements are good evidences of content mis-match. Hence, we can reasonably rule out the possibility that Nuffnang’s advertisements were chosen based on contents. What does that leave us with? The site’s traffic of course. The problem is still not visible at this stage, when selecting blogs according to traffic is nothing wrong. Here comes the doubtful part.

If advertisement placement is dependent on site traffic, then it is also reasonable that Nuffnang (or according to Nuffnang; advertiser’s selections) will frequently be looking at high traffic sites. In this case, it is visible that there wasn’t any intention to serve blogs with traffic in the lower bands. This is further reinforced by the “good news” that Nuffnang will be opening up to cater to all bloggers, not limited by the site’s traffic. That was in July, and we have yet to see it materialize. Under this light, if the lower bands of bloggers are not the intended category of bloggers Nuffnang is looking to serve advertisements in, why “entice” this category of bloggers into signing up and displaying their default advertisement?

“Enticing” a certain category of bloggers with no clear intention of serving them right from the start, looks very misleading and dishonest to me from a business’s perspective. For the longest time, I often preached how businesses should always be transparent and honest in their dealings. When a business is unable to meet these requirements, the eventual reputation can hit them badly. In Nuffnang’s instance, lower bands of bloggers are only required for free publicity usage since they are never part of the community intended to be served.

With the inconsistencies we have seen for Nuffnang, it is only reasonable that the lower bands of bloggers are required to be drawn in for free publicity and not for advertising purposes. Afterall, it is the site’s traffic that matters more than the content. I could be wrong still, given Faddy’s comment that sites with traffic lower than his are running advertisements, whereas he’s not. That being said, is another affirmation that the inconsistencies are very much visible if one looks hard enough.

Swift did a comparison too, but one serious flaw in his comparison was such that it was concentrated solely on the possibility of income. As we can see from so many examples, bloggers are not only concerned about income but also that “customer experience”. In fact, none of the above are related to making money online but business ethics.

The blogosphere has evolved over time, and it has become such an effective tool (and also a powerful one) for any campaigns. However, lack of transparency and integrity in business dealings can be circulated quickly over the internet, once spotted. In a way, it also led me to wonder how differently should technology companies behave in comparison to the real world physical business? Does being a tech-company means one should neglect the core basic skills of PR, or even honesty towards bloggers?

We have since witness how WidgetBucks was slammed for hiding links behind their widgets. We have also seen how the blogsphere has slowly turned against PayPerPost, with doubts towards the integrity and truth behind paid posts that are made to appear as though they are genuine product reviews. Is Nuffnang going to be the next?

Just like what Matt Goddard wrote… “Social media isn’t for everyone. If you are the type of company with enthusiastic customers, it might just be the type of content that you need – not only for R&D, but also to earn trust. If you are committed to innovation and customer loyalty, consider adopting some of the tools that we have discussed here. If you are as honest with your customers as they are with you, your products and services will only get better. So, Jeremiah, we think the corporate Website is as relevant as ever.”

When I was conversing with Jeremiah Owyang via email earlier on, one of his statements was crisp clear… “always be transparent with clients, especially bloggers”.

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