Word of Blog - what is it and where is it? [the word 'blog' kind of gives it away, doesn't it?]
It's a new tool for bloggers. Developed by innovative thinking, ala my Smart Man Online interview today. Matt Turck is here to tell us all about this great way to connect with charities, and other bloggers. Personally, I think connecting with a favorite charity is a huge benefit of blogging. The ability to help a non-profit of your choice. Being able to raise money for a worthy cause, such as World Water Day, or the Grameen Foundation or The Hunger Project. Matt gets it - and he's here to share his insight with us. I hope you'll visit Word of Blog - and let me know your thoughts.
I care, and I know you do, too!
Yvonne: Before we get into the nitty-gritty of Word of Blog, let's get cozy. Tell me how you came to be involved in blogging, and don't forget to mention why you blog.
Matt: Like many others, I’ve been reading stuff online for 10 years now, and I guess I was reading blogs before even realizing they were called blogs… So the idea of being involved in the blog world was a very natural and logical progression. My angle however, has been more to provide a service to bloggers than actively blogging myself – I leave that to people who are far more talented than me. The concept of Word of Blog really came from a realization that blogs are all about influence and offer amazing capabilities to spread ideas through word of mouth (or blog, as it were).
Yvonne: Describe Word of Blog to me in three easy sentences, as if you were reciting an elevator speech.
Matt: Word of Blog is, in many ways, an ad network, although of a different kind. What makes it completely unique is that (i) it is primarily (but not exclusively) focused on non-commercial ads (for example, charity, artists, etc.) and (ii) it enables the blogger or webmaster to choose which ad (or "badge" as we call them) appears on the site (while in other systems it is the advertiser who chooses the blog or website on which the ad will appear) – Fred Wilson and others call that "sell-side advertising."
Yvonne: What's the overall goal of Word of Blog?
Matt: Word of Blog is a great vehicle to spread the word about worthy causes, products and services throughout the blogosphere.
It’s really a simple concept. At its core, the site is a central repository where people can upload and pick up badges (ads). Let’s say, for example, that you are Habitat for Humanity, and that you want to promote your car donation campaign. You go to www.wordofblog.net and upload your logo for that campaign, or any small image you want (you just need to go to the "Submit Badge" section and fill in a form, it really takes a couple of minutes). The site automatically creates a clickable badge (linking to the organization’s website) and puts it on a dedicated page on Word of Blog that includes an HTML snippet. [registration to Word of Blog is required to submit a badge.]
Then any blogger or webmaster who wants to support your organization can pick up your badge very easily and put it on their blog or website simply by copying and pasting that HTML snippet. Word of Blog tracks all clicks, so everyone can see who posted the Habitat for Humanity logo, and how many click throughs to the Habitat for Humanity website they generated. That also enables the organization to yank out their badge from any blog or website they deem undesirable (this can be done because all badges are served by Word of Blog).
From the blogger’s perspective, Word of Blog offers a wealth of worthy causes and organizations to promote. Blogging attracts passionate people, and most bloggers like nothing more than being vocal advocates of things they believe in – being influential and making yourself heard is one of the key reasons why people blog. Prominently displaying a WoB badge in your blog’s sidebar is a great way of showing support for causes and organization that are close to your heart. Many bloggers who have picked up WoB badges created a special section for them in their blog’s sidebar, that they’ve called "Promoting Now," "I promote," "I support," or "House Ads," (we offer a badge rotation feature, so you can display a different badge each time the page is refreshed, so bloggers often have several badges for causes they want to support in that section).
Those badges are perfectly compatible with commercial ads such as Google AdSense, by the way. It’s just a different logic – the Google ads are automatically generated by an algorithm; the WoB badges are handpicked by the blogger or webmaster and correspond to things that they passionately believe in and want to support. Interestingly, several bloggers that have both Google AdSense ads and WoB badges on their blogs have reported that the WoB badges get significantly higher click-through rates that the Google ads. This is not entirely surprising: blogs are a very personal medium, so when the blogger chooses an ad, it comes across as a recommendation to the readers and naturally carries more weight than an ad generated by a bot, contextually relevant thought it might be. [WOW! Great explanation.]
Yvonne: Do you have requirements that companies or organizations have to abide by, before you'll add a badge for them?
Matt: No, no specific requirements, the service is open to everyone. Any organization may post a badge on the site (with the obvious exceptions: no porn, no racism, etc.). Anyone with a blog, a website or an online profile (MySpace, Xanga, etc.) can pick up any badge and post it on their page if they want to support a specific cause or organization – by the way, while the service is called "Word of Blog," it’s important to note that WoB badges have been placed on all sorts of online pages and sites, not just blogs.
There is currently no commerce mechanism in place, however, so the vast majority of badges on the site are for nonprofits, worthy causes, public interest, political issues, up and coming artists, hot trends, new blogs and podcasts, etc. But we also have a few commercial badges, which some bloggers have picked up as well. We basically want to give maximum liberty to users to use the site in any way they want, so we’re not excluding any organization of any type… and while liberal bloggers and organizations have been among the most active users of the site, we’re not affiliated with any political organization - we’re completely non-partisan, so anyone should feel free to post or pick up WoB badges.
Yvonne: Right now Word of Blog is in Alpha mode...when will you break out of Alpha and go live?
Matt: The service is fully live and functional. We’ve had the site in Alpha for a while because, in true Web 2.0 fashion, we launched it very quickly after we decided to try out the concept, and we were basically testing the core functionalities.
However, we now have quite a bit of usage (almost 120 pages of badges, with more coming every day, and thousands of blogs who have posted them), and we’re at a stage where we’re adding more functionalities, so we’re actually just about to "graduate" to the Beta stage. We’ll keep the service in Beta mode for a little while because it’s still very barebones and we want to convey the message that it’s probably going to evolve quite a bit over the next few months. From a user perspective, this whole Alpha/Beta discussion doesn’t change much… the site is remarkably stable and mature because we’ve been very focused in our approach.
Yvonne: I'm really attracted to your title, Word of Blog. But, a lot of folks I talk to say the word 'blog' is ugly and cumbersome. What do you think of the term? So, can you think of a more friendly term to describe blogging?
Matt: I agree that the word "blog" doesn’t sound particularly nice. Whether it will remain the term of choice going forward depends on what is going to happen to the blogosphere in the next few months or years… as we all know, blogging has been all the rage for a little while now, but it requires an extraordinary level of commitment from the bloggers – posting several times a week, or sometimes several times a day, is no trivial effort. And the more prominent your blog becomes, the more pressure you get to keep posting. At the same time, there are more and more blogs around, and how much time can the average reader realistically allocate to reading blogs every day?
So at some point, we may have a situation where readership starts going down (on a per blog basis), and exhausted bloggers decide that they’d rather do something else for a while, or at least post less often. I’m not saying that blogging is going to disappear (it’s certainly here for the long term, and existed before the term "blog" was coined), but it may go through some kind of shakeout. If that happens, the term itself might disappear, and people will say, oh, "blog"? That is so 2004 (or 2005 or 2006). In terms of what term will replace it, it’s anyone’s guess… I personally like the word "page", even if it’s a little vague.
Yvonne: In your spare time, do you read? Are you a TV junkie? Or, a fanatic with your thumb always playing some video game? If so...what's your favorite book? Favorite TV show, and definitely, your favorite video game.
Matt: Like all entrepreneurial types, I don’t have much spare time, but I have many passions, ranging from athletic pursuits to music (listening and playing). I love to read too; TV and video games are more like an occasional guilty pleasure – I spend enough time in front of a screen as it is.
Yvonne: What would you be doing - right now - if you had a choice (other than answering these questions for this interview).
Matt: I’d be learning to kitesurf. I’ve been meaning to do that for about three years now!
Yvonne: If you could interview anyone in the whole world - in a podcast - who would that be, and why?
Matt: Probably Bono… it would be hard to come up with questions that he hasn’t been asked thousands of time, but I think he’s becoming one of the most fascinating figures of our time, making full use of media fame to make a difference in the world, to an unprecedented level. I thought he had a shot at winning the Nobel Peace Prize this year; that will probably happen one day.
Bono...good choice. I have to agree with Matt's asertion about Bono's being a fascinating figure of our time. More importantly, I think Word of Blog is a good opportunity for bloggers to make a difference. Your actions following this interview will reveal the truth or lie in that statement. Yes, this is a challenge. Who's up for it?