A Nation of Shopkeepers: Sell Side Advertising

John Batelle’s post on Sell Side Advertising, re-written as Publisher Driven  Advertising for the Technology Review, is a fab thought piece for those wanting to clear the  Christmas fog from their heads [and haven’t already engaged with this discussion].   In essence what John is proposing [drawing on the ideas of  Ross Mayfield] is customer driven advertising.  Not ad-sense, not affiliates, though there are similarities with both, but a truly transparent means through which, for instance, bloggers could choose to advertise what they want and be rewarded according to the size and strength of their ‘network’ [which roughly translates to the links inbound and feeds out a blog gets – a reasonable indication of the  relationship they have with their readers].   Technically it is doable: Technorati can do much of this measurement now. Socially, the concept makes sense with a huge rise in the numbers of personal publishers or bloggers targeting often niche audiences.  Business-wise it’s a goer with pay-per-click a $5 billion industry [from Batelle’s article] it’s only limit is in finding a more efficient mechanism to target consumers – an expensive business with the fragmentation of demand in many sectors.   But why spend millions finding what your customers like, building profiles and buying space in their media of choice when your customers will dothe hard work for you! 

While there are a heap load of  comments on the technical possibilities and similar precedents on the concept [which you should check out – they are very good] few people seem concerned about exploiting the relationship they have with their readers for financial gain.  I think this itself is significant – people seem happy to embrace personal advertising.  And following on from the ebay phenomenon and the rise and rise of associates / affiliates it is not hard to see a day when we are are all shopkeepers, competing against each other to sell things [Thatcher would love it!].  But while there are benefits to choosing what you adertise and endorse there are also problems…

Sell side advertising certainly adds complexity to the notion of identity [who you are, what kind of shop is
this?] and how you manage your identity [if you choose what you endorse
then that says a whole lot about you – do you know your readers that
well?] and the way in which others perceive you [is your reputation
going to go the same way as that brand of hoodies that are soooo last
year?].  You can’t hide behind the adsense /affiliate badge now.   How that plays out will be interesting to see. 

Are there any ethical problems with this concept? I thought initially that there may be parallels with buzz marketing  and the ethical dilemma’s there [via rootburn].   But in sell side advertising you are being transparent about what you are endorsing and [potentially] making money from.   And if your readers don’t like it they’ll walk, or click or do something to stop endorsing you.