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MARTHA’S NEW BOARD MEMBER: Frédéric Fekkai has been elected as a member of the board at Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia. Fekkai has a long association with Stewart, from styling her hair to appearing on “The Martha Stewart Show.” Stewart’s current hair and makeup artist is Mary Curran, but it was Fekkai’s hair tips the media mogul reportedly passed along to fellow inmates while serving her prison sentence. — Amy Wicks
NAVIGATING THE GAP: So how can media companies, advertisers or bloggers really make money on the Web? Tina Brown, one of the keynote speakers at last weekend’s 2009 BlogHer conference in Chicago, said she may be closer to finding an answer. At The Daily Beast, which receives more than two million unique viewers but has yet to make money, Brown said the site is collaborating with brands to cocreate nuanced advertising that blends into its format. “You can create an environment that’s more subtle. That’s where the skill comes in,” she said, noting sponsored content will be clearly marked. “We’re very careful without being prissy.”
Now is the time to try new techniques and refine them as you go. “It’s like the Industrial Revolution,” Brown noted, explaining everyone is caught in a potential two- to three-year gap between old and new media that will further take shape as the economy rebounds. “I would not want to go back to print now,” she said, adding many advertisers are moving half their marketing money, if not more, from print to online. “It would be so depressing to be in a world that’s shrinking.”
Brown, meanwhile, encouraged bloggers to create constellations, joining together to be a power bargaining group in order to survive and potentially thrive in the new marketplace. Seizing the opportunity to discover new talent, Brown also attended conference sessions taking names and contact information of some 20 bloggers for potential stints on The Daily Beast. The founder and editor in chief of The Daily Beast joined Donna Byrd, publisher of The Root, who discussed the intricacies of covering the Henry Louis Gates Jr. arrest, given he’s the site’s editor in chief, and crowd favorite Ilene Chaiken, creator of “The L Word,” for the keynote address.
Later that day, the issue of monetization proved a contentious issue for bloggers attending a standing-room-only forum called “Blogging for $$: Where Do You Stand?” Some said they felt “slimy” accepting merchandise, whereas others receive product in bulk and accept payment from brands for reviews. Some women also reported receiving prewritten content from companies. In turn, they debated the need for and the proper level of transparency.
At issue was the Federal Trade Commission’s recent discussion about whether parenting bloggers’ informal product endorsements should be considered paid advertisements if the bloggers receive any compensation from the manufacturer. Session leaders encouraged bloggers to follow their own instincts and questioned why the FTC was targeting parenting bloggers when technology bloggers have been receiving free goods, trips and other swag for years.
BlogHer also sponsored a BlogHer Business aspect to the conference in which companies such as Coach Inc. detailed methods to utilize new media successfully. Through its “Design a Coach Tote” viral campaign, the brand allowed users to propose original designs and selected one for a $228 tote released as a special edition. The result was a record six million consumer engagements and 3,200 entries posted on more than 8,000 URLs. “People were shocked,” said Vanessa Flaherty, Coach’s public relations coordinator of new media and celebrity relations. “It was the buzz around the office. It’s opened our eyes to the power of social media and the Internet to get our brand out there.”
Earlier in the day, Lauren Zalaznick, president of NBC Universal’s Women’s Lifestyle Networks, said marketers should pay attention to the authentic brand discussions happening on message boards, pointing specifically to those about parenting on iVillage.com. In one month, she noted 572 mentions of “Sesame Street,” many rooted in debates over television use. According to her research on iVillage.com, 80 percent of users go onto message boards and 90 percent of that group mentions a product by name. “As marketers, why would you want to leave that discussion unmonitored?” she asked. — Beth Wilson