Monday, October 20, 2008

When Content Isn't King

Last week on Cult of Gracie, Callie & I were joined by Pearly Writes and Rebecca Deos for a long conversation about SEO and content.

For the most part, we all agree: content is the best organic SEO. You'll have to listen to the show for where we split hairs regarding SEO and social network sites, etc., but worthy of noting here today was our discussion regarding use of content.

Callie and I began the conversation by stating that before you blog (or your business, really) you have to know your mission. How else are you going to measure your success? Part of this business of your mission relates to content, how to use it, and the matter of "should you give it away for free?"

While we all agreed there are times to withhold content for money, deciding 'when' is the tricky part. Callie, who does consulting & writes conceptual articles & "how to" posts, discussed how some of her most thoughtful "free stuff" was often either not understood & therefore misapplied, or read too quickly (a kind way of saying that folks didn't really get it) and the information was not used correctly. She's decided that she won't be giving such things away, but rather saving most of her "goodies" for clients ~ not just to be paid, but to ensure that the advice or concept is applied as intended. Rebecca, an escort, uses her blog to write about things that interest her purely as a way for prospective clients to know more about her. And certainly an author has to decide what stories/columns should be sold versus what can be given away for free, as 'exposure.'

In any case, this "to be paid or not to be paid" is a rather subjective decision ~ one which can only effectively be decided once you know your goals/mission.

But this lead to a conversation about the worth of writing ~ again, partially based upon all the recent loss of so many "sex columnists". (It's a conversation I appreciate being kept alive by grande folks such as Amber, Dacia, & Callie.)

My thoughts wandered to the matter of value ~ value beyond paid or not, or how much per word, etc., but the matter of the value of adult writing on human sexuality.

We know that sex is deemed a less legitimate conversation than say politics, finance, or technology. Everyone knows I find that both a stupid ideology (everybody literally has a reason to both know about & explore sexuality) and a dumb argument in light of the fact that sex does in fact sell ~ and I'm talking actually selling sex, be it porn, toys, or sex worker services ~ to the tune of millions, billions of dollars annually. But the value of sex writing, fiction and non-fiction, cannot be discussed only in terms of its relation to non sexual writing ~ if only for the fact that we're missing the definition of the value of writing in general. Time for some conceptual algebra.

What value does writing have? And perhaps, more pointedly, just what is of value on the Internet?

Lately I'm more and more struck by the freakish facts which point to the fact that technology & its tools (the code, widgets, etc. known as Web 2.0) garner more money, attention and credit than content.

Name a site, strip it of its content and what do you have? Just a bunch of code. Yet people are buying code and concepts of code & tools rather than putting money into what it is that people really come to, return to, and love sites for: content.

All websites are publications/productions, so this monetary focus on the tools of the publication/production is akin to gushing over the pencil, the typewriter, the lush yet blank pages of a magazine. I'm focusing on writing here (and perhaps it's warranted because words are still the way things are found on the Internet), but this applies to images too. For example, Flickr without photos and images is nothing but a a potentially cool tool that's not being used; it only becomes popular when the tool is used to deliver content.

But the money seems to be going to the folks who create the tools, while content creators, adult or otherwise, are slighted. It's too lopsided.

So perhaps the question we should all be asking isn't, "Should I give it away for free?" or even "When should I give it away for free?" but rather "When are the big sites with budgets going to realize how damn important content is?"

For the flip-side of this argument, please read Rebecca's thoughts from after the radio show.

And then, please do tell us all what you think about the use of content and the value of writing.

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Saturday, October 18, 2008

Freelance Bloggers Getting Paid

The brilliant Genia of SistersTalk has started FreelanceBlogger.net ~ and yes, she's included a category for adult or sex bloggers.

Also included in the community is advice on and other tips ~ including this list of social bookmarking sites, with opinion on their effectiveness for traffic and SEO.

The plan is to get all you bloggers who want to get paid over there, registered and posting your mini-resumes and then go after companies looking for bloggers. Genia is anticipating a 30 - 60 day time line to get the community active before she'll really begin courting the companies who will pay for bloggers, but there are already some Available Freelance Blogging Jobs listed.

The sooner you get registered, the sooner your potential for a paid blogging gig.

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Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Cult Of Gracie Radio: The Marketing Whore Edition

Both Callie Simms & I will be back on Cult of Gracie Radio tonight, from 9-10 PM (Central), discussing mainstream & mature marketing from more of a 'how to' aspect. Tonight's agenda includes the following discussion:

* SEO: application tips (how) & definitions of purpose (why)

* The purpose behind & use of blogs (when to use, what they are for; when blogging doesn't make sense)

* Content: What is, and isn't, content with a purpose, and the issue of "giving it away for free". (somewhat related to both of the above)

* Ethics & 'feelings' about blogging & online user IDs. (When using a pen name feels icky, but is necessary; are there situations to 'out' yourself?)

(Of course, I'm sure we'll still have plenty of lively debate as we defend our reasoning!)

You can join the conversation by calling 646.200.3136

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Wednesday, October 8, 2008

The Technorati Family Feud: Survey Says!

Technorati released its State of the Blogosphere for 2008. Being a survey of 1000 bloggers, a rather small sample, it poses more questions than 'facts' for me.

Let's start with gender.

The survey says more males are blogging.


And more men describe their blogs as professional, "about your industry and profession but not in an official capacity for your company"; while more women describe their blogs as personal, "about topics of personal interest not associated with your work."

As this matter of definition is purely subjective, I can't help but wonder about each gender's own bias here.

I did not see any information regarding the gender split in corporate blogging.

While women are more likely to seek to monetize their blogs, it seems they invest 50% less money in their blogs and make 50% less money in return.

Global Bloggers by Gender

Demographics Female
(N=438)
Male
(N=852)
Personal Blog 83% 76%
Professional Blog 38% 50%
Median Annual Investment $30 $60
Median Annual Revenue $100 $200
% Blogs with advertising 53% 54%
Sell Through a Blog ad Network* 16% 7%
Have Affiliate ads* 41% 32%
Have Contextual ads* 61% 73%
That ROI is something to think of when keeping things on-the-cheap ~ and far more informative than most of what is discussed in Slate's coverage of this Technorati survey, Blogging for Dollars: How do bloggers make money?. (That article is really a more theoretical conversation on popularity ~ which does affect ad revenues, but we'll get back to that later.)

However, women also stated they had benefited in other ways from blogging, with 9% more saying they had converted business leads from their blog.



Interestingly, women are said to have participated in more traditional blog networking (blogrolls, linking to other blogs, etc.) than men ~ including producing more content for other blogs. No number was given, but it makes me wonder about this in terms of blog investment...

Writing may be "free", but the sweat equity isn't noted in the discussion & in fact seems to have little payoff in terms of annual revenue. However, this sort of promotional writing could account for the conversion of business leads. I'd love more information on that area.

As far as topics go, Technorati calls them "diverse."
Blogging topics are diverse

Both personal and professional topics are equally popular. Forty percent of bloggers consider their blogging topics outside of these categories. “Other” blog topics include: 2008 election, alternative energy, art, beauty, blogging, comics, communication, cooking/food, crafts, design, environment, internet/Web 2.0, Jamaica, and media/journalism.

Three-quarters of bloggers cover three or more topics. The average number of topics blogged about is five.

There were some global differences. Music is more popular and politics is less popular in Asia, while personal, lifestyle, and religious topics are less popular in Europe.

You probably see what I see ~ an absence of "sex" as a topic.


It appears that Technorati did not include "sex" (or "adult" or "mature") as a topic in their survey; I'd gather that with those choices many sex bloggers would identify their blogs as "Personal/Lifestyle" blogs ~ or use the "other" category.

"Sex" is still not listed as a response in the "other" category. I have no idea if Technorati opted not to include "sex bloggers", if they edited/censored such responses when they published their findings, or if there were too few "sex" responses to qualify for a mention. Those surveyed may consider their blogging part of another category. For example, sex workers may state "business", authors "books", and sex positive feminists who discuss sex regularly might classify their blogs as "political" or "media/journalism" just as others who are not sex positive might (may also include "religion" as well).

Or perhaps survey respondents with sex blogs who noticed the "sex" option missing felt stating "sex" would mean they'd be excluded from the survey data.

The omitted options for "sex" and the lack of stated identification as "a sex blogger" does make me question the survey responses. As sexuality is just part of a human being's existence, I wouldn't throw the survey out completely; just keep the omissions in mind when reading & digesting.

Which poses more questions...

For instance, as the most popular sex bloggers are, collectively, female (no doubt due to photos, descriptions of personal actions etc., which draw many male readers), what does the possibility of censoring/ignoring sex bloggers mean for the simple "more men are blogging" data? Does this account for the "more females have personal blogs" finding?

I don't know; I'm still mulling it all over.

In terms of privacy, only 1/3 stated a concern for their privacy; I believe this would likely be much higher among sex bloggers.:
The majority of bloggers openly expose their identities on their blogs and recognize the positive impact that blogging has on their personal and professional lives. More than half are now better known in their industry and one in five have been on TV or the radio because of their blog. Blogging has brought many unique opportunities to these bloggers that would not have been available in the pre-blog era.
And, I find the connection between "openly exposing identities" and "better known" murky. I'm certainly better known in both my personal and professional life; but the name on my birth certificate, my legal name, is neither Gracie Passette nor The Marketing Whore.


Of those concerned about exposing their identities on their blogs, 36% said "other" ~ which included, "I've chosen to blog as a character." Maybe those with pen names, online identities, whathaveyou, answered the privacy/popularity questions from the point of view of being a character?

Now onto popularity...
Technorati 100, Next 500, and Next 5000 comparisons

We analyzed the Technorati index data to see whether higher-authority bloggers behaved differently from other bloggers.

Posting by Technorati Authority
Group Average Authority Avg Days Posting
(June 2008)
Avg Monthly Posts
(June 2008)
Top 100 6,084 23 310
Next 500 1,551 20 125
Next 5000 439 13 25

Blogs with higher authority are typically updated more frequently than blogs with lower authority. The Technorati Top 100 blogs had more than twice as many postings in June 2008 as the next 500, and more than 12 times as many postings as the next 5000.

What's missing from the discussion here are contextual issues such as monetization &/or business conversions and intent of the blog. Without knowing those variables, how can we call a blog successful?



There sure seems to be a connection between a blog's popularity and ad dollars, but this begs several questions...

1) If a Technorati Top 100 blogger is posting 10 or more times a day, with all the research & writing that implies, are the ad sales fair compensation for the number of hours a blogger works?

2) Are readers satisfied with such a saturation of posts? Lots of eyeballs do not automatically grant things such as loyalty & trust, nor translate into company endorsements & branding.

3) Are advertisers happy with their conversion &/or branding at these sites? Customer & potential customer impressions of the company /product/service are more important than number of ad impressions.

If all three are not satisfied the old "blog bubble" (at least as far as a business model) bursts.

For more anecdotal & theoretical conversations about this, I again refer you to Slate's piece.

Other tips included in Technorati's survey results: Technorati Top 100 bloggers are twice as likely to use tags in their posts, and they use the "news" tag more than two times as much as the next 500, and 19 times as much as the next 5000. (And, of course, their list of top tags for June does not include anything sexual.)

As for the results regarding branding in the blogosphere, there's a lot of chatter about how important bloggers think blogs and other bloggers are. I'm not saying I disagree with these findings, just that business might want to keep in mind that people within the group often are rather high on the group; your results may vary.

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Both Callie Simms & The Marketing Whore?

Yup, both Callie & I will be on Cult of Gracie Radio tonight, from 9-10 PM (Central), discussing mainstream & mature marketing ~ and whatever else pops into our heads & comes out of our mouths.

You can join the conversation, maybe even dictate the course of it by asking questions ~ call 646.200.3136

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Sunday, October 5, 2008

The Clash Of The Sex Writers: Should We Stay Or Should We Go Now?

A further, even lengthier, response to Audacia Ray's The End of the Sex Writer?

Like myself, Audacia says she sees herself as an activist, an advocate; and that writing is the medium for her message. In that sense we have to accept that there will not be paid writing gigs ~ in fact, there really are no paid activist positions.

No, not because getting paid is becoming "a sell-out to da man," but because no one pays a person directly for their activism. (Unless you count lobbyists; but so far, I've found no one willing to back sex as an issue. Let me know if you have any leads and I'll give you my packet.)

You could start a non-profit; but in order to become paid you'll need to be the executive director (at the beginning, you'll be lucky if you can afford to pay for even that position). But then, because staff members are usually not allowed to be on the organization's board, you will lose ability to control the organization. (After several years in the nonprofit sector, I've seen how the, "Oh, but I've selected the board to maintain my vision," works out. That varies between "poorly" and "horrific," by the way.)

I've written before about having to decide if you're in business or an activist, so I'll refer you to that post.

Now, if you've opted for "business" (with or without a dose of "activism" or "cultural mission" to your branding) and refuse to monetize your own site(s), looking elsewhere for a paycheck, let's look at what's happening in the business of sex writing.

Sex is still a taboo. Those of us who work with/in/under/behind/through any issues of sexuality, legal or not, face discrimination (and I mean real discrimination, not the made up kind). There are less options in general and they come with higher fees we must pay, further scrutiny for services, and even bigger prices in terms of employment and social relationships. Audaica (who I swear I am not picking on!) has been running into these issues head-on recently, as noted by Chris in The Shrinking Public Square.

I don't mean to sound bitchy or condescending here and I'm certainly not trying to alienate myself from anyone, let alone anyone in the business of taking sex out of the closet and having it be a recognized & respected part of the human experience; but I've been talking about all of this stuff here, and here, and here, and ~ hell, pick a site, a post, as you'd like. It's been a decade of writing online, folks.

It's not that I'm whining that no one's listening to me (although, who doesn't like to be noticed?), but it seems that there's a huge gap in understanding. Maybe it's due to age & experience (I'm likely at least a decade older than most of these folks). Or maybe it's a failure to understand how publishing works ~ especially when it comes to mainstream publications and sex.

The fact is that these publications which were paying sex columnists were not in the business of sex education nor with a mission of sex positivity.

Be honest, dear readers, if you weren't following the authors involved here because you knew them, would you ever turn to Valleywag or Wired for your sex info?

Does anyone read Fleshbot? It's no literary journal; it's a smorgasbord of tits & ass for 20-somethings who don't know better (and for older folks who should know better). This is due, in no small part, to cranking out way-too-much content ~ as Audacia mentioned. That's not only a shame, but a failure on the part of the writer &/or activist who expects to be read at a site that pushes more pink bits than the eraser factories do.

Naked City ~ that blog was so clunky I heard things fall off when the page loaded. And don't even get me started on what's wrong with the Village Voice.

So, times get tough, advertising shrinks, and these publications decide to axe writers. It happens; in print, on the web, everywhere. It's tough for smart writers who know they had done nothing wrong, had nothing to do with the decision (nor any of the decisions prior on how to run their business), but that's the way it goes.

For all the "newness" of these Internets, business still has the same old model to follow: make profit. (And more than a few of them are missing the boat by applying the same practices that they mock print for; but that's for another time.)

Do I think sex writers were likely viewed as the first to go in these economic cuts? You bet I do. In fact, if I were sitting there, making the decisions, I'd likely have done the same thing. A) Sex is not representational of the companies' core missions, and 2) having sex on pages can will deter advertisers.

If these companies had committed more to the issue sexuality as a right and therefore an integral part of their publications, rather than posing as sex positive hipsters exploiting sex columnists & titillating titular to garner some eyeballs and a wink-wink-nudge-nudge mentality, then my call ~ and likely the publishers' ~ would have been different.

On one hand I am frustrated by a world which refuses to have sexuality be a part of legitimate conversation; I'd love to see sex included as an important, fundamental human issue for grown-ups period.

On the other hand, these places were only using sex as a loss-leader and they could no longer absorb the loss.

That was their bottom line talking.

And they had no sex positive mission to adhere to, remember?

Now, when it comes to "sex writers," we all have our choices to make. Not just, "stay or go?" but if we stay, how? Are we in business? Are we activists? Both? And if both, how will we blend the two?

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Saturday, October 4, 2008

Adults Embracing & Embedding Facebook In Wordpress Blogs

The fabulous & much adored by The Marketing Whore Callie Simms has posted The Best Facebook & Wordpress Plugins for Adult Bloggers; a useful list if you are, indeed, stuck with Wordpress.

Why do I say "stuck" with Wordpress? Well, as seen in Callie's article, nearly everything with WP requires a freakin' plugin.

Yeah, I've defended Blogger & other platforms before against the Wordpress fans who believe the WP stands for "worship" ~ so why bother to do it again? Because I use WP at one of my mainstream gigs and I hate, hate, Hate it.

When it comes to hosting, WP is a hog. It requires SQL & PHP be installed on the server and as it uses a live database, is far more intense, requiring far more effort on the part of the server. This also means more stuff to go wrong. And then there's those plugin requirements for every little thing... :sigh:

So, when Callie says, "More and more adult bloggers & business owners are moving to Wordpress for their blogging platform because of simplicity it provides as a content management system," I have two questions:

1) Says who? Who says more and more adult bloggers & business owners are moving to Wordpress?

B) Who says it is a simpler platform &/or content management system?

If you are using WP, and want to do the Facebook thing, Callie's article is, as I said, useful. But if you aren't using WP you can simply use RSS to create/take dynamic content from virtually any social networking site (or use the tools/widgets most provide), as well as use RSS to place your content from elsewhere into your social network profile/pages; WP has no corner on that market.

Of course, all the general rules regarding being a polite adult content person within mainstream social networks still apply. And I'm still not a fan of the Facebook.

But you can hear more about that when Callie & I face-off on Facebook and other things this Wednesday on Cult of Gracie Radio.

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Read, You Will

Links from my Delicious Bookmarks:

Oversharing, Blogging, And Transparency: Notes—And Quotes—From A Talk
Susan Mernit reports on a talk she gave at Arse Electronika, the conference about sex and technology and culture, on blogging, transparency, authenticity, and identity.

Mediabistro Panel topics?
What kinds of panel topics would you like to see mediabistro.com produce in 2009?

A Slip of a Girl: I Read, I Rant; It's As Simple As That
Who told you to make a 'cutsie website in flash'? Whoever it was, they ought to be shot. The person/persons behind the push of flash are idiots because...

High-Five Fridays, The Banned Book Week Edition - Sex~Kitten.net (NWS)
Celebrating Banned Books Week the Sex Kitten way.

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