Blogging

BlackPlanet’s Featured Blogger Program

Many of you (including us) have been contacted by someone on staff at BlackPlanet about their new Featured Blogger Program. It is being described by BlackPlanet’s Chief Content Officer Smokey Fontaine as:

Essentially, it’s a home page program that uses my content sites as distribution points for our community’s best bloggers. It’s something I may have discussed in our interview, and I’m now ready to debut it.  Given my enormous reach (~9MM uvs across BP, MG, Content Sites, Radio Sites, etc), engagement (>500MM monthly pvs) and ability to diversify and segment the offering via our different properties, I’m able to create very effective traffic and distribution win-wins for bloggers with a desire for a larger audience .

If you haven’t been contacted yet here is the formal run down of the program:


BPU Blogger LetterFree Legal Forms

When we first got an email about the program about 3 weeks ago I had many questions about it that hadn’t been answered in the initial letter. Luckily I was able to SOME clarification from Smokey. Here is our dialogue about the program over email:

This sounds like a blogger/publisher network, is it? If so is there an ad sales/network element to this that I am missing?

Yes it is essentially a blogger / publisher network, although I think that term has been overused lately. Essentially, we are in a position to provide a mass distribution point for the best blogging content because of our scale. There is not an ad sales element attached to it at this point. We may add one later if it makes sense, but the main value to the publisher is from the resulting promotion, branding and link-exchange.

Is this open to any and every blogger or is there a limit on how many bloggers you will allow into the program?
If you allow many Bloggers it seems like your homepage would then turn into something that is more UGC (User Generated Content) than it is currently?

This is not an all-call. My site leads will be selecting the best bloggers for each vertical that fit our editorial directions. It will give each of our home pages more of a UGC element, which I will look forward to (we’ve already begun to ramp up our “BP Community” category that highlights our BP members on the verticals. Our comments are truly unique), but I will probably limit each site to about 20 Featured Bloggers.

Where is the bloggers content going, will it reside in the BP Universe or simply point and drive traffic to the bloggers site?

The bloggers will likely be given log-ins to our verticals and will be free to publish to the site per an agreed editorial schedule. With flexibility, bloggers will be asked to post an exclusive piece (or in some cases a solid excerpt) and then link out to their home pages for the archive or to “read more.”

All of these features sound powerful (SuperFriend and NoteDrop) however it also seems like it allows a user to potentially spam easier than is already being done on the platform, what are you and your team doing to make sure this isn’t and issue?

These are powerful tools and always have to be used with discretion. Every blogger will not be guaranteed the use of all the promo tools, instead editorial/marketing decisions will be made based on popularity, performance, content, etc. I take our member’s privacy and user experience very seriously and am aware that there is a perception (not unreal) that BP members get a lot of unsolicited email. I’m excited about this program because both the site and the featured blogger are incentivized to create a well-produced, well-written, well-read blog in the same way. Members’ response to the content will be the ultimate judge.

Are these features publicly live yet or are they in a public/private beta etc? If it is not open I’d love to try it and write about my experience with what you all have developed over a trial period of time to see how it works (traffic/conversion/etc.) and/or give invites out to a limited number of my audience before you fully release.

The Featured Blogger modules are live on all my content sites now. This is an expansion of this that adds BP pages and our promotional tools. Ali Sharif’s “From The Bottom Up” blog is a recent example. His video blogs are a part of NorthStarNews.com and he promotes them from NewsOne and his Black Planet page.  When we turn on some of our promo tools, we can help get content producers a dedicated (and large) audience that would be hard for them to get on their own.  Editors Note: As of today Ali Sharif are nolonger listed on NewsOne as a Featured Blogger, typically the area where contributors have been displayed in the past.

What I think….

Based on what I’ve learned so far I’d be slightly skeptical about joining the program. Right now the only benefit to the Blogger is the POTENTIAL reach you would get from the BlackPlanet Universe. Currently I am not convinced on their offering to essentially produce content for them without being paid for it, even if only on a per post basis for exclusive content produced (I am always a fan of syndicating content as long as attribute and full stories aren’t posted).

As of right now it sounds more like a partnership or even possibly a freelance blogger position that allows the blogger to utilize their own content. I am definitely interested in testing this out for say a one to two week period, I’d be interested in seeing the type of responses from this community in comparison to others like Facebook. I think this could be an interesting program especially if the level of interaction and CTR (Click Through Rate) to content on the bloggers site is higher because the demo is targeted. If the user responds well for the blogger in addition to them being give some type of incentive it seems like COULD be a win for the blogger and Interactive One.

I’ve extended the offer to review the program hands-on to give you all some data to really go off of before you make your decision. Like how many people end-up actually coming to your site through the program, the time on site these users spend, and if the program will actually build a Bloggers audience month over month. It seemed like everything was a go for the trial run then….crickets. So as of today, based on the info I have I wouldn’t pull the trigger on BlackPlanet’s Featured Blogger Program just yet.

16 Comments

Comments

Came across this blog and decided to share some information with those that are or have interest in this program offered by BP.

Audience Reach Currently :
61% Female 39% Male
Ages 25 – 44
33% Black / 20% White / 27% Asian / 18% Hispanic/ 2% Other
61% With kids / 39% Without
Income range – $30k – $100k
35% no college/ 29% post grad/ 26% graduates

hope this helps you on your pursuit to obtain your target audience.

$100 Video Contest @ http://www.nysilly.com

Natasha says:

@James – what are you talking about?

“Id just like to see a more balanced approach sometimes because programs like this have worked for some and not for so many others (i do agree that its a free marketing approach from the initiator). I was just commenting that the approach and forum of choice should be handled professionally and without emotion (blogs like this seem to be the way to go to initiate opinion but they could be more balanced sometimes)”

— Blogs like this if full of seasoned and very knowledgeable African American publishers. These publishers are trying to not only warn they online collegues but up and comers who also frequent this site. No one is dropping knowledge to the Black online publishers/bloggers and most of the time they keep getting burned by programs like this.

Examples:
Essence:
Claim: Claimed the bloggers will get their content on their site when they joined their network.
What Happened: The content was put on a fake, no traffic Essence ad site – that didn't benefit them and on top of that took forever to pay their publishers.

Amber/Honey Magazine:
Ambermag.com
Claim: Join their A-List publishers and they will help you get visibility and ads.
What is happening: Amber is the lowest traffic site like Honeymag.com but they are using Black women for content and they're page impressions and traffic to help them get a bigger ad buy for them selves and help drive their traffic to their no traffic site.

Honeymag.com
Claim: Come blog for them and you will be able to get in front of their supposed “1 Million” database of Honey readers. Honey gets under 6K visits per month and doesn't even come up on quantcast.com. So, again people are blogging and posting blogs on their site because of the brand's legacy and nothing else. The bloggers and others will not get any traffic from them cause they have none. And they are not even leveraging their old Honey in it's hey day database – cause that database is nothing new and fresh and it's not emails – it's addresses – so they are would have to do a direct mail campaign.

Glam's Blacklife: Another place where they are using small black women publishers to get a bigger black ad buy – these sites are not growing they just get their content on BlackLife and Glam gets to claim they reach a certain amount of Black women when they are talking to agencies – when they truly are not.

I could go on and on… but I am not…

Interactive One and it's properties are content and traffic hungry and they realize they are new to the online game so they are trying to get to the underdogs and use them on their way up and drop no cash while doing it. Smart – but shady and we are and this is the place to let them know.

So I applaud Dede, GIna, Liz and Black Web for speaking up!

—————————

“I just want to see the black sector advance but the way that so many people act in terms of wanting to cripple or materially hurt a business model before they even take off — its sickening to watch (most of the ranters havent attained wealth themselves or dont have real industry experience which puts a cherry on top of the irony in the posts — and just and fyi before you get all ruffled…not talking to you directly there).”

—- Do you think they care about you or your site. NO. And no one is trying to “cripple” them – they need to grow up and use their funds and time to create a smarter plan and create their own content before they try using a naive blogger/publisher for their fresh ideas and drive.

————————

“At the end of the day, the program is a BS advanced reciprocal link model….for a small percentage it could be a win/win.”

— Read the letter or contact them. It's more than a link exchange – they want your content and push their site on your site. That's not only free advertising but free content – they is no win win for a up and coming site that already has NO money. If interactive one cared they would pay to play.

James says:

@Gina
The adjectives you're using just seem more driven my emotion than a sound business concern. I'm with you in terms of more education for bloggers (and i think this site does the job) Id just like to see a more balanced approach sometimes because programs like this have worked for some and not for so many others (i do agree that its a free marketing approach from the initiator). I was just commenting that the approach and forum of choice should be handled professionally and without emotion (blogs like this seem to be the way to go to initiate opinion but they could be more balanced sometimes)

Again – im with you and all the posts here. But I think just like eating at a restaurant – everyone will walk away with a different experience and its worth hearing a lot of opinions before tangenting off into the sunset to form a lynch mob. I just want to see the black sector advance but the way that so many people act in terms of wanting to cripple or materially hurt a business model before they even take off — its sickening to watch (most of the ranters havent attained wealth themselves or dont have real industry experience which puts a cherry on top of the irony in the posts — and just and fyi before you get all ruffled…not talking to you directly there). Although I don't agree with some of RadioOnes decisions, they are a black owned, operated, and controlled company and helped to pave the way for a lot of us in terms of marketing the black opportunity to major advertisers via their radio business in its hey day. That work has lasting impressions which helps us all. At the end of the day, the program is a BS advanced reciprocal link model….for a small percentage it could be a win/win.

No harm meant. Hope to break bread with you at the conference.

Natasha says:

@James – what are you talking about?

“Id just like to see a more balanced approach sometimes because programs like this have worked for some and not for so many others (i do agree that its a free marketing approach from the initiator). I was just commenting that the approach and forum of choice should be handled professionally and without emotion (blogs like this seem to be the way to go to initiate opinion but they could be more balanced sometimes)”

— Blogs like this if full of seasoned and very knowledgeable African American publishers. These publishers are trying to not only warn they online collegues but up and comers who also frequent this site. No one is dropping knowledge to the Black online publishers/bloggers and most of the time they keep getting burned by programs like this.

Examples:
Essence:
Claim: Claimed the bloggers will get their content on their site when they joined their network.
What Happened: The content was put on a fake, no traffic Essence ad site – that didn't benefit them and on top of that took forever to pay their publishers.

Amber/Honey Magazine:
Ambermag.com
Claim: Join their A-List publishers and they will help you get visibility and ads.
What is happening: Amber is the lowest traffic site like Honeymag.com but they are using Black women for content and they're page impressions and traffic to help them get a bigger ad buy for them selves and help drive their traffic to their no traffic site.

Honeymag.com
Claim: Come blog for them and you will be able to get in front of their supposed “1 Million” database of Honey readers. Honey gets under 6K visits per month and doesn't even come up on quantcast.com. So, again people are blogging and posting blogs on their site because of the brand's legacy and nothing else. The bloggers and others will not get any traffic from them cause they have none. And they are not even leveraging their old Honey in it's hey day database – cause that database is nothing new and fresh and it's not emails – it's addresses – so they are would have to do a direct mail campaign.

Glam's Blacklife: Another place where they are using small black women publishers to get a bigger black ad buy – these sites are not growing they just get their content on BlackLife and Glam gets to claim they reach a certain amount of Black women when they are talking to agencies – when they truly are not.

I could go on and on… but I am not…

Interactive One and it's properties are content and traffic hungry and they realize they are new to the online game so they are trying to get to the underdogs and use them on their way up and drop no cash while doing it. Smart – but shady and we are and this is the place to let them know.

So I applaud Dede, GIna, Liz and Black Web for speaking up!

—————————

“I just want to see the black sector advance but the way that so many people act in terms of wanting to cripple or materially hurt a business model before they even take off — its sickening to watch (most of the ranters havent attained wealth themselves or dont have real industry experience which puts a cherry on top of the irony in the posts — and just and fyi before you get all ruffled…not talking to you directly there).”

—- Do you think they care about you or your site. NO. And no one is trying to “cripple” them – they need to grow up and use their funds and time to create a smarter plan and create their own content before they try using a naive blogger/publisher for their fresh ideas and drive.

————————

“At the end of the day, the program is a BS advanced reciprocal link model….for a small percentage it could be a win/win.”

— Read the letter or contact them. It's more than a link exchange – they want your content and push their site on your site. That's not only free advertising but free content – they is no win win for a up and coming site that already has NO money. If interactive one cared they would pay to play.

James says:

@Gina
The adjectives you're using just seem more driven my emotion than a sound business concern. I'm with you in terms of more education for bloggers (and i think this site does the job) Id just like to see a more balanced approach sometimes because programs like this have worked for some and not for so many others (i do agree that its a free marketing approach from the initiator). I was just commenting that the approach and forum of choice should be handled professionally and without emotion (blogs like this seem to be the way to go to initiate opinion but they could be more balanced sometimes)

Again – im with you and all the posts here. But I think just like eating at a restaurant – everyone will walk away with a different experience and its worth hearing a lot of opinions before tangenting off into the sunset to form a lynch mob. I just want to see the black sector advance but the way that so many people act in terms of wanting to cripple or materially hurt a business model before they even take off — its sickening to watch (most of the ranters havent attained wealth themselves or dont have real industry experience which puts a cherry on top of the irony in the posts — and just and fyi before you get all ruffled…not talking to you directly there). Although I don't agree with some of RadioOnes decisions, they are a black owned, operated, and controlled company and helped to pave the way for a lot of us in terms of marketing the black opportunity to major advertisers via their radio business in its hey day. That work has lasting impressions which helps us all. At the end of the day, the program is a BS advanced reciprocal link model….for a small percentage it could be a win/win.

No harm meant. Hope to break bread with you at the conference.

Gina says:

@james and what does that have to do with a single thing I have said about educating Black bloggers about avoiding being exploited. If by “legal ramifications” you are some how implying I, the attorney, have placed myself in legal peril, then by all means send me an email letting me know the address of record for the company in question so we can move things along.

I haven't said anything damaging to anyone other than someone attempting to exploit Black bloggers. And yes, that is foolishness. But thanks for the law school lecture.

James says:

@Gina – There is a really thin line between going after a business in a way where legal ramifications may occur because you're trying to damage them materially vs ranting about it as opinion in a blog

At the end of the day the program will work for some and not for others

Amen! Lol, Markus just wrote a post on this that we plan to publish tomorrow. 🙂

dedej says:

I am down for this. Maybe Liz, Angela and I can tackle this in a panel. Just a thought… 🙂

Gina says:

Liz,

Lets do it! You know I don't have a problem pointing out FOOLISHNESS! You can be the opening speaker at Blogging While Brown and speak about the scourge that is besetting us. 🙂 they don't have a choice but to try to make us their sharecroppers because they don't have the “mentality” to do what it takes to build an online audience independent of the overflow being driven from the old media properties.

Liz says:

You read my mind re: the campaign. I at least was going to write a rant on my blog about this foolishness and other plots that have come my way along similar lines.

Do agree, as I'm wondering why would Radio One purchase that site in the first place… 38-million down the drain…

BlackWeb20 – Article to refresh one's memory; http://123url.us/V12 (——

BlackAdAgencyGuy says:

Glad some you guys are finally waking up. The “aggregate your content on our so-called big name site” model is not a win/win for those providing the content 90% of the time. Globalgrind, Essence, InteractiveOne, Roc4Life, Glam — the list goes on for players in that area. In the boardroom its called aspirational membership….companies know they can gas the unknowing to slap up their logo on their site for virtually years free of charge in exchange for posting some content on their website (duh…90% of bloggers are grabbing/stealing/posting/linking-to each others content for free anyway — and you know what…if you refused…they will still do it too). THey know that small and green bloggers want to feel like they are part of something bigger than them when they can say they are a contributor to X, Y, or Z (people love to 'be down' – especially with names like that). Sure it helps on traffic here and there but not long term… you are being used. They are even sending t-shirts/hats/pens and inviting people to offline events to put the cherry on top of the brain-washing that you're doing the right thing.

It's quite simple…
– If you need traffic…market your website yourself via a combination of keyword and low cost marketing channels (ie an ad network that focuses on the audience you want to reach, or even contact some sites directly). Those without funding and still working full time jobs should set aside a small budget to test different marketing channels
– If you have a quality audience and need ad representation or fill….go with a network and/or rep firm (a more established means of filling volume that has been around much longer than the internet and exists in every medium). At least this way us planner/buyers can become aware of your site and at least put you on the the radar because we really don't have time to chat with publishers with small reach no matter how aesthetically pleasing your website is.
– Network, Network: It's hard to link-share with the big bloggers and websites but everyone has to start somewhere. Link share with people on your level and it will probably work out overtime.
– Don't participate in content snatch programs like the one mentioned above in exchange for creating branding for the aggregator (if they want a fixed logo on your site…make them pay for it as an advertiser)

Gina says:

Well Dede since you said it first, I am safe to say DITTO! and Co-sign. Interactive One , ESSENCE, BET.com, et all don't know jack about producing content. They get traffic and they don't know why. So they just copy what other people are doing. I would mention two sites who purportedly have received millions of dollars for one URL but years later, they still don't know what they are doing.

All the while tiny little bloggers just keep chugging along with minimal capital investment.

As someone who has been featured several times with a direct link on some of the largest (“traffic-wise”) sites online, I can say “yes” you do get an uptick in traffic.. for about 72 hours, but I know that being on the blog roll of a particular gossip and entertainment site brings me far more traffic over time.

And haven't we figured out that there is some relationship between traffic and increased revenue, but it isn't necessarily a direct relationship.

Maybe we need to launch a public awareness campaign in the Black blogosphere saying “Do Not Fall for This Mess!!” or start a union. This is naked exploitation especially when you can get paid to write blog posts. Unfortunately people are always looking for the silver bullet to build blog traffic.

Liz says:

This does seem like a desperate move for content they don't want to pay for or traffic they don't want (or can't) generate on their own. Or possibly both. I think BP really needs to understand how laughable their brand has become over the past 6 years. There's been quite a fall from grace. Get real.

Dede says:

Thanks so much Angela for writing on this. I too was approached and my first thoughts were AGAIN someone is trying to get content for free and use “bloggers”. They wanted to see if Clutch would be interested in becoming a “Super Friend”. They stated we would have our own profile on Black Planet and they would push Clutch on BP – thus driving traffic and visibility to the Clutch brand. Also, they wanted me to send over two articles per week and ask me to mention Hello Beautiful giveaways’ on our site. I decline and my reasons are stated below.

1. Who is the Black Planet audience/Who's really on Black Planet?
I would be very interested to see new data on who is really using Black Planet. If they are still using the database that they have had for years than they have a very old and outdated list – If they are, which I assume they are – I am on the list – and I have not used Black Planet in over 6 years. I also don't know one friend who is on BP. So, they would have to provide me data to let me know and decide on my own if potential Clutch readers are on their network. I need to know other online habits and data surrounding their users as well. They need to come correct with their data for me.

2. This “Super Friend” thing?
When they pitched the idea to me they stated that publishers like Essence and others where all super friends to pull me in. But, I did some research and it did not make sense to me for me to do this. They not only wanted me to promote them (Hello Beautiful – which is pretty much a competitor) on my site but give my content to them — for free.

What I HATE is when companies like this – try to use their “brand equity” to pull people into a bad deal. Hello Beautiful has linked at least 2-3 articles from my site with over the allowed “200 words” cut off – to give them relevant content. I am at the point now – if you want my content – let's set us a licensing deal in other words — pay me and for upcoming blogs and writers – the economy is bad – why not give them something for using their content. Nothing in life is free – so they need to support them by paying not some false promise of traffic.

As for me — I have to pay for writers so it's only fair. They still take content and I have to continuously contact them about. I haven't seen any spikes in traffic coming from their site either. So, it's not mutually beneficial to me.

Initially, I thought “Super Friend” was for publishers and now after talking to associate I have learned it's not only for Publishers but writers they like as well. So, they need to figure out a real plan and how to approach this – cause it clearly seems flawed. Who is really a “Super Friend”?

3. If they have all the active 9 Million Subscribers to the database then why isn't their traffic higher?
Let's think about this. If BP really had that many subscribers and people on the site and they were correctly leveraging it – wouldn't they be bigger? I would think so — why would a publisher or anybody else buy this.

I would need to see a case study proving this before I would do anything. Would they really bring traffic to your site? I am not sure and if they do – is that your target audience and is it worth it to give your content to them for free. I doubt it. They are getting paid and a site full of content given by you and you are still trying to get where you need to be.

4. Another Global Grind?
In my opinion they are doing the same thing that GG did but they are labeling “Grinder's” “Super Friends” – they use your content and promise/boast they can drive traffic to your site. Though one site is an aggregator and Interactive One is more content driven – publishers need to see behind a brand name and make smart decisions.

Publishers, bloggers, or whatever you call yourself. Please STOP falling for this stuff. Please do your research. You don't need them they need you. Once you realize that you will be on your way. I am so tired of this mess.

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