Black Web 2.0
BlackPlanet's Featured Blogger Program
Apr 7, 2009 Aug 19, 2013

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:

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.