The blogosphere is getting to be quite a crowded spot. At press time, Nielsen BuzzMetrics BlogPulse had identified about 32.9 million blogs on the global Internet and counted about 850,000 new posts in the course of a single day.
But it’s not just bloggers who’ve taken up RSS, the Really Simple Syndication platform that lets users subscribe to have content delivered to their browsers automatically as it’s posted. The biggest news organizations in the world now offer RSS feeds of their content to subscribers.
That’s where Feedburner comes in.
The Chicago firm manages syndication for the content of some of the most widely read blogs on the Internet—like Boing Boing, Daily Kos and Wonkette. But it also handles news feeds for many commercial publishers.
And now it’s setting its sights on making feeds a congenial environment for advertisers, too.
The company launched Feedburner Ad Network last year and invited its publisher clients—bloggers and commercial enterprises alike—to join a two-way split of the ad revenue.
To facilitate this, Feedburner developed analytic tools that lets it report to clients on the particular items readers have consumed and where they came from. It also offers historical data on popular choices in either stories or authors.
All this helps it to deliver ads into blogs and RSS feeds, says Brent Hill, Feedburner’s vice president for business development. Since the ads are sold on a cost-per-impression model, advertisers want to know who’s seen them.
Feedburner links advertisements to specific posts. Wherever the post appears, the ad appears: in a blog, a news aggregator or a daily e-mail update.
The company also organized its publishers into topical channels that advertisers could buy into easily, like automotive, current affairs, news, and health and wellness.
“We knew advertising in feeds was going to be new to a lot of the media planners who drive the ad dollars,” Hill says. “So one way we could make it look a lot more familiar was to allow ad targeting of the kind that third-party ad networks have been doing for a while.”
Besides permitting targeting, the channel approach made ad buying easier with a single insertion order.
But third-party servers weren’t up to the challenge of serving ads into RSS feeds, so Feedburner went ahead and built its own. When the network launched about a year ago, it did so with mostly text-based ads, usually repurposed by advertisers from paid search. But now, many of those advertisers have migrated to something more graphic that looks like a “vintage 1999 banner ad,” with logos and product images, Hill says.
The ads appear in the main content channel of the feed, right at the end of the story they’re packaged with, a placement that Hill claims ensures they’ll appear without surrounding clutter.
“Even the interface that some of the Web-based aggregators use don’t place other ads, so the ad that came with the content from the publisher makes it through,” he says.
Hill says they perform just like any other interactive ad: They’re clickable, can be tracked, and deliver users to a landing page where they can make purchases or take action.
Publishers can tell Feedburner whether they want ads to appear after every story, every second story or every third.
In May, Feedburner further enhanced the ad network by offering the ability to place ads on publishers’ Web sites as well as in their RSS feeds. Many Feedburner clients already were taking sponsored listings from Google or Yahoo! on their sites; some were members of a third-party ad network or, in the case of the largest, were selling Web ads on their own.
“We already have a good representation of the structure of what’s on those sites from managing their feed,” Hill says. “So it was easy for us to develop the code to place ads on the Web sites.”
Feedburner Web site ads are delivered right after the story, just as they are in the feeds. That gives them a big visibility lift from not being where the other ads are, at the top of the page or on the right rail. “We stay in the middle of the page between the posts—where the eyeballs are,” Hill stresses. “We run where the content is.”