The Second Wave of Blog Networks Arises

Blog ad networks continue to spring up, with John Battelle’s Federated Media (FM) Publishing and a “niche network” strategy from Henry Copeland’s established Blogads network as the latest examples.

Though they’ve been brewing for a while on the companies’ respective blogs, these two network plays gained visibility this week as executives leaked new details about business models and sales strategies. Advertisers hope the chatter indicates progress is being made in the quest for easier ways to buy media in the vast but fragmented blogosphere.

“The theory is that blogs are difficult to buy, because the people running them don’t know how to sell,” Battelle told ClickZ News. “What FM will hope to do is bring together an ecology of sites that taken together provides scale to an advertiser. From the media buyers I’ve spoken to, that seems to be a point of pain. ”

Battelle plans to represent ad inventory on individual and group blogs through nonexclusive relationships with authors. FM’s several bundled networks will feature one specializing in technology lifestyles. It will include BoingBoing, a site Battelle has supported for more than a year as “band manager.”

“People want to be buying on blogs,” he said. “They understand it’s a [channel] worthy of being in conversation with. Everyone I’ve talked to on the marketing side is aware blogs are a conversation as opposed to an interruption medium.”

Battelle has begun the hiring and financing phase of the business, after which he and his team will “develop like hell through summer.” He declined to specify a launch date.

Copeland, who runs the Blogads network, is taking a slightly different tack, allowing bloggers to organize themselves into ad hoc networks of sites covering a specific topic area. His mini-networks now number 19, including groups focused on baseball, food, gay interests, New York, and Los Angeles. Most recently he announced a music network.

“This grows out of our frustration in trying to catalog and keep track of everybody,” said Copeland. “It’s much better to let them do that themselves. There’s an interface where the blogger goes in and selects all the bloggers he wants to run in his posse, and he invites them to run. We’re being very libertarian about it and not imposing rules.”

Other existing and emergent blog networks include Gawker Media, Weblogs Inc., and smaller upstarts, such as Pajamas Media and Weblog Empire. BURST! Media and AdBrite also represent blog inventory.

Additionally, all these players are watching Google, which has become an indirect competitor through its AdSense branded banner offering, which is sold on a CPM (define) basis.

“It’s certainly in the same general space… But I think we can add value on top of that,” said Battelle. “I have no idea whether FM would be considered a competitor by AdSense. And since our network doesn’t exist yet, I don’t think they have an idea, either. The AdSense network is… hundreds of thousands of publishers. My guess is it’s apples to oranges.”

Copeland takes a similar view. “As long as the market’s growing, I think nobody’s going to stomp on anybody, which is to say nobody’s going to put anybody out of business,” he said. “Our focus is having really strong relationships with bloggers and doing what they want us to do.”

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