RealTime IT News

Marqui Product Placement in Blogs

On Monday, a squad of around 15 independent bloggers will begin inserting mentions of Marqui's hosted communications management services into their blogs for money.

The bloggers will get $800 a month to mention Marqui with a link once a week in their blogs and post its emblem on a page. They'll get an additional $50 per qualified sales lead they send to Marqui.

"We hit on the idea of [connecting with] heavily read, influential bloggers who create public discussion groups and get feedback," said Stephen King, Marqui CEO. "But there are no mechanisms for them to make money. So we came up with idea of paying them."

But transparency and integrity are the order of the day, King said. Information about Marqui's "Blogosphere Program" is posted on its corporate Web site, and bloggers are urged -- but not required -- to disclose the relationship.

The bloggers will get weekly content drops from Marqui, including customer success stories, which they can use if they choose. Participants in the program were personally recruited, with an emphasis on those who might be read by potential customers.

Marqui hired Marc Canter, a co-founder of Macromedia, as an advisor on the program. Canter, now principal of Broadband Mechanics, a consulting service, is a highly visible and respected figure in the blogging community. For the past month, Canter has been spreading the word about the Blogosphere Program.

"The challenge is to get high-flow bloggers and those who represent the real world down there," Canter said.

The offer created some heat among independent bloggers, according to Canter.

"A lot of bloggers are idealistic about keeping the blogosphere pure," he said. "This is a great social experiment." He sees the program as a good alternative to the automated ad services offered to bloggers by many online advertising networks. "I hate the idea of having an ad on my page. I like employing humans to think," he said.

The company made clear that the bloggers are under no obligation to be positive -- and that they won't get cut off if they don't make nice. Instead, Marqui hopes to use their feedback, along with any comments from readers, to improve the product.

"In the blogosphere, a negative remark is the beginning of an online discussion that we can participate in and learn from," King said.

King said the controversial marketing concept makes sense for his company, because its customers also are exploring new methods of marketing. The Toronto-based company re-launched on Nov. 10 after closing a $3 million investment round. Marqui's hosted service lets marketing communications professionals distribute and manage communications for most devices and formats, including Web sites, e-mail, phones, PDAs and SMS. Text or media files are input into Marqui's online system, and then converted to XML files which can be repurposed as needed. The subscription fee starts at $199 a month.

The key to blog advertising in general, said Andrew Anker, executive vice president of Six Apart, a provider of blogging software and services, is to make sure human readers get a fair deal.

"An ad is a quid pro quo relationship between media creators, advertisers and consumers," he said. Consumers understand the concept of ad-supported content, he said, and will put up with the ads if the content is valuable to them.