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Six Apart Doubles Down on Monetizing Blogs

Six Apart is getting serious turning opinions into money.

The blogging software provider today made a string of announcements aimed at helping bloggers better monetize their content, signifying a broad effort by Six Apart to grow beyond a mere technology provider into a full-service ad network for blogs.

For a couple of years, Six Apart has been placing ads on blogs published through its Vox and LiveJournal networks, until the sale of the latter unit in December.

With today's announcement, Six Apart now will be able to place ads on any blog site whose host permits advertising, CEO Chris Alden said.

"Blogging has evolved from a hobby to a career for many people," Alden told InternetNews.com. "With that has not only grown the demand on the technology side, but on the services side as well."

The plan aims to develop a model for monetizing blogs that falls somewhere between Google's AdSense on the low end, and the premium solutions used by large-audience, professionally produced blogs, such as Glam and Federated Media.

To support a network of blog sites, Six Apart has enlisted the help of Adify, a San Bruno, Calif.-based firm that specializes in implementing ads on vertical Web properties. Adify will handle the registration of new blog sites and power the ad network for Six Apart.

Placing ads across a large network of blogging sites presents the same problem advertisers face when looking at social networks, or any Web 2.0 environment where the content is created by the users and can vary widely in quality and decency. Put simply, many advertisers are afraid to place their branded messages alongside sloppy or inappropriate content.

In the two years that Six Apart has been monetizing its exiting blog properties, Alden claims that his company has figured out how to get the right ad to the right person though an understanding of who belongs to the blogging communities.

"The far more interesting part is not the algorithmic matching, but creating campaigns that engage the communities, both the bloggers themselves and the readers of blogs," he said.

Alden said that Six Apart will screen every blog before admitting it into its network, weeding out sites with inappropriate content that would be a bad match for advertisers. No site with adult content, for instance, will be allowed into the network, he said.

Design and marketing services

At the same time it's laying the groundwork for a blog ad network, Six Apart will be adding services to aid publishers in creating new blogs on their properties and to help existing bloggers better promote their sites.

Alden said large Web publishers are increasingly seeking to add blogging and other social media features into their sites -- and creating demand for technology providers like Six Apart, which maintains the popular Movable Type and TypePad services.

At the same time, however, those publishers face a growing need for design consultants to ensure the technology is implemented in a way that matches the look and feel of the Web site.

With those twin demands in mind, Six Apart also announced today that it acquired Apperceptive, a design agency and developer specializing in social media. The two companies have worked together for about two years in building blog features into Web properties such as the Huffington Post and for site owners like Major League Baseball, Six Apart said.

Through the acquisition, San Francisco-based Six Apart also gains Apperceptive's office in New York, signaling the enlarged role that the company hopes advertising services will play in its growth. Six Apart also has offices in Tokyo and Paris.

Internally, Six Apart is creating two new divisions to address its emerging service-oriented business. The Six Apart Media unit will oversee a premium service geared for influential bloggers, offering clients aid in optimizing their site for search, improving page design and other consultative services.

Each blogger participating in this "VIP" program will have an account manager assigned to work with them on improving their site. Services will be priced on a case-by-case basis.

Six Apart also plans to fold Apperceptive into a second division, Services, which will be focused on selling specific marketing and design offerings for bloggers -- helping them to better promote their site, for instance.

Alden said Six Apart's media and services units would work closely together.

Heading up the Six Apart Media division will be David Tokheim, executive vice president and general manager of the media group. Prior to coming to Six Apart last year, Tokheim worked at Fox Interactive Media, where he was involved with monetizing the blogs on MySpace with ad placements.

Marissa Levinson, a vice president at Six Apart, will oversee the services division jointly with David Jacobs, a principal at Apperceptive. Jacobs becomes a vice president through the firm's acquisition.

While today's announcement clearly marks an expansion into a new business line for Six Apart, Alden is careful to point out that the company is not moving away from its roots as a technology provider.

"This was a major wave of announcements about opening up a new front on the services side," he said. "At the same time, we are also more committed than ever to our technology and software platforms. You're going to be seeing some significant announcements about those in the next couple months."