On Monday there was a lot of discussion about TechMeme's use of feeds to power their new sponsored posts section. Jeff Jarvis likes it and so do I.
The next day Digg and Techdirt started running feed powered ads provided by Symantec in the coveted top right section of the page. Chas from Federated Media has good post on these deals. I assume he was involved in the deals but am not sure.
Mike Arrington said in the headline to his post which I linked to up top:
TechMeme Invents New Kind of Advertisment
Yes, the feed powered ads are cool. But they are hardly new. cNet's been doing them for a while and I can think of literally dozens of cases where feeds have been used to power an ad unit.
Here is why feed powered ads are so great. The ad unit simply is a mini feed reader. The advertiser retains real time control of what goes into the ad. They simply update their feed and the ad changes. And it brings advertising and content closer together.
The best example of that is TechMeme. The "sponsored posts" are in fact just that - posts from oBlog, Socialtext blog, and Wink blog. Sure they are ads for their respective blogs, but they also contain content that is relevant to the reader of the ad.
I really like the way that Techmeme has implemented this because its taking its cue from Google's "left is organic, right is paid" metaphor. The posts on the left side of Techmeme get there from the heat they are generating. The posts on the right side of Techmeme get there because they are paid for.
For now, this feed powered advertising is being done on a limited basis with a few sites and a few advertisers participating.
But feed powered advertising is screaming out for a full blown platform to support this model. Because the ads are in fact feeds, you should be able to subscribe to them and have them go right into your feed reader. The ads should rotate so you don't see the same feed or post promoted as you surf around the web (cookie powered frequency caps). The ad unit should be flash capable so that the feed could be a podcast or video feed. And of course there needs to be analytics about how the ads are performing and how many new subs they are generating.
Ideally this whole ecosystem should be served by a network. There are many feeds out there that are in fact advertisements or offers. The iTunes top album and top songs feeds have been around for several years. Feeds that are ads or offers should be available to any and all publishers who wish to run them and get paid for doing that (with the typical controls so your feed powered ad doesn't end up in a place you don't want it).
Both the platform and the network are coming soon from our portfolio company FeedBurner. They have a large network of publishers, 252,000 at last count, and a growing network of marketers who run feeds through them that are ads or offers. So the ecosystem for feed powered ads is there and the platform and the network are just around the corner. I am really excited about the possibilities.
I see feed powered ads as a natural evolution in the disaggregation of media. Publishers won't control where their content is consumed and advertisers won't either. Both will put the content (and ads are content) into the ether and it will go where it will go. As long as both can be tracked, measured, and monetized, it's going to be better for everyone.