Welcome to the new blogvertorial. Last week Gawker launched a new blog called BloodCopy, "the blog about vampires by a vampire." Except this site dedicated to all things vampiric is not a Gawker property, it's an ad campaign for the HBO show True Blood.
The copy on the site is not marked as advertising, and is written from the point of view of a vampire. Entries from the blog will be syndicated to Gawker's Media's eight properties, including Jezebel, Gizmodo, and Kotaku. The posts will have a gray border, but look otherwise just like Gawker posts written by staff members (save for the vampire obsession).
Gawker will produce content for the site until True Blood's season premiere June 14, but its existence got the blog empire into some trouble last week when it was mistaken for editorial content.
Gawker Managing Editor Gabriel Snyder quickly published an apology. He explained the confusion, writing: “What’s advertising should be called advertising and what’s edit should be called edit. It hurts both to blur the distinction.” On Sunday, Nick Denton also retweeted a quasi-apology: "The news is that Gawker Ad leveraged (+ undermined the credibility of) Gawker Editorial to promote an ad campaign."
But the site is still going ahead with its promotional materials as planned. And Gawker VP of sales Chris Batty told the Nieman Journalism Lab today: "If we’re around in three or four years, the majority of our advertising revenue will be in sponsored posts like this.”
Why? Because it works. As online advertising has been feeling the squeeze of the recession, publishers and marketers are desperate for new ways to get eyeballs looking at their content. The gray area between edit- and advertorial is likely to blur even further.
Jeremiah Rosen, a partner at Campfire, told AdWeek about the TrueBlood blog: "It's much more powerful than skinning Gawker for a day. We're breaking down some wall that's always existed between editorial and advertising."
While print media has always struggled with how to handle advertorial, online publishers are getting much more comfortable with its existence. American Express currently pays high profile bloggers like Guy Kawasaki and John Battelle to put their technology content on its sponsored site Open Forum. Meanwhile, brands like Proctor & Gamble public interest sites like Baby.com and BeingGirl.com mostly to schill their products.
While the trend may become more prevalent, it doesn't mean readers have to like it. And especially in the case of Gawker, they risk losing viewers in protest. As commenter The Long Scout put it on BloodCopy:
"A blog entitled 'Bloodcopy' is enjoyably ironic, though. 'Blood copy' = Advertising published in an editorial format."