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Monetising Blogmonitoring

A recent 'seminar' on blogging by media intelligence company Cision left me somewhat baffled. The talks, by Richard Gatarski and Alexander Mason, were inspiring enough, but Cision used the seminar to launch its plans to offer new, and no doubt expensive, blogmonitoring for its clients.

This didn't make much sense to me: why would I spend a lot of money on something I can do in a few minutes for free with the help of technorati, google, newsreaders etc? As a journalist for instance, I subscribe to technorati searches for all the companies I follow via my newsreader. It takes me very little time keep up with, and could, for one, tell me that there was a lot of Dutch blog buzz around Schibsted's recent launch of its E24 concept in Holland.

So Cision's move puzzled and annoyed me as it seemed to be a blatant attempt to make money on people's ignorance. I was heartened therefore, when I discovered this vibrant conversation around another new blogmonitoring service, this time from PR Newswire and Umbria (via Adriana):

Media monitoring services still play an important role in supporting PR, but this old school model comes from a day before the Internet where national media monitoring via a third party was essential, simply because there wasn’t an alternative, and in many cases, for print, radio and TV there isn’t an all inclusive alternative today. And yet blogs and consumer generated media are the children of a new age, an online age where information is accessible online anywhere in the world at the touch of a button.

Many PR Professionals contact and read TechCrunch so perhaps we can get some answers: is it that some PR Professionals cant type “Insert Clients Name here” into Technorati or Google Blog Search?

How difficult is it to set up feeds from services such as Google News, Yahoo News and Topix which deliver results based on corporate brand names? Isn’t the whole point of engaging with and participating in a Web 2.0 world one to one communications, removing the middle tier of information dissemination?

"Occasionally I come across proposals from such agencies to my clients," writes Adriana: "I always show them how to do it themselves. That's the whole point - disintermediation can work for companies too, not just individuals. Go figure. "

Many of comments on this TechCrunch post are superb (go check it out in full), and gave me many useful perspectives on why we see these new blogmonitoring services popping up. A valid point is of course that blog monitoring can be time-consuming for big companies with products that generate a lot of buzz, but here's a few of my favourite comments which supported my gut reaction to the news:

Comment from Unjournalism
I do the Technorati/Google/Topix/Etc.-to-RSS free monitoring and then — wait for it…THINK about what the results mean. Then spend the savings on gadgets and whiskey

Comment from Kevin Bourke
There are a few reasons why I’m not surprised at the launch of a service like this:
- PR agencies (and even internal PR departments) are often put in the “justify your existence” position; develop a weekly, monthly, quarterly report that demonstrates your value and reminds the executive team why we spend so much on PR. PR people, unfortunately, tend to justify their existence by generating gobs of reports — the more ‘hits’ the better you must be. And in today’s Web 2.0 world, the pressure for more comprehensive results is that much greater. In my view, it’s unfortunate, because this defensive mentality actually devalues PR, and makes PR people forget where their true value lies.

For one, let's see if Cision's wonderful blog search engine picks up on this post....


Hi Kristine,

I’m the co-founder of a company that tracks online communications with intentions to smear, harm, thieve, attack or target business.

From your post, I disagree with your comment that companies like ours "attempt to make money on people's ignorance."

Judging from your comments, and those made on the TechCrunch post, it appears that a lot of people don't know the difference between using free tools and paid services to track social media.

You alluded to the time-consuming aspects as being the only valid reason for choosing a paid service.

Our product does save business the precious time to compile, store and report on any and all online views that can make or break a brand. However, its a paid service which also provides timely reporting and precision online monitoring that not only greatly enhances corporate strategies, but guards against threats to a companys reputation, image, and/or risk protection programs.

For example, advanced warnings on consumers or employees expressing their dissatisfaction on a message board or a gripe site won’t get picked up by the free alerting tools you mention.

Here is a recent article which describes one of the more serious cases of blogger threat:

Link: http://www.canada.com/vancouversun/news/business/story.html?id=795cb644-3e47-44b4-9cfb-220f9cea7612

In addition, it is vitally important that one considers the depth of sourcing, monitoring scope and reach that draws on all forms of online discussion, including blogs (+ comments), forums, message boards, consumer sites, gripe sites, social networking sites, videos and images.

As I see it, paid services like ours go well beyond vanity searches. The advantages of paid services can be summed up by talking about such things as the depth of media sourcing (ie. blogs, forums, gripe sites, etc), content filtering, human intervention, online client consoles, analytics, real-time trending and charting, sentiment analysis and consulting services (ie. alert clients to more serious threats) which put our offerings entirely out of the category of the free services.

I guess one must first learn how to walk before running. Free tools do provide a good starting point and they apply to some business types better than they do for others. The one redeeming aspect to take away from vibrant discussion like yours and the TechCrunch post is that everybody out there running a business ought to be aware of what people are saying online, and that includes your competitors.

Because there is no comprehensive and all encompassing “how-to” guide to manage your reputation and brand online, my advice would always be to call in the experts and let them do if for you if you are realizing that free tools aren’t enough.


"Walk before running"? "Call in the experts"? Joseph even plays the fear card - "BLOGGER THREAT!".

This data mining thing is far from rocket science. I seriously doubt that Joe's company can provide information that a skilled marketing researcher won't soon be able to provide via some crafty boolean searches and a few nifty .api's.

We are already way beyond vanity searches these days. Kick-ass newsreaders (Google Reader), sentiment search engines like OpinMind, forum search engines like omgili, and comment tracking tools like co.mment are just a taste of a much much more FREE and empowered future for marketers, and citizens alike.

Joe, I fail to see a scalable future for paid brand-monitoring services that need to add clients and therefore pile on more and more human intelligence. It makes much more sense to bring those human filters in-house and rely on the wisdom of an enlightened and motivated staff to filter up the important stuff.

I am literally not buying it.

Derek, unfortunately I can't take credit for being the only one using the "Motivation of Fear"..


...and I do think some of your points, especially those about there being a bright future ahead with respect to free tools, contain in them some validity.

I can also appreciate the Web savvy Executive, who spends the time to reach out and engage with the online community. Most of them will be rewarded for their time and devotion to the cause.

You cannot deny the fact however that there would be a benefit to combining all those tools in one central online console. Think also about the advantages of an "industrial strength" toolset.

I'm not elaborating on these points to persuade you to buy into it - but rather in an attempt to dispel this notion that paid services are monetizing on people's ignorance.

Most of our clients are well aware of the free tools available to them. In most cases, when they see an online demo of our product, they themselves realize the things that put our products and services into a completely different category as it pertains to online monitoring.

In fact, the overwhelming evidence in our experiences points to the fact that any time we save the business community the precious time to compile, store and report on any and all online views that can make or break a brand, their reputation, or threaten security protection programs, the costs for our services are justified.

Many of them use constructive reach-out initiatives - but half of the battle for them is tracking the right conversation. With the benefit of tracking it with enough lead time, they are also able to participate and engage with the discussion in a manner that will improve their chances for a positive online presence.

Finally, your point about scalability indicates to me that you may not completely understand the side of human intervention as it relates to our services.

I can't speak for all paid services, however we are scalable to all sizes of business, small and large. The influx of information and/or corporate assignment has absolutely no impact on our ability to provide our clients with precision monitoring and timely reporting.

If you or any readers chiming in on this post have any questions or would like to learn more about our company, visit us online, email or contact us toll-free anytime.


- Joseph

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