Help me fine-tune the LG advertising model

Indy_Truck1Indiana Jones: Meet me at Omar’s. Be ready for me. I’m going after that truck.
Sallah: How?
Indiana Jones: I don’t know, I’m making this up as I go.

I’ve made up my mind to try auctioning local ads here on LoGroNo.  But those pesky details! Here’s my current thinking… and questions.

  1. Limited number of advertisers; limited placements
    An auction model requires some element of scarcity to the item(s) being auctioned. So my thought is only accept X number of advertisers for a given banner placement.  I’ve currently got three areas: upper left sidebar (vertical shape), upper right sidebar (large square), middle right sidebar (4 small squares). 

    This will hopefully prevent some visual clutter, as there won’t be ads scattered all over the site nor having one long sidebar filled with them.

    I thought I’d start by having up to 4 advertisers in rotation for each of the two large banners, and up to 8 advertisers for the four small banners.

    I’m not sure if the time-blocks should be a week, two weeks, or a month but I’m leaning towards a two-week period.

  2. Winner bidders pay the same rate, the lowest of the winning bids
    In order to make it be/feel fair, the winner bidders for a given banner ad should all pay the same rate.  Therefore, when the bidding ends, and the highest bids are determined, everyone would pay the LOWEST bid of the winning group. For example, if Business A was the highest bidder at $50, Business B was 2nd highest at $40, Business C was 3rd highest at $35, and Business D was the 4th highest at $25, then everyone would pay $25.

    In order to prevent a bidder from thwarting subsequent bids by bidding a high amount in hopes of then locking in the low amount of the 4th highest bid (example above), there would likely have to be a maximum increment requirement, eg, you can only raise the bid by $10 or less.

  3. Auction conducted in a community, social-oriented atmosphere
    I was planning to use eBay while experimenting with this model but then it occurred to me that it might be more fun and in keeping with the community-oriented spirit of LG to conduct the auctions right here in a blog post.

    Maybe I’ve been spoiled by Ed Kuhlman because all his fundraiser auctions I’ve been to in the past five years have been such fun.  Why not try to have a little of that here? Here’s how it might work. 

    I create three blog posts for each ad banner auction. (Maybe I do them all at once or maybe it’s better to space them out over several days.) Bidders attach comments with their bid amounts.  (Each comment is automatically time/date-stamped and can’t be edited.) Just like a live auction, conversation is allowed. Comments by non-bidders are allowed. Everyone can join in the fun.

    It might be a little more controlled if bidders were given WordPress accounts so that we could verify them ahead of time. I’d like all bidders to have a Gravatar, too.

So let’s discuss both the rationale of this approach as well as the pros and cons of the implementation plan.  I’d particularly like to hear from potential advertisers, of course, but the discussion’s open to everyone.  I’d appreciate it.


  1. Jerry Bilek said:

    I don’t know if I want to bid on advertising every two weeks. time is money, keep it simple. I have a gravatar, blog and website. “I was told there’d be no math.”

    January 12, 2009
  2. John S. Thomas said:

    Based on your counts of about 50,000 page views a month, I would have to suggest that you go toward a once a month model.

    If you have 4 advertisers for that space, that is about 12,500 advertisement presentations per month per advertiser.

    You have to be able to define your product before you sell it. Have you thought of a base price?

    There is going to be a significant amount of your time spent in configuring and installing the advertisements, so I think the constant change of 16 advertisers every two weeks would be tough.

    What I would suggest is to alternate them. Roll on 1 advertiser for the large banner per week, and rotate them on a 4 week schedule.

    Do the same for 2 advertisers of the smaller ones per week. That way, every week, there is a “fresh” advertiser, and one advertiser is rolling off.

    I would also like to see you use E-bay, as you then have credit card processing for sellers, as well as a contract between buyer and seller.

    It might help businesses that do not have a website to have a static page under advertisers that they could link to for the period of time they have the advertisement.

    You should also give some sort of baseline pricing for these advertisements. Remember, the economy stinks, and lots of these businesses are being very choosy on what they spend their advertising dollar on.

    Also, many of these businesses will need assistance with developing their banner ad. Are animated banner ads allowed?

    I think #2 is much too complicated. You bid for a space for a 4 week period, and your bid is the price you pay.

    Your plan is simple, and I think the bidding discussion is a good idea… however, I think that local businesses would not want folks knowing that they are bidding, and what they are paying for the advertising. Discretion in the bidding would perhaps be better, and E-bay could facilitate that.

    Also, it ensures that you get paid, allows credit card processing or the use of existing merchant accounts, and protects the buyer.

    Plus, who knows… you might get some corporate advertisers outside Northfield that might want to play.

    Just my $0.02.

    January 12, 2009
  3. Bill Ostrem said:

    Of course you have to keep it local. I made the following comment on another post but thought I should put it here:

    Regarding ads: as someone who has put a lot of time into generating content for his own blog, I understand the desire to be remunerated for the work. Without some income, it is much harder to keep it going. That said, my own site produces VERY little income, and I do it for other reasons.

    January 13, 2009
  4. Jerry Bilek said:

    what are we doing here Griff? do you want me to starting bidding? does it have to be in the form of cash or will barter work?

    January 14, 2009
  5. Arlen Malecha said:

    Griff –

    Might I suggest you skip the ad auction and instead establish a price for the ads – say $30/mo or $25/mo with a six-month commitment. This will allow folks to budget for the ad vs. paying $20 in Jan, $60 in March, $7 in August and $900 in December. Auctions can be a wild ride and you might get more bang for the buck from your prespective but from a consumers side we might want to know there is standard rate.

    Supply and demand will allow you to raise / lower your ratres as needed.

    With that said, if you do come up with a standard rate program please let me know. I may be interested in advertising on your site.

    January 14, 2009
  6. Griff,

    I tend to agree with Arlen on this one. I like a set standard price. However, the auction style is very interesting, but I am not going to take the time follow the auction. I would much rather sign a contract with you then to have to bid every time I want to place an ad.

    I also think that you should offer ads in a two week and a month time frame. This will give potential advertisers multiple options.

    Are you going to design the ads for us or do we have to pay for the ad design separately?

    January 15, 2009
  7. Carl Arnold said:

    Hi Griff:

    I wonder if you’ve talked with Rob S. at By All Means Graphics. As I understand it, he facilitates the ads for He seems to have a good system going there because (I think) he can create the ads in-house. They have a rate chart that you can access online at I personally think it is a little high. I also wonder what the heck is that is always advertising there. I’m guessing that you’ve already looked into all that.

    As a potential advertiser for and, I would have a hard time messing around with the bidding process you are proposing. I also wonder whether you would have problems with people bidding but then not paying, which would be an administrative headache. Would you have to redo the bidding process then?

    I think you will find that people will not like bidding publicly. What would people comment about on that bid? Why would someone want to comment on that? Why would you want people commenting on bidders bids on the advertising you are selling? Seems wierd to me.

    The four “business partners” spots seem low on the page. If I bought ad space, I’d want to be visible right away and not wait for people to scroll down to see the ad.

    I don’t understand where the top ad would be. Would it be where the horizontal winter picture is now?

    Hope these are helpful thoughts/feedback.

    Carl Arnold
    potential advertiser for legal/mediation services

    January 16, 2009
  8. Carl Arnold said:

    Another thought is that selling ads in weeks and months would seem to be administratively difficult since there are not a set amount of weeks in a month. In other words, you couldn’t say there are 4 weeks in a month, you’d have to say 4.33 weeks. You might be better off doing one or the other but not both.

    January 16, 2009
  9. Tracy Davis said:

    Carl, thanks for your thoughts and feedback. We’re not married to the auction model, but I’d like to at least test it out.

    Regarding the placement – for now, we’re proposing one largish square ad and four small squares, all in the right sidebar. I hear what you’re saying about preference for a placement higher on the page; however, the right sidebar listing comments/discussions is a big draw which practically guarantees that people will see the ads as they scroll to get to the discussions.

    We appreciate your support as we work the bugs out of this possible model. If it doesn’t work, we’ll change it. If it does work, we’ll tweak it. If we get consistent feedback asking for something different, we’ll consider it.

    January 16, 2009
  10. Tracy Davis said:

    The Zuckerman article is great, Griff, thanks for the link. Well worth reading.

    January 19, 2009
  11. Griff Wigley said:

    I’ve spent the last 4 hours thinking and reading about online advertising. I reread the Ethan Zuckerman blog post and then somehow ended up at a blog by a guy named Buzz Bishop who wrote a post a year ago titled What To Do When Ads Don’t Work Anymore. This line stood out: “the blog as personal advisor works far better than the blog as advertiser” and he linked to a white-paper type blog post by Ariel Meadow Stallings titled The business of Offbeat Bride in which she explains how her “advertising strategy is primarily focused on targeted, in-context advertorial content.”

    • Businesses apply to appear on the site. If I don’t think their product is of value to my readers, I don’t accept their money. The list of declined products would crack you up, but I’m too much of a lady to embarrass anyone. I try to make it clear to businesses that my being picky is to their advantage: why waste their dollars on an ad that’s not going to resonate with the readership?
    • Accepted advertisers then supply me with the features/benefits and a few keywords they want me to address in the ad. This way I can give each advertisers a solid hit of SEO-friendly contextual links to exactly their keywords. (Not all advertisers really get this concept, which is fine. Those that do are freaking stoked.)
    • I write a blog post about their product/service, making sure to use their keywords to link to them — ensuring they get a good dose of google-fu from their ad. My background as a copywriter has made me a total control freak when it comes to copy, and I refuse to let other people’s writing appear on my site. I let advertisers know that my copywriting service is actually part of what they’re paying for in the cost of the ad.
    • My advertorials are very clearly marked as paid content, but are published in-line with the rest of the blog content, meaning there’s no way to block them.
    • The ads stay on the site forever, happily pumping out google-juice long after they’ve slipped into the archives and stopped getting clicks.
    • Since the advertorials are written in the same voice as the rest of the site (ie, ME!) and feature only targeted, contextual products that I know my offbeat bitches will love, readers actually read them and often leave comments.

    See her pages:

    This model really appeals to me because the personal relationships between businesses and customers in a small town like Northfield are as much a part of the social fabric of the community as they are the economic fabric… and I think this type of advertising would enhance this.

    January 24, 2009
  12. kiffi summa said:

    Griff; maybe you can accomplish two things with each ad…. although I’m a little unclear as to what you need $$ for if you only spend $180.00 a year, out of pocket, to ‘fund’ LG….isn’t that the figure you gave at the forum last Thursday?

    *****However, you feel the need to do ads; the Nf business climate feels the need for more “feet on the street”. Can’t you merge those two needs into a positive for everyone?*****

    If you only take local ads, and if you make it clear that many of our businesses will fail , especially during this time, if we don’t SHOP LOCALLY, then wouldn’t the decision to do advertising be less of a dilemma and more of a ‘good’?

    I know Ross and tracy would support that concept, and it is VITAL that people that live in Northfield, shop MORE in Northfield. There are simply too many who say they never come downtown. Small towns will die, become just bedroom communities, if they do not have active downtowns…….it ‘s a fact, it’s been proven all over the country, there will be some who will argue, but it cannot be demonstrated otherwise.

    So, Griff, as the economics of Northfield falter, you can put yourself in the role of (partial) savior … that ought to be enough of a ‘saving grace’ for any former seminarian!

    January 24, 2009
  13. Jerry Bilek said:

    when do we get the ball rolling or the blog bowling? I think advertising on locally grown would help my local business. keep it simple Griff. time is money.

    I am reading a book about blogging and Zuckerman and Buzz both broke one the cardinal rules. brevity. Zuckerman needs an editor.

    I think advertising here can be good for Northfield and locally grown.

    January 24, 2009
  14. David Schlosser said:

    The St. Olaf and Carleton Bookstores might be interested in advertising, but with so many marketing irons in the fire, it has got to be SIMPLE. One price for one period of time, and a simple ad submission policy. No bidding, nothing complicated. Any more than that, and I just don’t have the time to devote to it.
    Have you given any thought to listing the websites of local businesses on the front page for a small monthly/yearly fee? That would be of interest to me.

    January 25, 2009
  15. kiffi summa said:

    David: Maybe just the phone number of River City books in the telephone book white pages might have been a “simple” ‘solution’ to some marketing problems related to adequate volume…..even more valuable than an ad!

    January 25, 2009
  16. David Schlosser said:

    …or better yet would have been to have had a tenant next door during the last 3 years!

    January 26, 2009
  17. Carl Arnold said:

    Griff: I like the idea that it would be part of the normal stream of posts. Could you create a sample? That might help me understand the concept better.

    I’m smiling here imagining your gravatar changing for each ad. I’m picturing you smiling into the camera and holding a coke can (or whatever product) next to your head. : ) I’d pay just to see that, regardless of advertising! : )

    January 26, 2009
  18. kiffi summa said:

    David S: I couldn’t agree more; a tenant next door would certainly have benefitted me personally, as well as the entire downtown mix.

    Griff: Can the ad spaces be purchased for something like a ‘public service announcement’? assume the point is to sell the space, ie the revenue received , as long as the content is acceptable?

    January 26, 2009
  19. Griff Wigley said:

    Glad to see a positive response so far to my recent rethinking on advertising here. Let’s call this plan ‘advertorials’ with the assumption that it means ‘advertorial blog posts.’

    One suggestion I got this morning was that it would still be good to have a sidebar ad banner/box of some kind that would link to the advertorial blog posts.

    I like this idea not only because of the added value for an advertiser. But it might be visually less-busy/cluttered if the sidebar box just listed the name of the business or organization. In other words, no one would need/be able to have their own ad banner designed. It might warrant charging a premium for it, too. 😉

    Kiffi, 1) yes, we’d do advertorials for anyone we liked, not just for-profit businesses. And 2) the money earned from ads would first go towards paying me back for our $180/yr of expenses (outrageous, I know). And then it would go towards paying me for my time…. so that I can then spend the money in Northfield, of course!

    Carl, yes, I’ll do a sample.

    David S, yes, I like simple, too. I’m likely to junk the auction idea. I like your idea of simple sidebar links as an ad option, too.

    Jerry, we’ll try to get something rolling by Feb. 1.

    January 26, 2009
  20. Griff Wigley said:

    In today’s Strib: Media struggle to reinvent business models to survive; Traditional media struggle to reinvent their business models to survive the transition to Internet distribution.

    Fruechte said her clients want
    interactive advertising that will
    build on brand loyalty and allow
    customers and clients to speak to one
    another. “You can track effectiveness,
    and if something isn’t working, you
    can change it.”

    I like this quote because I think the advertorial blog post idea would encourage interaction via a comment thread either attached to the post here on LG or on the advertiser’s website.

    January 26, 2009
  21. Griff Wigley said:

    I’ve created a sample advertorial blog post on Just Food Coop. And I’ve changed the sidebar box to read: “Click for current advertorials” with the Just Food Co-op lettering in yellow on a black background. That image links to the blog post.

    Pros and cons to this?

    January 26, 2009
  22. Jerry Bilek said:

    It looks pretty good to me.

    January 26, 2009
  23. Patrick Enders said:

    I’m concerned that your ‘sample advertorial blog post’ looks disturbingly similar to your standard opinion/FYI pieces.

    I think it’s very dangerous to allow your (still hypothetical) paid advocacy work to be confused with your standard ‘because I care’ work. If you aspire to achieving a level of journalistic credibility in some of LGN’s material, these paid pieces could seriously undermine that.

    If you’re going to do this, I’d strongly suggest making it very clear when you’re wearing a pitchman’s hat. Consider making the background of the whole advertisement a different color (on the main page, as well as on its own page). Also, I’d suggest putting the disclaimer at the top, not the bottom.

    January 26, 2009
  24. Anne Bretts said:

    Selling advertorial material that will appear with stories is an odd and disturbing idea. One of the mainstays of publishing is that advertising and editorial copy should be clearly distinguished. Advertorial sections use a different layout and typeface and are separated from news and commentary. I know the world is changing, but I’m wondering how you maintain editorial integrity when advertisers can buy news stories. And how do you allow a free story on ManZone and charge for a story about the Co-op, to cite just one example.
    I’m fine with side and banner ads, but selling advertorial material in editorial space is dancing on a very slippery slope, leading to an unpleasant landing in a pit of mud.

    January 26, 2009
  25. Anne Bretts said:

    Patrick, you make very good points. The more insidious problem is what happens when one organization submits news items but doesn’t advertise and another advertises heavily. The temptation to give more space and attention to the stories about and by advertisers and to their events is nearly impossible to ignore, and eventually the ‘editorial’ section becomes advocacy for supporters of the site.
    I had a good job with Minnesota Real Estate Journal until they decided officially last year that we could only write stories about advertisers (with exceptions for stories that were too huge to ignore). All discretionary features had to be about their friends and supporters, and all the sources quoted in stories about trends or industry issues had to be advertisers. The stories wouldn’t be marked as advertorial. My editor and I had to quit, an expensive and extremely frustrating decision, I can tell you.
    They also had professional continuing education conferences, where you had to pay to be a panel speaker. The quality of the conferences soon dropped as they became ‘pay to play.’ You’re either an expert in the field or you aren’t.
    Look, everyone knows the Top Lawyers and Top Restaurants and other lists and sections in magazines are just excuses to sell advertising, but they are marked as such.
    How can you decry the New York Times selling ads on the front page when you propose selling stories on the front page?
    This is a fascinating topic, but one that demands more thought and strict, transparent and evenly enforced ethical standards.

    January 26, 2009
  26. Griff Wigley said:

    Patrick, I’ve made the background color of the blog post light yellow. I’m not inclined to put the disclaimer on top, tho… I think people will get acclimated to it, plus, the blog post title leads with the word ADVERTORIAL which I’ve now put in all caps. Does that help?

    January 26, 2009
  27. Griff Wigley said:

    Anne, great example re: ManZone and similar events. I’ve not thought it through completely but my inclination would be to stop doing those kinds of posts for free. They’re quite time-consuming and people can already promo their events on for free. But I’ll likely keep doing the community photos as a freebie.

    As for advertorial material in editorial space, I don’t think it’ll be a problem. A blog’s ‘space’ is a post, just like a magazine’s or newspaper’s ‘space’ is a page. As long as it’s labeled and maybe formatted differently, people will know.

    I think there is a danger that our, as you say “…’editorial’ section becomes advocacy for supporters of the site” or the corollary, that we don’t do blog posts that criticize our advertisers. But that’s always the case with any publication that depends on advertising.

    January 26, 2009
  28. Jerry Bilek said:

    the Northfield News has run advetorial content. I don’t believe they ever labeled it as an ad. It looked like a news story, written by the advertising company, surrounded by ads.

    I guess what I envisioned was a banner ad that linked to a permanent blog posting on my blog describing my business.

    January 26, 2009
  29. Griff Wigley said:

    Jerry, I definitely would include a link from within the Advertorial to a blog post on the advertiser’s site.  I could’ve put that in Just Food Co-op sample.

    What if the sidebar ad banner was instead a set of sidebar links that included BOTH the advertorial blog post on LG and a page or blog post on the advertiser’s site? For example, something like this:

    Current sponsors

    • Just Food Co-op
    • Monkey See Monkey Read


    January 26, 2009
  30. kiffi summa said:

    Griff: “advertorials” was NOT what I meant when I asked about buying an ad space for something like a ‘public service announcement’.

    I think you are really messing up your site with the advertorial text ever being mixed into the same area as what has previously been either editorial or opinion text, regardless of linking.
    It looks messy, it is conceptually messy, it degrades the original purpose of the site, and would you like to know what I really think? IF I KNEW HOW TO DO THOSE EMOTICONS, I’D PUT A BIG ONE HERE!

    Seriously, Griff, the “Emperor” needs to get his crown back on straight, and think how to finance without messing up the original concept.

    January 27, 2009
  31. Carl Arnold said:

    Griff: Do you envision that you will make each ad “personal” in the sense of giving your take on the product/service, as you did with the Just Food example advertorial? In your example you described how your family shops at Just Food. It seems that this is similar to what I’ve heard on the radio when they do a promo of a product. They often say, “I’ve tried this product and liked it or endorse it (or something like that).” I’m not ever confused or feel misled when they endorse a product/service on the radio because I understand that it is not a news story or editorial but rather a paid endorsement. Is this along the lines that you are thinking Griff or am I misunderstanding?

    January 27, 2009
  32. Anne Bretts said:

    Griff, can you give an example of a site that mixes news and advertorial in the same space? I’ve just run through dozens of sites and the ads are clearly marked and designed differently.
    Here’s a link to the NYTimes self-service ad program for small businesses It’s interesting, but is clear that ads can’t look like news copy.
    Here is a pretty comprehensive set of online guidelines from the Annenberg School of Journalism at USC
    I can’t find any legit sites that use your system.

    January 27, 2009
  33. Griff Wigley said:

    Carl, you’re correct. I don’t expect that I’d always be able to bring in my personal take/experience but I would think it would happen often.

    Oldtimers out there might remember that some of the ‘golden throats’ on WCCO-AM 830 radio often did this, eg, Steve Cannon on his aft drive-time show, The Cannon Mess. In his engaging tone, oft including his faux sidekicks Morgan Mundain and Ma Linger, he’d tell a story about his visit to an advertiser’s place of business or his experience with their product or service. If it involved a location, he’d usually end it with “And tell ’em Cannon sent you in.”

    That’s in part what I’m aiming for.

    Kiffi, how is an advertorial blog post any different than an advertorial type radio ad? Or any different than an advertorial page in the newspaper or a magazine?

    January 27, 2009
  34. kiffi summa said:

    Griff : I don’t want to buy an ad, I don’t have a business to buy an ad for; I might want to buy an ad space for what I would call a public service message.

    January 27, 2009
  35. Griff Wigley said:

    Kiffi, would the advertorial blog post format work for your PSA (public service announcement)? Would there be a website to link to?

    January 27, 2009
  36. kiffi summa said:

    No, Griff…… I don’t want to give away my idea so I can’t tell you the specifics. It seems so clear to me what I’m asking……I want to buy an ad space to state a message. No further text; no link.

    A lot of comments here are virtually”advertorials”, by the way.

    January 28, 2009
  37. Anne Bretts said:

    So when a person’s comments are ignored or banned, how much would it cost to make them an advertorial?

    January 28, 2009
  38. Jerry Bilek said:


    the Northfield News did it. not sure if they still do. I think they called it Business Spotlight. I don’t ever remember seeing any mention of it being an advertisement.

    January 28, 2009
  39. Griff Wigley said:

    Anne, in the A Section of today’s StarTribune there are two ads that look like news copy, ie, multiple columns, text that mimics the editorial.

    ads that look like news ads that look like news

    I don’t consider these advertorials, just ads, but ones that are deliberately designed to mimic editorial. The Strib, a reputable publication, evidently thinks its readers can distinguish that they’re ads.

    January 28, 2009
  40. Anne Bretts said:

    Jerry, can’t answer for the News, I don’t read papers on dead trees anymore, just online publications. I do read some magazines and I know that the advertorial sections are marked.
    Griff, I guess I don’t see your point. The ads in the Strib are next to, but separated from the news copy. The Strib doesn’t put four news stories and a paid one in the same space. I know it’s subtle, but online sites do the same thing. The ads are clearly defined, although I know there has been controversy over sponsored, or paid, links within news stories.
    Your approach of using yellow background but the same typeface and placing paid and ‘real’ stories together really is problematic. It’s already hard enough to determine your criteria for running stories, and to mix in advertorial just adds o the confusion. Of course, this is your site, and you can do whatever you want.
    I guess I’m still wondering what online sites your are using as models for this approach.

    January 28, 2009
  41. Griff Wigley said:

    Anne, you said “ads can’t look like news copy” and those Strib ads clearly do. And you linked to the OJR site where they write:

    “… ads must appear distinct from the visual style of the publication’s editorial (in other words, an ad mustn’t use typefaces, typesizes, colors, or design elements that mimic the publication’s editorial style)”

    It just seems to me that the Strib is ignoring that and readers apparently aren’t in an uproar over it.

    In an above comment, I named the web site where I got my advertorial idea from: OffBeat Bride.

    January 28, 2009
  42. Griff Wigley said:

    Jerry, you mentioned that the Northfield News runs a section in the paper called Business Spotlight. Here are two photos from last year. The text is written in editorial style, tho the author is not named. There’s nothing to indicate that this is a paid ad. I had no idea it was.

    IMG_2289 IMG_2295

    January 28, 2009
  43. Griff Wigley said:

    After talking with more people today and brainstorming with Tracy, I’d say we’re leaning towards a combo: advertorial for those who want an in-depth piece; banner ads for those who just want something simple.

    On the latter, the options are whether to A) pay for ad impressions (pageviews that display one’s ad) or B) pay for click-throughs.

    I’m working on it!

    January 28, 2009
  44. Griff Wigley said:

    Here are two more pages from the Northfield News that are relevant.

    A. The Chamber of Commerce page which says at the top, “A monthly Northfield News supplement with news provided by Chamber staff.”

    Is this paid for by the Chamber or just by the advertisers at the bottom of the page? It’s written and laid out like an editorial page and it doesn’t say ‘advertisement’ anywhere.

    B. The engagement announcements on the Records page alongside the Police Report and Obituaries. I think something similar is done for wedding announcements. Are those paid for? If so, there’s nothing to indicate it and with all the community photos on the opposite page, it appears to just be editorial content.

    IMG_2291 IMG_2293

    January 28, 2009
  45. Anne Bretts said:

    OK, I can’t address the News’ policy, because I don’t have anything to do with it. I can see how the confusion exists in the Strib pages and the Business Spotlight. I see it as a print person and the differences in type and headlines and format are obvious to me, but I guess someone not in the business might not catch it.
    All I can say about the OffBeatBride is wow. Seriously, this is what LGN is going to become?
    Well, it’s a private site and you can do what you want…
    Gook luck with it.

    January 28, 2009
  46. John S. Thomas said:


    In my opinion, attempting to compare your blog to print medium is an apples and elephants comparison. (I will not even go apples and oranges on this one.)

    It was one thing when you discussed doing banner ads. I could accept that. But this advertorial posting thing… I think your crossing into an area that I am not sure shows true neutrality.

    I am also betting that comments will be off, or heavily moderated on Advertorials.

    Also, you are posting electronic scans of print media without express written permission of the owner, which could possibly be copyright infringement.

    I don’t know Griff. All these changes. LGN is just not fun anymore. You have spent a lot of time on this, and the site content has been pretty tame since the changeover.

    My vote is to scrap the advertorial concept.

    January 28, 2009
  47. Griff Wigley said:

    John, I think the discussion about print advertorial and online advertorial is relevant because the principles/guidelines for print have been around for a long time and can help inform online. You’re right, there are differences.

    I found out this morning that the Chamber does pay the Northfield News for the Chamber news page that I cite above. It’s laid out to look like editorial, it’s called ‘news’, and there’s nothing to indicate it’s advertising/advertorial, just like the Business Spotlight feature.

    Both you and Anne have/have had a connection to the Northfield News via their citizen advisory board. So I don’t understand why you’re not criticizing them for their deceptive advertorial practices, but you’re criticizing my plan for an advertorial plan that would be clearly labeled. Its seems disingenuous on your parts.

    January 29, 2009
  48. kiffi summa said:

    Griff: I don’t know if the members of the News’s advisory board are supposed to be ‘secret’ or not, but I have run across several instances of….what shall I say, ‘discord’? … and I do think they should identify themselves when speaking about a practice of the News.

    That Chamber page has been kind of a joke, but I don’t think it’s really funny…… Do they pay the same rate as for a full page advertisement, and what is that amount?

    That said, I personally don’t like your idea of advertorials, just because I think the site is getting way too visually messy….. but I understand your need to explore all avenues.

    January 29, 2009
  49. Anne Bretts said:

    Griff, I’m not criticizing the News because I can see the difference in the formats and I know they’re paid content just by looking at them. I can see now that it might be confusing to lay people. And if I go to the next advisory board meeting I’ll suggest putting a clear advertisement disclaimer on those pieces.
    All I’m saying is, look at legitimate online sites and tell me where this is going on the way you propose it. There are ways to do sponsored content, but not in the news column.
    ESPN and the NFL sports shows are geniuses at having the Nokia highlight of the game and the Budweiser MVP, so I get that there are product placement and sponsorship practices that are maddening.
    You need to decide what you are and then go for it. Are you a community news site, a civic journalism exercise, a commentary site, a business promotion site with some commentary, one man’s view of the world as seen through the eyes of his business clients? You have banged on the News for not cooperating because you weren’t competition, but clearly now you are. You want to talk about the community, but now you will only talk about events of advertisers, or maybe you will talk about other events if it’s one involving a friend or client. How will your advertorial sponsors feel if they pay for event notices and then you hype an event at the Cow?
    A few months ago, you were going to sell memberships to fund original news reporting, which gave the feeling of public radio, then you switched to selling news story space to run press releases, which is the opposite of public radio.
    The problem is that you have been so many things and proposed so many things over the last year that nobody knows what you are and what you stand for.
    I know all too well the problems in the industry right now, and I appreciate that you are trying to work this out in a transparent manner. At this moment, however, we are getting a peek into the sausage factory and it’s not pretty.
    I mean it when I say good luck. Nobody else has found a way to make this pay at this level, and sites are collapsing everywhere. I’m amazed that you’ve lasted as long as you have and people need to appreciate how much work you have put in this. I disagree with you a lot of the time, but I admire your sheer determination. I have to admit that when we move, I’ll still check back from time to time. It has been ‘interesting’ as you say in Minnesota.

    January 29, 2009
  50. Anne Bretts said:

    Just to clarify once again, the newspaper advisory board is just a reader focus group that meets about six times a year for an hour or so to look at front pages tacked to the wall and give feedback on layouts and photos and stories. We don’t discuss ads or finances or advertorial policy. Other than John and I, who are friends, we don’t talk between meetings and I couldn’t even name everyone in the group. You’re making way too much of this supposed secret connection.
    I have more understanding and appreciation for the News because I have been in the business for a long time. That doesn’t mean I agree with everything they do, but I’m not as critical and mean-spirited as some people here are. I guess the civility rule doesn’t apply to trashing the newspaper.
    I am very clear to note in my comments that I am not speaking for the News and to note when I have no direct knowledge of their policies on certain issues.

    January 29, 2009
  51. John S. Thomas said:

    I am a member of the Northfield News Reader Advisory Panel.

    In the time I have been a member, we have discussed news stories and coverage, but I am unaware of how much “advice” was actually taken to heart and implemented.

    It has always been clear to me that the Chamber page was clearly “not normal” because of its layout, banner, typeface, and the fact that there are no other ads on the page other than Chamber members.

    I am all for advertisements on Locally Grown. It pays the hosting and other costs.

    I just struggle with the Advertorials on LGN. I just hope that you continue to make them look slightly different and don’t end up making the content on LGN more paid content, and less of what the site is now.

    It takes a balance I guess. I think there are lots of interesting stories in Northfield, and I would hope that a person would not have to pay to get it out there. Non-profits, The Arts Guild, Just Foood, etc. They need the coverage, and there advertising budgets are minimal.

    Another for instance… if a new business is coming to town. Would you cover it, or request a payment for a piece regarding the business? Where is the line between news coverage and the advertorial drawn?

    If Locally Grown wants to start a Locally Grown Northfield Reader Advisory Panel, I would be happy to participate in it as well.

    My opinions are free. Just let me know where and when… 😎

    January 29, 2009
  52. Jerry Bilek said:

    John and Anne,

    from my perspective the chamber page is not clearly advetorial. different font, seriously? Is there a guide somewhere I could compare fonts to know what is an ad and what is not? I’m being silly to illustrate a point, it might be clear to you, it was not clear to me until recently. Is the business spotlight in a different font? I’m not trying to be critical of the News, I don’t have a problem with it. I think the difference is Griff is discussing the policy openly and accepting feedback. most other media outlets don’t.

    Turn this whole scenario around and think about it from a business perspective. this is locally grown Northfield. Griff is offering an opportunity for local businesses to reach new customers. think about how Just Food could benefit from that. I welcome the chance. I have always argued that I can compete with the big boys, but I do not have $80 million to tell everyone. I need to be selective and I need results. talking with other business owners, we are always looking for advertising that works. I think this is a chance to help some local businesses reach new customers.

    If it’s a banner ad that links to my blog or website or an advetorial, I don’t really care. right now I feel like I’m throwing spaghetti at a wall to see what sticks.

    January 29, 2009
  53. John S. Thomas said:

    I do not have any problem with Griff providing a low cost advertising model. Hopefully, that will benefit the both of you.

    I just hope that we do not see advertorials take over the site, and non-paying, interesting items decline and wither because of it.

    I am going to withdrawal my opinion, and objection, as I feel Griff is just going to do what he feels he needs to do anyway.

    January 29, 2009
  54. Anne Bretts said:

    Jerry, if you read my comments again, you’ll see that I agree that lay people might be confused about the advertorial in the News. They should be more clear. As I said, I don’t read the print edition, so it’s not an issue for me. I’m just talking about common practice online.
    Look, there are tons of gray areas…if Sam Gett is in Rotary and really believes in the value of the Turkey Trot race, he will write a column where he might not write about another group or event that doesn’t involve him.
    The story won’t make front page unless the editorial staff really believes it has merit. Judging merit can be tough in a small town…when the people making the decisions are involved in so much. Add in the subtle pressure to keep advertisers happy and you have a real minefield.
    I’m glad Griff is having the discussion. I have been through many of these and none of them are easy or pretty. I ran a small, financially struggling publication and I quit a good paying job at another one over just this kind of ethical controversy, so I’ve thought this through more than you know.
    I’m just noting that the options Griff is considering raise a whole new set of problems as well as new opportunities.
    There are no good or easy answers.

    January 29, 2009
  55. Anne Bretts said:

    Don’t know whether this is under advertising or ethics, but just pointing out the discussion about ManZone, where people involved are carrying the discussion. Is that a reader discussion or a promotion?
    There have been some posts about Beef O’Brady that have been uncomfortably promotional.
    All of these issues are in that gray area between civic engagement and business promotion. Happens all the time, but what happens when supporters of a business flood the comments for an advertorial, dominating the comment field? Will readers interested in policy/government discussions be willing to wade through the promotions to get to comments they want to read, or will they give up…
    I don’t know the answer and I think ManZone and Beef O’Brady are just dandy. I’m just pointing out examples to raise the question.

    January 29, 2009
  56. Tracy Davis said:

    The feedback on this topic has been great, and is helping Griff (and me) clarify where we each want to go with LoGro.

    One of the things I love about Northfield is that it’s full of quirky people who are involved in a lot of interesting things, both business-wise and as volunteers. I’d love to know more about Duys & Nicholson who build large pipe organs here in Northfield, or David Folland the violin maker, or any of the other artsy niche businesses here. One of my many gripes about the Northfield News over the past few years is that generally won’t run press releases from such businesses because they want the companies to buy ad space. As a result, people in the community are deprived of interesting and potentially relevant information simply because these particular businesses don’t advertise in the Northfield News. And in many cases, the businesses’ markets are not local, so it wouldn’t make sense for them to advertise here.

    I personally don’t EVER want LoGro to take that stance; I want to retain my right to write about anything I find interesting, regardless of whether someone has purchased an ad or bought an advertorial or whatever. Yes, our coverage may seem capricious, because it is. LoGroNo has the flavor it does because Griff, Ross, and I each have different interests and tend to follow those in doing our posts.

    The only way to guarantee representation on LoGro is to buy space. I don’t have any problem with that.

    January 29, 2009
  57. Anne Bretts said:

    BTW, Huffington Post has a graceful way of adding advertorial copy in the left column, clearly marked amid the usual blog posts, but not in the news posts. That could be an answer…

    January 29, 2009
  58. John S. Thomas said:

    And on your last post, Miss Davis, I completely agree. 😎

    I have talked to several small business folks that I patronize, and frankly, they feel that for the price, there are better mechanisms in Northfield to advertise with than the News.

    There is really no competition, so you either pay the price with the news, or do without.

    I hope your banner ad model gets up and running soon. I know several folks that are interested. They do not have a ton of $$ to spend, but want to get their business out there.

    Will you folks have some addtional banner ad design specs (other than height/width) soon, so that we can start designing them? Do you have a file size restriction? Can we do animated banners? etc, etc.

    Also, I think a set price is going to work out better than bidding. These folks want stability, and known fixed costs.

    Also, would you folks consider bartering as a method of payment, such as a transfer of services of equal cost, or product in trade for the advertisement? Bartering is a great tool in this economy, and is easier to do for some businesses.

    Just curious.

    January 29, 2009
  59. Jerry Bilek said:


    I agree. I’ve tried the News and didn’t have great success. I think it works for many businesses, just not mine. I’ve tried a number of advertising methods, now I’d like to try LGN.

    I definitely like barter.(insert smiley guy here)

    January 29, 2009
  60. norman butler said:

    Wot’s happening, Griff? Auction closed? Still taking bids, or just advice?

    February 2, 2009
  61. Griff Wigley said:

    Norman, thanks for the nudge. I’ve been a slug on the LG ad plan for the last week while I tried to make money the old fashioned way… by the hour!

    I still want to keep noodling on both the auction idea and the advertorial idea but in the meantime, I think it’ll be best to get smarter with a traditional offering of both banner ads and text ads. I’ve purchased some software to help manage it and am starting to learn to use it now. I’ll try to deploy it just as soon as I can… hopefully within a week.

    February 2, 2009
  62. Griff Wigley said:

    I’m testing some demo text and banner ads in various spots. Ignore for now!

    February 3, 2009
  63. Griff Wigley said:

    Here’s a screenshot of the first draft of the ad types, sizes, and rates that we plan to make available. You can actually now get to the ordering page by clicking on any of the demo banner ads, or just go here. I’ve not enabled the PayPal payment system yet but everything else appears to be working. Go ahead and test it! I’ll delete your order.


    I’m looking for feedback on our overall offering of ad types, sizes, and rates.

    You can see we’ve added a three new placements:

    • left sidebar descriptive text ad links for non-profits. You get 50 characters to describe your link
    • small left sidebar banner ad 155×155 for non-profits (used to be large vertical 160×600)
    • medium banner ad 435×60 at the bottom of every blog post (see it above)

    Apologies for taking so long to get this rolling. I blame my pesky clients. 😉

    February 10, 2009
  64. Griff Wigley said:

    Ad purchasing is now live. I just bought one for Wigley and Associates at the bottom of the blog post. It works slick, IMHO!

    February 10, 2009

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