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Monetization Food for Thought for Bloggers at PodCamp Montreal


kim vallee at podcamp montreal 2010

Last weekend, I gave a session at PodCamp Montreal 2010 where I talked about blog monetization. I highlighted several advertising options, other than banners, that bloggers can offer on their blog or via Twitter.

The session was designed for bloggers who wish to take their blog to the next level and turn it into a business. Still, I made an effort to give options that part-time bloggers could use. The topics include a talk on what is content and what is advertising, the need to maintain your credibility and ethics, the ABC of pricing, and why you need to deal with media buyers instead of PR if you wish to monetize your blog. Media buyers and PR people have different roles, objectives and budgets. Melanie of Mel of All Trades wrote a summary of the things what she thought was important.

I plan to revisit all these questions on this blog over the future months. Each issue has enough ramifications to be the subject of a post or two. In the meantime, you can watch the session. I am sorry if you do not hear some questions; not everyone had access to a microphone (this happens at unconferences).

+ Click here for more recorded sessions at PodCamp Montreal 2010
+ photo by Montreal Tech Watch

WordCamp Montreal 2010


jerome paradis at wordcamp montreal 2010

The second edition of WordCamp Montreal will happen this weekend at Agora Hydro-Quebec located at UQAM Coeur des Sciences. You get a chance to learn from twenty speakers that will share tips on how to make the best of WordPress.

Media Sidekick’s technical advisor Jerome Paradis is one of the speakers. In case you did not know, Jerome is also my wonderful husband. Jerome will talk about best practices regarding:

  • How to integrate Facebook and Twitter to WordPress comments and login
  • The Facebook Open Graph and what it means for bloggers
  • How, when (and when not) to use shortlinks
  • How to build new relationships through your blog
  • How to track your blog’s influence

Most of his findings are based on on-going experiments that we run on my lifestyle blog At Home with Kim Vallee. Do not miss his session. It’s called “Raise and measure your blog’s influence with Twitter and Facebook”.

The $40 registration fee gives access to 2 days of expert talks, a t-shirt, lunch, and your participation to giveaways for a chance to win Abode products and 2 iPads. Register now!

+ WordCamp Montreal

I'll Talk about Revenue Generating Trends for Bloggers at PodCamp Montreal 2010


podcamp montreal 2010

I founded Media Sidekick because I believe that the future of blog monetization is not in banner ads. Brands and agencies are looking for something else. And influential bloggers can charge more if they can differentiate themselves with added services instead of depending on their number of page views to make money. Over the last two years, I saw many initiatives driven by women, design and lifestyle bloggers.

On September 11th, 2010 at 13:30, I will show you good examples of what is happening right now. This session will explore ethical monetization trends from no nonsense ideas to recent techniques that popped out across Canada and the United States. I invite you to join me. PodCamp Montreal 2010 changed venue this year. It will be held for the first time at the UQAM’s Cœur des sciences located in downtown Montreal.

If you have not registered yet for PodCamp Montreal, you still have time. It costs only $20 to attend. The topics are diverse from Life after journalism by Bruno Guglielminetti (in French) to How an artist and gallery owner makes the most of blogging, Facebook, and Twitter 

+ PodCamp Montreal 2010’s official schedule
+ Register now for PodCamp Montreal

The Art of Pitching to Bloggers


vintage typewriter :: photography by seven deadly sins

As a lifestyle blogger, I receive every day my share of PR pitches. But not many of them reach the right target or provide the information I need to write a story about it. I evaluate that on my blog At Home with Kim Vallee, not even 0.1% of my stories originate from press releases. I would love to hear scoops from many companies that do not pitch to me. And at the same time, I get pitches for products that will never make the cut of my editorial.

Another common mistake is the press release written to please the company who emitted the press release. These press releases are filled with useless facts. They provide no useful information for the bloggers and their readers. They failed to answer three critical questions:

  • What is the captivating story?
  • Why should I would care to write about it?
  • Can the story capture the attention of my audience?

Many bloggers, including top bloggers, share my level of disappointment regarding PR pitches. At first, I thought that it is the nature of blogging that changed the expectations of the recipients. But after further thinking, it became obvious that the blogger’s needs are similar in many points to the needs of journalists and columnists who cover the same topics. Therefore, I am more puzzled than before about this mystery.

Why the PR industry is so inefficient in reaching out and pitching to bloggers fascinates me since the solutions are filled with common sense. Let’s me share my wish list with you. And feel free to add yours in the comments.

  • Include  a few large pictures, the price, where to buy information in your email. Ideally, you would mention that additional pictures are ready to be downloaded from a special Web site. It dilutes your story on the blogosphere, through a sense of déjà vu, when every blogger use the same pictures.
  • Be prepared to offer to a few bloggers exclusive pictures, content or an interview with the designer.
  • Forget the one-to-many approach and write tailored pitches that will fit selected groups of bloggers. Then, send the press release version that fits their niche.
  • Go with a top-notch email marketing services. And always give the option to remove their name from your mailing lists. The longer period acceptable for the removal to take effect is 24 hours. Ideally, it should be immediately.
  • Aim for quality versus quantity. Forget buying cheap email lists to target bloggers. Let go the mass press releases that seems to have become the norm over the last years.
  • Do not send a press release every week. And if you do, ask for permission first.
  • Bloggers do not have the time to respond to your unsolicited press releases. So do not expect us to respond, unless we need something from you.
  • Accept that bloggers write under their own schedule. Therefore, if you pitch them for a Christmas story in August, do not expect them to write about it before Halloween.

+ photography by seven deadly sins on flickr

How to Add Bookmarklets on Your iPad



I bought an iPad Friday night. I browsed all night exploring Flipboard and reading the digital magazines I subscribed to with Zinio. I loved it! By Sunday night, I was ready to bring back my iPad to the Apple store due to the lack of support for decent bookmarking and sharing tools.

As a curator, I depend a lot on bookmarklets to do my job. A bookmarklet is a one-click functionality that you typically drag to the toolbar of your browser. Good examples are “Shorten with”, or “Bookmark on Delicious”. Sadly, you cannot add bookmarklets to the Safari browser running on your iPhone or iPad.

Like I said, I depend on bookmarklets to easily share must-read articles. I used a custom URL shortener (via Bitly.Pro) to share links. And I bookmark ideas and research materials for future articles on Delicious. These simple tasks done on a computer suddenly become cumbersome to do on an iPad. Therefore, I was ready to give up when my geek husband found me a solution. It is not perfect but it greatly reduces the burden of these tasks on the iPad.

The trick is to create a bookmark and then, to paste the proper Javascript as the URL. I wish to send a HUGE thank to Chris Bray for compiling the different Javascript and sharing his neat trick. So far, Chris shared how to run 16 bookmarkets on your iPad. But frankly, I cannot understand why Apple brings us back to the dark ages by not supporting bookmarklets on the iPad.

+ Adding bookmarklets on iPad by Chris Bray

Women and The 21 to 35 Years Old are the Face of the Blogosphere


sysomos blog demographics study - June 2010

A trend that I predict since 2008 has been validated by Sysomos: women blog more than men, even it is by a tiny margin. And it  is similar to the gender spread in the overall population. I have been advocating that the Web will be populated more and more by women and that fact will change the nature of the Web. The rise in women participation online is due to the advent of social media and a wide access to easy to use publishing tools.

Let’s look at the statistics from an analysis of more than 100 million blog posts done by for a study published June 2010. We can get a better grasp of the current state of the blogosphere by noting that:

  • Bloggers aged between 21 to 35 years old account for 53.3% of the total blogging population
  • 50.9% of bloggers are women
  • Almost 30% of bloggers are from the USA, 6.75% live in UK, 4.9% are in Japan and Canada arrived fifth with 3.9%
  • The study confirmed what I already knew, looking at my regional statistics. California is the US state with most bloggers (14%), followed by New York at 7% and Ontario ranked third (5.6%) before Colorado and Texas.
  • More than half of the tweets come from U.S. Twitter users, while only a third of blog posts are from the USA. Find more data about Twitter demographics around the World (January 2010).

+ Get all the details at Inside Blog Demographics by Sysomos

What Bloggers Should Consider in their Editorial Line


santa monica

Having a clear editorial line will save you time and headaches in determining what is right for your blog. And your content will be more cohesive once you set a clear direction.

As a bonus, doing this exercise can refine or fill holes in your niche since you will need to analyze what you do from different angles. The editorial line has impacts internally and externally. Therefore, it should cover your relationships with all parties. You will need to clearly define:

1. Who is your targeted audience. I put the targeted audience before the topics because your targeted audience will influence the forms of content that you will produce. Otherwise, you will not serve your audience properly.

2. What are the topics that you will cover and which forms your content will take. You must be thorough. Address the philosophy and the big picture, but also name specific topics, talk about the tone and the types of articles that you will produce.

Specify the length of your articles, the format (text, photos, videos), the frequency. If you have writers, what are the approval process for articles. Make sure to give a written copy of your editorial policy to your columnists.

3. How to manage your relationships with marketers and PR professionals. Do you accept samples or to attend events? Which samples will you accept? Do you always write about the samples you received or do you write only about the ones you like? Etc…

You should publish your policies regarding samples and invitations on your blog. This way, your readers and marketers are aware of how you work.

4. How to deal with advertisers. What is acceptable to you, and your readers? How do you protect your editorial from advertising? What form of advertisements are you looking for? How many ads per page will not undervalue your content? Do you accept contests and giveaways? Etc..

5. How do you fit Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare into the mix. Which content do you tweet or put on your Facebook page? What complementary content will you share? Under which circumstances do you tweet about a media event? Etc…

Your challenge will be to set clear and simple rules that are easy to understand and to follow. Then, each time that you write a story, that receive an invitation to a media event, or that you get a pitch, you simply check if they fit within your editorial line to take a decision.

How Restaurants Use Social Media to Boost their Sales


sweet flour bake shop twitter page

On Why Consumers Brands need to be on Twitter, I mentioned that being on Twitter enables the brand who listens and acts quickly to benefit from opportunities, to test on a small scale concepts or promotions, to pinpoint what people really care about and even, to tailor to a new niche.

When done right, running a blog and participating on Twitter and Facebook can do a lot for a business, regardless of their size. Mobile restaurants use Twitter to display their current location. Restaurants often use Twitter to share their daily specials. Some even let consumers order their take-out lunch via direct messaging on Twitter.

But their messages go beyond pushing their products. Take Kim Gans of Sweet Flour, for example. Kim Gans highlights her customers and show that she listened by offering more flavors gathered from customers’ requests. I read on The Hartman Group that before launching their mobile truck, Molly Moon asked their followers on Twitter for suggested routes. Molly Moon wanted to cater to new neighborhoods. Having the input of their loyal consumers helped them to determine the best locations for their business. In a sense, these retail businesses use their blog, Twitter and Facebook as a real-time focus group.

Typically, small business owners have been more successful than most big corporations when it comes to tapping into social media. You can argue that small businesses have an advantage when it comes to social media since they have face to face conversations with their consumers at their shop. Small businesses seem better equipped to connect online. You can attribute their success to:

  • First, small business owners are less afraid to be actively involved in social media.
  • Secondly, they are authentic in their conversations. Using plain language does not mean that you are not professional.
  • Third, a restaurant, bakery or caterer is more agile to implement the customers’ requests that they feel are right for their business. By doing so, they could build a more loyal customer base. Plus, if his/her suggested flavor is selected, the customer will probably spread the word.
  • Fourth, as a local business, they can take advantage of what is going on in their community. They use that knowledge on what is going on now to drive customers in on a timely manner.
  • Fifth, they often speak from the heart and show their passion.

Make sure to keep track of meaningful metrics. This is how you can assess the success of your social media presence over time. Link the metrics to achievable business goals. It may be evaluating the impacts on your brand’s awareness, your customer’s satisfaction, your progress in developing a new niche market, the effectiveness of your marketing message, and how does social media affects your bottom line.

I invite you to follow Media Sidekick on Twitter as I will share more best practices and good ways to use social media marketing.

+ Trend Alert: Street Food Gets Real on The Hatman Group blog
+ Sweeten sales with social media tools on The Financial Post
+ Discover how a subscription-based email marketing service filled a restaurant by reading Savings on menu of email campaign on The Financial Post

Niche Bloggers are Coaching Other Bloggers and Brands


grace bonney of design*sponge :: holly becker of decor8 :: liene stevens of think splendid

Successful bloggers accumulated a sought-after knowledge of social media. As a consultant, I advised big organizations about social media culture and worked on defining a good strategy for them.

More and more bloggers are capitalizing on their know-how. Design*Sponge is the latest design blogger who jumped into blog and business consulting services. Over the last couple of years, I have seen my share of lifestyle designers who launched training programs for like-minded bloggers. Here are a few good examples:

+ Holly Becker of Decor8 coached over 200 bloggers worldwide with her blogging and creativity workshop. Her Blogging Your Way e-courses aim to take to bloggers with some experience to the next level.

+ Blog Out Loud organizes social media events for inspiring creative people. Their sixth event was last Monday in New York City; read the recap of Blog Out Loud 6 here. Blog Out Loud is the idea of seasoned design bloggers, Megan Arquette of Beach Bungalow 8 and Rebecca Orlov of Loving.Living.Small. In April 2010, Rebecca launched Sweetline Agency, an online brand project management company that works with lifestyle companies to define, shape and build their online presences.

+ There is Liene Stevens who founded Think Splendid to provide social media consulting for the wedding and hospitality event industries. Her journey started with the Blue Orchid blog, the blog of her wedding planning company. She realized that the creative people that she was working with could get more insight in how to run a business and with marketing. To do her part, Liene launched the Smart Planner blog, which she then turns into blogging and social workshops for wedding professionals.

Each blogging sphere has its particularities. The same way that mass-advertising differs from niche marketing, it is important to know the general blogging rules but also to understand the specifics of your niche market.

Site Tracking is Now Free at comScore


comScore reports for publishers

Even if that news is a few weeks old, I want to make sure that you did not miss it. The reason is that it is a good news for serious bloggers and for media planners. Before this announcement, small publishers did not install the tagging system of comScore due to their excessive costs.

Typically, small publishers who sell direct can only afford to supply Google Analytics data or data from concurrents of comScore who were already offering free measurement reports. Some may argue that not having comScore data further put at a disadvantage small publishers who want to attract big advertisers since big publishers typically supply that data. I cannot tell you the validity of this assumption but one thing is sure: this news could level a level field of measurement.  I would need to get access to my comScore before I can tell you if it adds value for me, as a blogger.

How it works?

Tagging your pages enables comScore to compute a more accurate reading of your traffic. This is why it is a good news that comScore announced at TechCrunch’s Disrupt conference in New York City that it will provide for free tagging to all sites. comScore tagging means you put a code in each page of your site to track your traffic. Plus, start ups with less than 1 million unique visitors per month will get access to basic reporting features.

The free tagging program is in beta in the US right now.  It will launch globally this summer. The tagging setup cost used to be $5000, which is too much for most SMB and bloggers.

I read a good analysis of this news on eConsultancy.