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This Conversation Brought to You By Six Apart



(Not really, of course.)

Six Apart, owners of the blog-hosting service TypePad, have found a new way to monetize blogs: advertising. Okay, so that’s not new, and neither is the basic concept of sponsored conversations, but the execution this time is a little different.

We’ve seen sponsored blog posts for reviews and pay-per-post models—and we’ve seen them done badly, too. Paid reviews often ended up sounding like (surprise) ads, with or without disclosure. Six Apart’s new TypePad Conversations seeks to avoid that problem—by not having bloggers actually talk about the products.

With the inaugural advertiser, Sprint, Six Apart is rolling out a few different forms of advertising. The first is the TypePad Conversations site. Right now, they have six questions up for discussion. You can answer the question on its page on the Conversations site, or from your blog (they pull your answer and put it on the Conversation page, too—with a real live link). The Conversations site features a leaderboard ad at the top of the page and a large square ad in the right corner.

Several partners also get to feature what’s essentially a large ad for the conversation (with a large square ad for Sprint) on their site—the first example I found was actually after an article about Sandra Bullock on limelife (the answer directly below the question appears to be the blogger’s):

Other partners are featuring the discussion on the front page. TechCrunch reports this unit is called the “Awesome Bar,” though obviously it’s not really either of those things. Bloggers get a share of revenue from the ad, though it appears it’s not on the basis of how many comments they generate for the conversation. The comments featured scroll through the whole discussion, and comments posted from the Awesome Bar are aggregated on the Conversations site as well.

Interestingly, the conversations aren’t all directly related to Sprint products and services—some of them not related at all:

  • Is technology making us better or worse at communicating with each other? How so?
  • What’s the best parenting advice you’ve ever received?
  • Have you ever wanted anything from an informercial? What was it and did you buy it?
  • Do your kids respond better and faster when you text or call them?
  • If you could connect up to 5 devices at a time using just your mobile phone, how would that change how and when you access the internet?
  • Do you want a 3D TV? Why or why not? And will you ever get one?

The about page says the questions are written by the Conversations editorial team.

The regular, everyday respondents (whether on their blogs or on the Conversations site) don’t appear to be getting a cut in the advertising, or the “Awesome Bar.” According to the about page on the Conversations site:

The biggest benefit of TypePad Conversations is that it allows bloggers to engage their readers about relevant topics. One of the best parts of blogging is getting comments from your audience; TypePad Conversations is a simple way to start a dialogue and hear from your readers. In addition, you are participating in a conversation that is happening across the Web and, as a result, will see an increase in traffic to your site.

I guess that’s not a bad benefit, especially since you don’t have to carry a space-sucking-probably-not-much-revenue-generating ad.

What do you think? Is this good enough for the average blogger to want to participate in the conversation?