Something odd caught our eye on Kuro5hin recently. Looking at an otherwise innocuous text ad, we noticed that there were 131 posts. While, this level of activity would not be unusual for the proactive K5 community to produce around a story, it seems surprising for small text ad about collocated hosting to garner so much attention.
We knew that Kuro5hin’s founder, Rusty Foster, had debated long and hard with the K5 community to come up with and advertising model that was appropriate and effective. The solution was a simple text ad not unlike to Google’s AdWords. The important difference is that K5’s ads allow community members to comment freely about the advertiser.
We were curious about how this form of advertising was working differently than the traditional online advertising methods. Rusty and the advertiser, John Kozubik, kindly offered to share their experience.
Q: How has the community and advertisers responded to the new ads? Is it a model that works for everyone or do certain advertisers understand it much better than others?
John: “We have gotten a very good response from our K5 ad. However, I think this is due to the K5 community and not the text ad itself. We have tried other text ads on other highly trafficked sites (Metafilter, etc.) and have gotten almost no response.”
Rusty: “It definitely is better understood by some advertisers than others. The idea behind ad comments is two-fold. First, for the advertiser, the benefit is that potential customers can meet you on “neutral ground,” ask questions and get more information in a place they’re already comfortable. It gives advertisers a space they can use to tailor their message to individuals, rather than keeping them at the kind of impersonal distance that a banner ad can create.
“And for the users, the benefit is that they can see what others have said abut the product, whether that’s good or bad, and how the advertiser has dealt with other people. A key feature of this is that ad discussions operate according to K5’s normal discussion rules — comments can be rated by everyone, and aren’t subject to the desires of the advertiser.
“This is where we’ve run into problems. To be fair, the page where you choose whether to allow comments or not is not nearly clear enough that you (the advertiser) don’t get any special say over what people post there. Some people are used to the idea that if they pay for something, they get to control it. What they don’t realize (and we don’t make clear enough) is that they’re not paying for the comment space. They’re only paying for the ad. Ads with comments don’t cost more than ads without comments. So the advertiser does not get to remove negative comments, or comments they don’t like, or what have you.
“Some people have a problem with this, and we’ve lost a few advertisers because of it. My take is that if people post negative comments, you can gain more goodwill by responding to them openly and making a persuasive case in your favor. After all, I think the real test of a business is how they behave when things go wrong. This is a rare opportunity to show prospective customers that they can trust you, because you’re willing to admit to mistakes (if you made them) and go to any length necessary to fix them. If you use it right, it can be an incredible marketing tool.
“Not everyone grasps that, though. I hope that we see more of this in the future, and the idea that actually talking openly with your customers is a good busness policy gains more general recognition.”
Markets are conversations, indeed.