So why did the Washington Post (NYSE: WPO) shut down its 16-month blog ad network last week? A PR rep would only say that the company was focusing on “doing a lot of innovative things with advertisers right now, even though the Blogroll program has officially ended.”
Blogroll’s closing came the week before Forbes said it would start a financial blog ad network this spring, while *ESPN* chose to end its participation in an ad network with Specific Media and other unidentified ad nets. WaPo’s move provides more ammunition for those who say that ad nets’ ability to boost revenues by automating the sale of unsold inventory has not only been overblown, but comes at a cost of diminished brand value.
In a Mar. 13 Blogroll post, Jeff Burkett, director of Ad Innovations and Client Services for WPNI, said the company would stop taking on new members. For the time being, though, Blogroll, which was powered by ad network vendor Adify, would still support its current blog partners with ads on their respective sites and on WaPo’s homepage. Burkett did not say how long this arrangement would continue, though he held out hope that the company might work with the blogs again. Since January, Blogroll had added 30-plus new members.
— Update: In an interview, Joelle Kaufman, Adify’s VP of marketing, stressed that Blogroll is still active for current members, though it is not accepting any new ones, saying that WaPo’s wants to focus on “other strategic sales initiatives this year.” Another source I spoke to, who didn’t want to be identified, said that WaPo was dissatisfied with the costs involved, versus the revenues it was bringing in from Blogroll. Kaufman said the issue of costs are unlikely: “Our costs are 100 percent variable and scale up and down with revenue. So, if there were no ads sold on Blogroll, and consequently no revenue from Blogroll, there are no costs for Blogroll