Marcelo Somers: Advertising works when it can scale

On: December 9, 2011
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About Andrian Georgiev
Bulgarian. Worked 4 years as a business technology reporter at Capital Weekly / Graduated from Sofia University in Public Relations in 2010. Interested in product development for the web. Favourites: Mad Men, Breaking Bad, Boardwalk Empire and The Sopranos.


The Syndicate is an ad network of nine prominent web writers, announced just two months ago.

Among them are Khoi Vinh, former design director, Marco Arment, creator of Instapaper, Horace Dediu, mobile computing analyst, and Shawn Blanc, an influential technology blogger. Together they receive more than 1.3 mln. page views per month.

Advertisers can pay on a weekly or daily basis for The Syndicate‘s writers to post about their product or service. It is labeled as sponsored content and published across authors’ blogs and RSS feeds.

The Syndicate stands apart from other ad networks because it sells advertising space right in the content stream of its participating blogs rather than placing graphic ads next to it.

Thus The Syndicate is easier to be maintained from a technical point of view. Also, its writers do not have to rely on CPM advertising, where pageviews are more precious than readers’ loyalty.

Marcelo Somers, business writer and the representative member of The Syndicate, was kind enough to answer a few questions about the network:

What is The Syndicate’s total audience of unique users?
– We reach over 92,000 [RSS] subscribers across all nine sites. They are predominantly designers, entrepreneurs, developers, writers, photographers, and other creative professionals.

Why did you choose to use sponsored posts with The Syndicate and not ads?
– There are already some fantastic graphical ad networks out there, such as Fusion Ads and The Deck. There was a larger problem to be solved in the space of RSS sponsorships. It’s a great medium that lets advertisers reach the most engaged readers in their RSS feeds.

Writers like Shawn Blanc and Ben Brooks were already doing their own sponsorships, but as an advertiser it’s tough to get in touch with so many small publishers to run campaigns. Advertising works when it can scale. The Syndicate lets advertisers still reach a quality audience through good advertising while only having to interact with one person (me) versus eight different writers.

Why would writers prefer to work with The Syndicate and not directly with sponsors?
– It’s *much* easier. Most of the writers don’t do it full time, so they don’t have time to be finding new sponsors, invoicing them, handling payments. etc. This way, the writers get a weekly email with the content for that week and a URL to link to, and a payment. It’s super easy for them, and they can focus on what they do best: writing great content.

How are new writers screened before joining The Syndicate’s network (should they write in English, etc.)?
– Today there are only nine sites. They were all sites that I read and enjoy every day. The authors have a history of putting out great content on a consistent basis, and have been doing it for some time.

As The Syndicate grows in the future, it will be the same standards.

Which are The Syndicate’s competitors among ad networks?
– I don’t really look at this space as “competition” per se. Just like Fusion Ads and Carbon Ads worked together to create a software bundle recently, these are all great mediums for independent software developers to get the message out.

Other people working in this space though would be John Gruber of Daring Fireball, who started this whole RSS Sponsorship thing, and then other mediums like Fusion Ads, The Deck, 5by5 for podcasts, etc.

Are weekly roadblocks sold more often than daily roadblocks?
– We only offer two options: a week-long campaign which is more expensive, and daily roadblocks. Usually advertisers go for the week-long campaign.

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