Today Gawker launches Art of Speed, a contract publishing blog in cooperation with Nike. Nike's Art of Speed project is composed of 15 short films made by up-and-coming filmmakers and artists, commissioned and selected by Nike. The website will run for a month, exploring the films, their creators, and the state of contemporary filmmaking and its technology.
Gawker has produced an Art of Speed weblog, consisting of items about the films, their makers, and digital filmmaking in general. The microsite is at www.gawker.com/artofspeed. It's a month-long temporary weblog, written by Remy Stern of newyorkish.com, and designed by Patric King of House of Pretty.
The Art of Speed weblog is a microsite, within Gawker.com. To distinguish it from the editorial content, we've borrowed a term from the magazine world: the microsite is labelled special advertising section.
In addition to microsites, Gawker Media's contract publishing service will also build standalone sites. For the moment, however, these services are only offered to significant advertisers on the Gawker flagship titles. Contract weblogs are best suited to campaigns for movies, books, magazines, consumer electronics platforms and computer games.
Gawker Media's service is analogous to the contract publishing operations of magazine groups such as Conde Nast. They create and produce inserts — special advertising sections — which run within the magazines. Some also develop entire magazines on behalf of advertisers.
For appropriate clients, Gawker Media will...
conceive a weblog campaign
provide editorial talent and oversight
create a co-branded page within one of the Gawker sites
design and build a standalone blog
promote the campaign weblog on Gawker sites
promote the campaign weblog on other weblogs
syndicate out the campaign blog content to news reader applications
distill and spotlight weblog buzz on the campaign
Some people will question the use of the weblog format in marketing. There is no straightforward answer. Contract publishing, online or offline, can be done well, or badly. It depends on the subject matter, and the tone. Dr Pepper/Seven Up seemed cynical in its exploitation of the weblog format when it launched ragingcow.com, a site devoted to a new milk drink. However, a smart approach to an appropriate topic can work. Witness, Macromedia's product weblogs, or Jason Kottke's weblog campaign around the release of Adaptation, the movie.
In principle, campaign weblogs allow a marketer to participate in the weblog conversation, rather than observe it as a passive sponsor. Now we'll just have to see whether they work. Interested advertisers should send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.