'True Blood' drive arranged by Gawker

Media company will create content for BloodCopy

NEW YORK -- HBO is hoping to drum up attention for "True Blood" through a partnership with Gawker Media that will see the media company take over content creation for the "Blood" blog, BloodCopy, and run posts across its network of sites.

Gawker on Wednesday began posting blog updates written from the point of view of a man who has become a vampire. The posts at BloodCopy.com will be syndicated to Gawker sites, including gaming site Kotaku, auto blog Jalopnik and gadgets site Gizmodo.

HBO outsourced the writing to Gawker, which has contracted with contributors to produce the site in an arrangement akin to magazine advertorial and custom publishing.

The approach isn't entirely new to Gawker. In 2004, it worked with Nike to produce the Art of Speed, a blog with artists' renderings of their conceptions of speed. What's changed five years later is the syndication option, which will bring the advertorial content directly to readers rather than require them to visit a separate site.

The BloodCopy writers will match posts to distinct Gawker audiences -- for instance, writing from a tech angle for a post that would go to Gizmodo.

In a market where ad impressions are cheap and plentiful, publishers need to bring new ways of connecting with their audiences to succeed, said Chris Batty, vp sales at Gawker Media.

Advertisers "think there's a lot more opportunity from the Web than the standardized offerings," he said. "With the pressure everyone is under, let's break some business rules and create some value."

It is the latest in a series of moves by advertisers to weave their own content more closely with editorial. That means bringing bloggers to screenings, on trips or distributing free products with the expectation of coverage. Companies like Izea have pioneered the use of "sponsored conversations," where advertisers pay content creators in return for posts. Federated Media has used its blog network to create original content sites for such marketers as American Express and Microsoft.

The BloodCopy deal was arranged through HBO creative shop Campfire and media shop Deep Focus.

"It's much more powerful than skinning Gawker for a day," Campfire partner Jeremiah Rosen said. "We're breaking down some wall that's always existed between editorial and advertising."

The Gawker-HBO arrangement drew consternation from some fronts as a further blurring of the line between advertising and editorial. An e-mail invite to a HBO-Gawker party Thursday gave the impression Gawker had acquired the blog, saying it would "officially be under the Gawker Media umbrella." In a post Tuesday, Gawker's Gabriel Snyder addressed the controversy by saying advertising and editorial must be kept separate, and "clearly that wasn't the case here."

The initial post on Gawker has drawn 46 comments, many criticizing the program. "I would say that sound you just heard was the sound of Gawker jumping the shark, but let's face it, that happened a while ago," said commenter cyncgrl. "This is just beating the shark to a pulp."

Such concerns are overblown, Batty said, since the BloodCopy posts on Gawker sites are clearly labeled as advertising, linking over to the BloodCopy blog, and writers from Gawker blogs aren't producing the content. The most apt comparison, he said, is to custom publishing, when a magazine lends its rack space to stand-alone content from advertisers.

"Everyone's opinion is welcome," Batty said. "They're not weighed equally."
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