Marqui could re-define marketing and PR

I spent a very interesting 30 minutes last night listening to a Geek News Central podcast recorded on Tuesday – an interview with Stephen King, the CEO of Marqui, the company who’s paying $800 a month to certain bloggers to write about their product.

When I first wrote about Marqui’s pay-the-bloggers programme last month, I must admit to certain skepticism (if not some cynicism) as to everyone’s motives, my thinking being greatly influenced by the concern that people might blog away without disclosing their interest, or only say nice things because they’re being paid. Well, I’ve seen none of that at all – every blogger in Marqui’s list of paid bloggers clearly identifies his or her affiliation on their blog. And they do say what they like: I’ve seen some posts that are critical of Marqui’s product.

But that focus of mine (and of some other bloggers, too) wholly missed the point of what Marqui is really doing – turning upside down the traditional concepts of marketing and public relations.

In his telephone interview with Todd Cochrane at Geek News Central (who is a paid Marqui blogger, which he clearly states up front in the podcast), Stephen King talks about his background (he’s a Brit, if you’re interested in knowing that), how he came to be involved with Marqui, and talks about Marqui’s product, typical uses for it, who the target customers are, etc.

King talks at length about the pay-the-bloggers programme – what the goals are and why his company decided to do this – and outlines some of the benefits he says that have already resulted from bloggers writing about Marqui and its product. For instance, he says Marqui’s Google search results jumped from about 20,000 to over 170,000 in just a couple of weeks. (My Google search on ‘marqui’ just now produced 138,000 references, which includes loads of posts commenting on the pay-the-bloggers deal.)

What’s interesting about Marqui’s programme is that it is open, highly transparent and viral: no marketing or PR agencies involved, King said, just straight to the people who will road-test the product – as software developers do – and write about it themselves in their blogs. Some of these bloggers are major influencers in North America with their views and opinions heard by other influencers (some media for instance) who will also comment.

Does this really represent a new way of marketing and PR, perhaps even new ways of software development and evaluation?

I believe it does. What’s more, I think Marqui’s approach will soon be emulated by others. I’m not talking about the monoliths like Microsoft or Oracle or IBM (just to state a couple of well-known names), more likely smaller companies, those who are nimble and can make quick decisions, and who are willing to try new ways of doing things with all the big risks and high potential rewards that go with that approach.

Another thing, too. Listening to the podcast brought home to me what a powerful communication tool a podcast is. In the case of this one, it’s the equivalent of listening to a normal radio phone-in interview – except I got it automatically via my RSS feed in Feed Demon which automatically downloaded it onto my PC ready for listening at my convenience. If I had an iPod or other digital player (I still don’t!), I would have used ipodder to have the podcast automatically downloaded and sync’d to my iPod ready to go.

This is the near future but right now.

Download the podcast – Geek News Central Podcast Special Edition 2005-1-4 (MP3, 12.4Mb)

6 thoughts on “Marqui could re-define marketing and PR

  1. Hi Neville,
    Yes, that to me is what makes this such an interesting experiment. I never really understood why there was such skepticism at first, or outright hostility even to the idea. Did nobody really believe Marqui was giving up control over “their” message? Did everybody believe that getting paid to blog was suspect in any shape or form?
    As I understood it from Marc Canter, bloggers stating their connection for instance has always been part of the deal, what’s more Marqui apparantly made it obligatory to do so.
    Giving up control, or at least the fantasy of being able to fully control the message, is something that Marqui is experimenting with, and a lot of other companies (especially SME’s) are starting to think about. Not in the least as the result of the DM backlash I think.
    I am very curious how this first experiment will develop. And I sure hope we are going to see a lot more of similar activities. To me this is not the corporate world commercialising the ideal safe haven Blogosphere, but bloggers, skilled in having meaningfull conversations, bringing that mentalitiy into the corporate world.
    This experiment will hopefully break down the too common belief that money is only to be made along intransparant and almost dishonest ways. If we can have meaningfull conversations, and make a buck doing that in the open, that would do a lot of good to the corporate world, not only image wise, but mentality wise as well. And you and I with a leg in both have not only opportunity here but responsibility as well I think.
    And no, I am not a Marqui blogger 😉

  2. Neville: I was just reading in Lee Lefever’s blog Common Craft that Microsoft was iinvolved in an experiment with a new watch/information reader for which they are providing the wireless content. Everyone in a business admin. class gets a watch, and as part of their school assignment has to set up a blog and write about the watch on it. MS doesn’t manufacturer the actual watches, but they provide a fee for service news feed that shows up on the watch face. And I guess the bloggers can be as complimentary or critical as they want. I’m not sure about the ethics of making blogs about new products a required assignment, but it’s interesting nonetheless.

  3. That’s a good analysis, Ton.
    In the podcast interview with Stephen King, he also talks about what deals like Marqui’s means to PR and marketing agencies. Like blogging for some in the PR community, it will scare many of them as they will need to re-define their approaches.
    Indeed, if I were running a traditional PR agency with clients in the tech industry, I’d be rapidly differentiating myself from the crowd, analyzing what I need to change in my business model and in how I currently operate, and looking at what I need to do to work in new and interesting ways with companies like Marqui.
    It’s all about change.

  4. Eric, thanks for that link.
    Very interesting. It’s always easy to bash Microsoft (and plenty of people do all the time) as the big staid monolith. Yet they are amongst the most innovative companies on the planet, in what they make and how they go about so many things.
    Lee’s article is a great example of a great approach to participatory communication.
    Lee’s comment is equally interesting re the suggestion to students to use Blogger for their blogs!

  5. Marqui “Pay Bloggers to Blog” update

    Mamma is musing about it, Robin Good is bitching about it and Geek News has a recording of it. Folks are earning their money in the Marqui blogging program. And people are reacting – as well. When they have something to say – they say it. When they lik…

  6. Marqui “Pay Bloggers to Blog” update

    Mamma is musing about it, Robin Good is bitching about it and Geek News has a recording of it. Folks are earning their money in the Marqui blogging program. And people are reacting – as well. When they have something to say – they say it. When they lik…

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