It's a predictable routine: Write about Glam Media, Samir Arora's dangerously bubbly online-advertising startup, and get bombarded by comments from website operators for whom Glam sells ads. The latest victim: Saul Hansell of the New York Times, who dared to point out that most of Glam's traffic comes not from the kind of high-quality, editorially driven websites his salespeople promise to advertisers, but from horoscopes, social networks, and gaming sites. Two Glam publishers promptly weighed in. It almost makes one wonder if, like a political campaign, Arora gins up faux grassroots complaints. (Valleywag has attracted its own reliable Glam commenter, AretinaAegeus.) Like a well-done Astroturfing, as the process is known in politics, the comments seem genuine enough — original wording, no cutting-and-pasting of talking points. But the process may backfire on Arora. Goaded by the commenters, Hansell updated his piece with a more concise — and damning — explanation of why Glam may be scamming its advertisers:
Glam has always described itself as an amalgamation of very focused sites. What I’m noting in this post is that the vast bulk of the users it is boasting about through ComScore come from games, social networks, personal publishing platforms and shopping bots. There’s nothing wrong with any of those sites, they simply are not what Glam has said its business is about. And I’m not entirely sure that ads on them deserve the premium price Glam hopes to charge.
I've noted an interesting new development in the comments from Glam publishers: They now argue that, in a stormy advertising market, Glam's guaranteed payments are a safe haven. But the guarantees are only as solid as Glam's business. We're told the company is no longer offering them to all new publishers, and is desperately trying to renegotiate existing publisher contracts to get out of its guarantees. No surprise there: An insider says the company's revenues are running at almost half what it projected for investors. If Hansell really wanted to dig into Glam, he'd find out what those numbers are. Glam's vociferous commenters may well prompt him to do that.