The Huffington Post is treading into dangerous waters.
The company, as part of a plan to double revenue next year, is allowing marketers the ability to inject their own paid comments among those from users. It will also place paid Tweets in live Twitter feeds.
This is interesting at two levels.
First, this is an important acknowledgement that the comments section of article pages is a prime spot where impressions are served — despite being beneath “the fold.” (Thought: Perhaps it’s time to serve up some comments to the top right corner of article pages.)
Second, HuffPo is taking a big risk by playing Twitter as a one-way conversation. Advertisers will be put in a position where they will have to come up with brilliant ways to add value to the dialogue in the Twitter stream (those Web 1.0 days are long gone). Or it could backfire.
Ultimately, smart advertisers will be asking if they want to be associated and intertwined with a deluge of comments — good and bad — and how they will adjust their message to follow. The key will be for marketers to avoid unnecessary interruptions in comment streams to hawk their products, but to be genuinely interested in the ongoing conversations. Only then can you add value.