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Education Blogs and the School Improvement Market

Alexander Russo has moved his provocative, impertinent and substantive blog, This Week in Education (TWIE), from edweek.org, back to its freestanding mode.

But this time it's sponsored by Scholastic Administrator, a unit of the publicly traded k-12 firm Scholastic, Inc.

There are plenty of blogs about k-12: sites maintained by individuals with an urge to write, every eduwonk outfit and trade publication in the country, most interest groups, and quite a few education reporters. There are a few independent bloggers sponsored by education media - edbidbuzz.com here on edweek.org is an example.

Many blogs have an indirect relationship with advertisers through intermediaries like Yahoo. What Russo has done, in effect, is to launch what I think is the first independent commercial blogsites sponsored by a direct relationship with one advertiser. (His Chicago schools blog, District 299, is hosted by Catalyst) Think of the Golden Age of radio - Rogers Silver brought you Ozzie and Harriet, Johnson Wax sponsored Fibber McGee and Molly, Jell-O backed Jack Benny.

No k-12 blogger is willing to tell you how much her or she is paid by a sponsor or the basis on which payments are calculated. In most cases, disclosure is prohibited by contract. My guess is that no one in k-12 is making a living off internet income - yet.

Two more interesting questions:

Advertisers' motivation. My explanation is pretty simple. Demography is destiny. Over the next several years a teaching force that got its information via paper media is being replaced with one that relies far more on the internet. Buying into a blog like TWIE is cheap. If it takes off, the investment will have a disproportionate payoff.

Bloggers integrity. Old Time radio stars didn't worry too much about working sponsors' products into their skits. Industry bloggers will have to balance continuation of their income stream and the perception of bias inherent in a sponsorship arrangement. Scholastic covers a lot of territory in the k-12 market - will Russo turn his scathing wit on Scholastic, say only good things, or say nothing at all?

K-12 trade print publications have tended towards the second two. I expect the same from their blogs. (Uncompensated) unaligned bloggers' value-add/competitive advantage has been adopting the independent strategy. As the first professional k-12 blogger to choose free agency in our market, Russo has a special responsibility to stay on the straight and narrow.

What's that phrase Russo uses when he acknowledges a career move? "Congratulations, condolences, etc...."

In the interest of full disclosure, Scholastic Inc. is a client my firm's $1500/year K-12Leads and Service Youth Markets RFP reporting service.


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