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November 13, 2007

Online Advertising Leaps Forward : IZEA™ Unveils SocialSpark™

Disruptive New Social Marketing Network Connects Advertisers and Bloggers in New Ways; Community, Transparency, Openness and Measurability Drive Development

ORLANDO, FL - (November 12, 2007) - Social media pioneer IZEA, Inc. today announced SocialSpark™, a new property within its social media centric portfolio that revolutionizes the way advertisers can engage with bloggers and their social graph. SocialSpark represents the world's first Social Marketing Network, combining the attributes of a modern social network with a next generation online advertising platform, targeted at a community of bloggers and other content creators.

"SocialSpark is a quantum leap forward for IZEA and the over 85,000 bloggers and 11,000 advertisers we already serve," said Ted Murphy, CEO of IZEA. "We have taken our highly successful PayPerPost model and flipped it inside out, creating a completely new model for social media advertising that extends beyond sponsored posts and opens up a wealth of new opportunities. In many ways we are disrupting our own disruptor."

The SocialSpark platform was unveiled today by IZEA executives at PostieCon, the company's first annual user conference held in Las Vegas. Currently in private alpha, SocialSpark will launch publicly in January, 2008 and reside at www.socialspark.com.

A Social Network for Advertisers
In SocialSpark, advertisers and bloggers are encouraged to create free online public profiles to represent and promote themselves. Users visiting the site are able to browse the public profiles of advertisers and bloggers along with their associated sponsorship and blog related data. Registered users can interact with the profiles and people behind them, creating networks of friends, rating them, leaving comments and sending individual messages. SocialSpark provides registered advertisers with tools that enable them to quickly and easily identify, organize and interact with brand advocates that can act as online street teams.

"We have created a social network that not only is free for advertisers to join, but also encourages advertisers to reach out to our community and build a network of people to help promote their brand," said Murphy. "It's the first social network that is designed from the ground up to be advertiser-centric, while preserving the free, managed flow of user information common within other networks."

Industry Leading Standards in Word of Mouth Marketing
Like PayPerPost, IZEA's groundbreaking sponsored blog post marketplace, bloggers using SocialSpark can choose to monetize their blogs by creating sponsored blog posts. Disclosure of financial relationships is required by all participants in IZEA owned properties; however, SocialSpark will serve as a proving ground for an unprecedented level of disclosure and transparency to better balance reader, publisher, and advertiser interests. Bloggers creating sponsored posts in SocialSpark will be required to utilize "in-post" disclosure via IZEA's graphical Disclosure Badge™.

“To date, we have let the market determine how to best balance the interests of advertisers, publishers, and readers,” said Murphy. “While several approaches and opinions have surfaced, none of the blogger, advertiser, or user communities/associations have been able to set a clear and uniform standard that will help our industry grow and improve as a whole. As a leader in this space, we are taking steps that help preserve the integrity of the content that our market depends on, while increasing the transparency and value sought by advertisers and the public. We hope that others will join us in this pursuit.”

Blog Sponsorship
In addition to sponsored posts, SocialSpark has created a viable alternative to traditional online display ads designed to provide a higher return on investment for both advertisers and bloggers. The revolutionary new form of advertising allows marketers to set a price range they are willing to pay to sponsor a blog via an interactive ad unit called a Blog Welcome™. The new unit welcomes a user when they visit a blog and then collapses into a small persistent sponsorship bar that remains at the bottom of a browser. The ad unit is served as an overlay on top of the blog and doesn't require a blogger to give up any real estate on the blog itself. The system matches bloggers and advertisers based on mutual consent, providing choice and brand protection for both parties.

“We now have an advertising option that extends beyond sponsored posts,” stated Murphy. ”This will open up new opportunities for our existing users as well as other bloggers and advertisers who are not interested in created sponsored content.”

Measuring Social Marketing Performance
A core feature of the SocialSpark platform is the emphasis it places on measurable performance within social media. “Our development mantra has been track everything,” stated Peter Wright, VP of Software Development at IZEA. “Our goal is to provide advertisers and bloggers with the most relevant data possible in order to make informed decisions.”

Analytics tools installed on a blogger's blog allow SocialSpark to provide traffic data on the blog's public profile. Advertisers are provided with a complete picture of a blog’s influence including visits and page views, along with other demographic information such as aggregate gender, age, location, interest and other visitor information. That data allows advertisers to build their street teams based on the audience of the blogger. Once a campaign is launched, advertisers can monitor CPC and CPM as well as gauge brand awareness and campaign impact across the blogosphere.

Open Platform
SocialSpark will provide open APIs that allow information to flow into and out of the platform. Third party developers will be invited to utilize the APIs to extend the SocialSpark user experience. SocialSpark will also adopt Google's recently announced Open Social platform to augment user profiles and distribute native SocialSpark profile data to other networks.

“IZEA is once again breaking new ground in the advertising space,” said Sean Jackson, President of the Dallas Advertising League and current customer of IZEA. “I believe that this represents a paradigm shift in our space and I can't wait until the public release.”

Advertisiers and Bloggers interested in using the platform can signup for a public launch announcement at SocialSpark.com.

About IZEA:
IZEA is a next-generation social media marketing company. Comprised of properties including SocialSpark, PayPerPost, Zookoda, Bloggers Choice Awards and RockStartup, IZEA aims to empower everyone to value and exchange content, creativity and influence. IZEA’s current flagship product is SocialSpark, the world's first Social Advertising Network. IZEA is venture funded by Inflexion Partners, Village Ventures, Draper Fisher Jurvetson and DFJ Gotham Ventures. Advertisers, consumer content creators and partners are encouraged to join the social media revolution at www.izea.com.

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Jenni Perera
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