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CMP program puts tech ads in context

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CMP Media L.L.C. last month unveiled Focal Points, a new advertising program for its TechWeb network of Web sites. The program gives advertisers a way to more narrowly target technology buyers through contextual advertising.

Contextual advertising, also called content-driven advertising, closely integrates editorial content and advertising by aiming ad messages at users looking for editorial content about specific topics. Web publishers have offered various forms of contextual advertising for years, including exclusive sponsorships of content categories, shared sponsorships of categories and banner ads on specific content areas.

What’s different about Focal Points is the offering of 25 granular technology areas, from anti-virus software to mobile hardware, with exclusive sponsorship opportunities for each.

Customized news

The program, which is priced at roughly $15,000 a month, features a customized news page with an introductory paragraph about the vendor and six CMP news stories about a particular topic. The page includes five links to the vendor’s content, and TechWeb will selectively place two of the vendor’s links on its network, next to relevant content.

"The strength of what they have is the editorial taxonomy," said Gary Stein, an analyst at Jupiter Research, a division of Jupitermedia Corp. "Technology is generally more of a considered purchase, and users want to read information about the product. The more information they get, the closer it moves them to making a purchase."

Michael Grover, director of marketing for TechWeb, said rather than providing custom content for the advertiser, the publisher is contextualizing vendor information by packaging it with CMP-generated news stories for readers who are looking for specific information.

"We put information in a new context for the user," Grover said.

The vendor information is labeled as sponsored content, and the news stories are independently generated from among CMP’s various properties, including InternetWeek.com and InformationWeek. TechWeb also offers advertisers the ability to collect registration information and other data from users in order to generate leads.

One advertiser that has signed up for Focal Points is Cisco Systems Inc., which currently is sponsoring a news page in the voice over Internet protocol category.

"We found with Cisco, and with most of our clients, the more integrated the content and advertising is, the better it does," said Lindsey Rosen, senior media planner at SF Interactive, San Francisco, which handles media for Cisco.

The ultimate goal of the Focal Points campaign is lead generation for a co-branded Internet protocol telephony service from Cisco and Sprint, she said.

Another high-tech publisher that has been offering contextual content for some time is CNet Networks Inc. CNet offers advertisers sponsorship of technology areas, such as computer hardware and software. Unlike TechWeb, CNet offers multiple sponsorships of a category.

"Our categories are really big enough so Dell [Computer Corp.] can’t buy the whole category," said Greg Mason, exec VP-sales and marketing at CNet, pointing to the computer hardware category. "Particularly in technology, advertising is a service. Users want to see multiple advertisers in an area."

CNet typically has three different advertisers in each content area. Mason would not disclose the cost of the sponsorships, but said they typically run from hundreds of thousands of dollars to millions of dollars for contract periods of six months to one year.

Jupiter analyst Stein said there are challenges for both models. With exclusive sponsorships, "[the publisher] needs to be a little wary of making it appear to be a pure advertorial, brought to you by one company," he said. With shared sponsorships, "if there are 10 different companies with anti-virus solutions [that want to sponsor the anti-virus category], it can become overloaded."

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