For a 20-day stretch last month, Pam Horan was on a road show to eight cities, conducting breakfast seminars and panel discussions on the latest trends in online media and marketing.
Horan, the newly named president of the Online Publishers Association, acknowledges that to some extent, she was preaching to the choir, validating business decisions made by an audience that was dominated by online publishers and online agency and client-side executives. But, she said, the findings of the group's recent study of Internet use also should change the behavior of offline advertising agencies and their clients.
The group's study of the Internet habits of 350 people found that the Web takes 20% to 25% of a consumer's media time, making it, according to Horan, a mass media vehicle. Yet the Web only attracts 8% of ad dollars.
The results make for opportunities for online publishers and for Horan, who joined the trade group two years ago as VP-marketing. And her message is clear to those still sitting on the sidelines: Put your marketing dollars here.
"The reality is this is a platform that consumers are making a persistent part of their day," Horan said. "It's not a matter of `is this thing for real?' The numbers are demonstrating that it's the No. 1 medium that people use at work and the No. 2 medium that people use at home.
"There are still a lot of agencies [whose] creative and planning groups are dedicated to broadcast or building print ads. That is something that is going to become much more part of the past."
The association, formed in 2001 by a dozen companies including CBS Marketwatch, CNET Networks, Conde Nast and Salon Media Group, has grown to 46 members; 20 new members have joined in the past 18 months alone. The main requirement for membership is that a company's core business has to be generating original content.
According to Horan, consumer interest and technology advancements are opening up new avenues with which online publishers continue to experiment, with user-generated content, mobile applications and paid-content models chief among them. Members also want to establish better partnerships with advertisers regarding video ads. "There are so many different areas that they're looking at right now," Horan said.
To keep members attuned to consumers' changing tastes, research will continue to be an important focus of the association. Events are growing more popular as well. Horan said she had anticipated a turnout of 200 executives at a first-time global conference in March in London; the association cut off registration at 275 people. Higher attendance is expected next year.
Horan has served as the association's interim president since January, when Michael Zimbalist left the organization to become a VP at New York Times Co., and she was promoted in June. While the association is based in New York, she works from a home office in the San Francisco Bay area.
Before joining the association, Horan was VP-marketing at Zinio Systems, a digital magazine publishing system operator.