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Publishers increasingly see blogs as ad revenue opportunity

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Bob Carrigan, president-CEO of IDG Communications, wants to know why most b-to-b publishers with legacy print products have failed to develop their own online advertising networks around blogs in their industries. IDG has now operated its own IDG TechNetwork for two years. The network aggregates technology-oriented bloggers and then sells ad space on their sites; it produces about 2 billion impressions a month. In fiscal year 2010, ended Sept. 30, the network saw a 19-fold increase in revenue over its previous fiscal year. Carrigan is baffled as to why other b-to-b publishers haven't taken the same approach. “Most of the companies in a particular category have conceded the vertical ad network space to Internet startup or pure-play [companies],” he said. He did note that Hachette Filipacchi acquired Jumpstart Automotive Media, a network of automotive blogs and websites. Other media companies may be following suit. Late last month, the Economist Group, publisher of The Economist, unveiled a new online advertising network called Ideas People Channel. It debuted with about 30 sites, including blogs such as Daily Kos and Wonkette. Among the other websites in the ad network are those of the Christian Science Monitor, Chronicle of Higher Education, Mother Jones, The Nation, New Republic, Roll Call and Talking Points Memo. The first advertiser to use Ideas People Channel was IE Business School, based in Madrid. While business publishers as a whole haven't embraced building online ad networks around industry blogs, they are experimenting with other ways to generate revenue from bloggers. For example, Forbes.com is pioneering an innovative, if straightforward, way to generate revenue from blogs: It's going to charge bloggers as part of its new AdVoices program, which is expected to officially debut later this year, Forbes.com hopes to sign five to 10 corporations a quarter to post blog entries on the site. “This isn't advertising,” said Kevin Gentzel, chief revenue officer at Forbes. “This is storytelling. This is thought leadership. This is deeply engaging the user or the reader in a different way.” Gentzel said content marketing is a fact of life that magazine brands must accommodate. “We can either run from that or embrace it and run to it,” he said. Other companies are taking different approaches to blogging. Bloomberg Businessweek, for example, has its own staffers blog on the Businessweek.com website. AdvisorOne.com, a new financial industry portal from Summit Business Media, mixes the company's own editorial content with newswire copy and prominent industry bloggers. NetShelter has built its entire business model around independent bloggers. The company is a network of about 200 bloggers who share in ad revenue. The model seems to be working: NetShelter generated 40.6 million unique visitors in the U.S. in August, according to comScore. “Where we started was in 2006 by identifying the independent bloggers who had high credibility for specific topics,” said Peyman Nilforoush, CEO of NetShelter. With the model and the flexibility to create special sites that combine entries from various bloggers and custom content from marketers, NetShelter has attracted such b-to-b advertisers as Microsoft Corp., Sprint and Verizon Communications. IDG's Computerworld, independent from the company's TechNetwork, began incorporating independent bloggers in its Web strategy in 2007, said Scot Finnie, the brand's editor in chief. “Today they account for about 15% to 20% of our page views,” he said. Computerworld pays bloggers by the page view and has many of them covering smartphones and other topics that generate significant traffic.
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