NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Joanne Bradford, the newly minted chief revenue officer for Demand Media, seems to be drawn to seemingly insurmountable challenges. In her previous role as head of U.S. advertising sales for Yahoo (which she left in March of this year), she was tasked with re-vamping the ailing portal's display business. Now, at Demand, she's striving to increase sponsorship dollars for a closely watched startup that is often seen as a risible attempt at journalism, a "content factory" churning out articles and video made to turn up in generic search results.
Ms. Bradford talked to Ad Age about her new role and her focus on re-shaping the Demand narrative.
Ad Age: What is Demand's revenue strategy moving forward?
Ms. Bradford: Having worked at MSN and Yahoo, I understand the landscape, and coming to Demand, the company has had a huge success already. We're focused on three basic pillars: One is how to access our audiences. The next one is how we think about advertising in content -- being in the right place at the right time. If, for example, you're looking to replace your printer cartridge, why wouldn't HP want to be on that page? If you're looking for gluten free, why wouldn't General Mills want to be on that page? And the third pillar is integration and sponsorship. Sponsorship is the best frontier for us. We want it to be as big as possible.
Ad Age: Sponsorship dollars are often the hardest to get. What is the strategy there?
Ms. Bradford: We've had a very nascent sales organization that has been doing a great job, but we have not been actively participating in the advertising media world. We've been more active in the technology world. So we're going out there to tell marketers our story. Sponsorship is a very large priority for us, and we're working with marketers on a highly customized basis.
Ad Age: So is everyone else.
Ms. Bradford: Every marketer will tell you they do not have enough content. We are in phase one of "let's tell our story." We will package it and make it easy to sell and easy to buy for advertisers. How do we provide content and integrate it with them? We will provide content for brands. Tide, for example. We've integrated their point of view into our experience. We've had a Tide stain expert sponsor a section. We want to be the biggest, best destination for brands. Our goal ultimately is, No. 1, be bigger than AOL, and No. 2 to be bigger than Yahoo.
Ad Age: Wait, why is AOL No. 1 on that list?
Ms. Bradford: AOL is smaller, so it's easier to go after them first.
Ad Age: Fair point. But in facing that challenge, Demand has been criticized for creating what some have called "robotic content." What's Demand's response?
Ms. Bradford: We have so many people coming to our content every day, over 50 million uniques on eHow alone. We didn't get to these numbers by some crazy robot -- this is humans doing this every day. We give them a byline and we publish it to a great place on the web.
Ad Age: But aren't you publishing 7,000 articles or pieces of content a day? How do you manage that?
Ms. Bradford: Every article goes through a vetting process. We have 1,000 copy editors. Every piece gets fact-checked, it goes through a plagiarism check. I believe our quality stands on its own -- you can't just drive traffic at it. It's actually earned. You can't spam [search engines] and remain high in the rankings. You have to be relevant. We don't write the same article and put it in multiple places. We are creating first-run, best-in-class content. If you look at something like Yahoo, and how many people work on those sites, there's just a few editors working on those sites, and mostly they're taking feeds from other content providers and aggregating them. Our numbers are there because we have created that content.
Ad Age: Some say Demand threatens journalism -- that is the narrative most observers take away when they think of the company.
Ms. Bradford: Here's who we'll never compete with, because it's not what we do. We will never compete with ESPN, we will never compete with the New York Times, but to everybody else that has any kind of service journalism, I would say I have access to the best freelance writing community. We pay them, we teach them, and we get them on the best newsstand in the country.
Ad Age: How come Demand doesn't just call their writers journalists?
Ms. Bradford: We'd be happy to call them "journalists" if investigative journalists who write Pulitzer Prize-winning stories about war don't find it offensive. I think learning how to put on fake eyelashes is far different from a journalist going to war and being on the front line, and we have the highest amount of respect for them.
Ad Age: Last question: It has been rumored that Associated Content CEO Patrick Keane may take your vacated position at Yahoo in the acquisition. If that becomes the case, would that make your job more difficult?
Ms. Bradford: I have no comment.