It's Reach, Not Ratings, at Digitally Savvy CNN

New-media Evangelical Greg D'Alba Extends Network's Brand

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Ask Greg D'Alba about CNN's ratings challenges and he shrugs them off, saying the news organization should not be judged by old metrics. The CNN Ad Sales executive, like many new-media evangelicals, is selling reach these days.
Greg D'Alba
Greg D'Alba

"Look at reach and audience aggregation," he pointed out. "It's growing astronomically, and our ad dollars are following. The new currency is reach."

Mr. D'Alba, exec VP-chief operating officer for ad sales and marketing at CNN Ad Sales, rattled off a list of digital credentials: "CNN and Headline News reach over 100 million users a month; [in] wireless we have 62 million page views a month, video streams are at 32 million and approaching 40 million a month; there are 3.5 million podcasts of CNN Headline News a month. You look at the figures in multiple millions of media users.

"We are the No. 1 digital site in news, and you look at page views or uniques and we know that media usage isn't going down. People are using media differently, and younger users are engaged."

Different users
Mr. D'Alba's message might sound like spin, given that Fox News Channel outpaces the CNN cable operation -- for example, by almost a million viewers in prime time on June 2. But there's something in what he says as advertisers more and more seek out what Mr. D'Alba termed "instant response data." He said, "We are prepared to negotiate deals that have proven delivery [based on] research methodologies."

"Under Greg's leadership, the CNN Ad Sales team is [creating] new opportunities for the CNN brand," said Ken Jautz, exec VP at CNN Worldwide.

Mr. D'Alba, who sells a cluster of websites with broadband capabilities in addition to CNN and Headline News, said 80% of his clients buy both the channel and the website. While CNN's U.S. ad dollars fell 11.9% last year to $385 million, according to TNS Media Intelligence, ad dollars are up on CNN's websites.

For the first two months of this year, CNN websites, which include CNNMoney.com and CNNenEspanol.com, booked $22 million, up 69.2% from the same period in 2005, according to TNS.

Creating different revenue streams
"We've seen a horizontal marketplace. Now what we're seeing is a vertical upfront," Mr. D'Alba said, acknowledging that advertisers are looking to decrease the breadth of cable channels on their schedules in favor of fewer but deeper relationships. "The real story in the next two years is the ability of media companies like CNN to create different revenue streams."

"We get caught up in demos," he said. "It is an emerging viewer. Where are the 18-34s? It's no longer about them specifically or the 50-plus specifically. It's about the 'now' consumer, and it's about relevancy and what media products are relevant that will have greater reach."

In his role at CNN Ad Sales, Mr. D'Alba oversees both network and digital sales teams. What ticks him off: People who don't play on the team, when "there's a disconnect in our communications. I'm big on ... winning together," he said.

Mr. D'Alba's "energy extends throughout his division," Mr. Jautz said. "Greg is also one of the most engaging individuals you will come across and someone who truly connects with individuals at all levels of the organization."

What makes Mr. D'Alba tick? As a cancer survivor, the 46-year-old father of three teens -- two daughters and a son -- is perpetually upbeat. "There's nothing in a day that can really bring you down when you've already conquered the bigger things in life."

~ ~ ~
Just Asking ... Greg D'Alba, CNN

What are you reading right now? "Chasing Lance" by Martin Dugard.

What do you watch on TV? News and sports -- especially the Yankees -- and HBO.

Who is your corporate mentor? Most of us are doing something creative and futuristic because of Ted [Turner]. I learned [not to] be afraid to take risks or to fail. However, ultimately you have to win.
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