Atlantic Media Tries Turning Twitter Into a Bigger Ad Platform

140 Proof System Gathers Audience From Atlantic Followers and Others

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Atlantic Media is taking publishers' latest stab at making social media good for something besides gaining traffic.

The company -- whose properties include The Atlantic, Quartz and National Journal -- plans next month to begin showing ads promoting certain advertisers atop Twitter feeds displayed in apps such as HootSuite, Echofon and TweetCaster.

Although it will display the ads to followers of the publication in question -- the 190,000 or so who follow @TheAtlantic, for example -- the company's tech provider will also let it target a broader audience of people defined by other accounts they follow, keywords they use and even keywords they other people use.

A mockup of the way the 140 Proof platform displays ads to targeted audiences
A mockup of the way the 140 Proof platform displays ads to targeted audiences

"We're able to target not only followers and fans of the brand and our editors but reach people who are having conversations that are relevant," said Lindsey Emanuel, creative services director at The Atlantic.

The tech partner, a San Francisco company called 140 Proof, can also find potential audiences by surveying social platforms beyond Twitter. "Think of this as public social signals from all the major networks, so that could include a Pinterest or a Tumblr," said Andy Scott, co-founder and chief revenue officer at 140 Proof.

"This is all based on the public social graph, but at some level our tech says user 537602, they follow this and they see this and they pinned that and they checked in there, so we can identify them as having the following interests: tech progressive, NBA fan, innovation, thought leadership and auto intender," Mr. Scott said.

"We believe that is a richer, more powerful way to define interest than just, say, the websites you visited," he added.

Atlantic Media plans to use the program to promote the custom content it produces for advertisers.

It already promotes that content through its editorial Twitter feeds. And the new ads won't appear on Twitter.com or in Twitter's own apps, where Twitter tightly controls the user experience and advertising. But Atlantic Media hopes the program can help its custom content programs reach many more of the people who are most likely to take an interest.

"It's definitely increasing the reach of the custom content that we're producing for our advertisers in the hopes of increasing ROI," Ms. Emanuel said, "not only in terms of clicks but also by reaching the most invested and interested users to also then drive engagement and increased social amplification."

The 140 Proof platform can also serve standard ad units to targeted audiences on certain participating websites, but Atlantic Media said it plans to focus on Twitter capabilities to start. That's partly because the brief text ads that it will display look like traditional tweets -- in line with the argument that consumers are more likely to engage with ads that resemble a given platform's content than traditional banners and boxes.

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