ZDNet hones targeting to link marketers, prospects

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Zdnet is offering advertisers a way to target messages based on geography and demographics, with more precise targeting in the offing.

The tech site long has offered the ability to target ads based on editorial content in its network of more than 60 sites. It's now selling the ability to target ads by state; Zip code, Designated Market Area and country; and by size and type of company, based on industry codes associated with a visitor's e-mail address.

Many e-mail addresses, such as those of visitors coming in from America Online, don't tell ZDNet anything about the visitor's general locale. But other e-mail addresses, such as those from regional Internet service providers or from corporate addresses, do. In addition, ZDNet draws on its database of 2.5 million registered users and on data from a sister company, Ziff-Davis' ZD Market Intelligence.

ZDNet also sets an anonymous cookie on a visitor's browser to track activity.

All told, Alan Phillips, VP-Internet operations, said ZDNet can segment 35% of its reported 8 million unique visitors a month based on one or more geographic or demographic parameter.

ZDNet is charging a 25% to 50% premium for geographic or demographic targeting, which it calls Smart Serving.

ZDNet joins other major media sites, including the Wall Street Journal Interactive Edition and New York Times on the Web, in offering expanded ways to target visitors. Various other sites and networks, such as the DoubleClick Network, also offer ways to target an audience based on geography or other attributes.

Barry Briggs, ZDNet's VP-advertising sales and marketing, said ZDNet has signed a half dozen advertisers for "geo/demographic" targeting, including Bell Atlantic and start-up online wine retailer Evineyard.


It's another option for its advertisers to "ensure that they're reaching the prospects that are most important to them," Mr. Briggs said.

Evineyard will use targeting to reach the 12 states where it now can legally ship wine.

"It's a regulatory issue, and when it comes down to reaching our market, it's really important that we put the offer in front of the clientele that we can serve today," said Exec VP Michael Osborn.

The online wine store launched targeted ads May 25 on ZDNet, DoubleClick, Microsoft Corp.'s MSNBC.com and Hotmail as well as several sites in California.

ZDNet in a few weeks will let advertisers target pools of users with similar interests, using aggregated data on the behavior patterns of visitors that, for example, spend time in the software developer section and then move to other parts of the site.


The final piece, rolling out in two to three months, will be a personalization layer, allowing advertisers to target visitors who will register and opt in to receive information about specific interests. Mr. Briggs stressed ZDNet will follow strict privacy standards, allowing advertisers to target specific users only when those users register to receive information.

Drew Ianni, analyst at Jupiter Communications, said ZDNet is making impressive use of in-house technology to advance its targeting capabilities.

"It's a great step forward for ZDNet," he said. The fact that major sites such as ZDNet, the Journal and the Times are pressing ahead on targeting should lead to more interest among media buyers, he said.

All of this targeting takes Web advertising one step closer to reaching a mass of customers individually. Said Mr. Ianni: "It's another step toward nirvana."

Copyright June 1999, Crain Communications Inc.

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