Green Publishers Pursue Network Effect

Clickz_jpeg By Zachary Rodgers, The ClickZ Network, 

As the sustainability movement goes mainstream and big advertisers muscle in with green-themed digital campaigns,
an inevitable process of audience consolidation is playing out in
earth-friendly media circles. Most of it has taken the form of M&A
activity, such as Discovery’s purchase of TreeHugger.com earlier this
summer, Gaiam.com’s acquisitions of Lime Media and social net Zaadz
this month, and just last week, Cleantech’s buyout of
InsideGreentech.com.

But a handful of sites are taking a different approach, cobbling
together ad networks by partnering with like-minded sites. This month,
two publishers operating in very different frequencies of the green
spectrum separately tapped ad network enabler Adify to help aggregate
their audiences with other similar properties.

The first of
these is Matter Network, which launched last week to cover clean
technology and environmental topics with a focus on the business and
investment community. The other is SustainLane, a user-driven directory
of green products and services with more of a consumer slant.

Matter’s
network so far includes TerraPass, a supplier of carbon offsets and
publisher of a related blog, and its own central property at
MatterNetwork.com. In addition to inviting them to join its ad network,
the company will partner with publishers to offer services like widget
building, search optimization, additional ad products, and even site
hosting. The share of ad revenue Matter gets from these relationships
will depend on the level of service it provides to site owners.

"We
can come in and be a pure ad network," said Michael Penwarden,
co-founder of Matter Network. "That revenue split will be completely
different than someone who wants us to take their site to the next
level."

Such additional offerings are needed, he added. "We’re
finding a lot of the people who are covering these issues in an
intelligent way are not savvy Web publishers."

In some cases,
Penwarden said the network relationship will run both ways. Sites
joining Matter’s network that have existing relationships with
advertisers will be able to sell excess inventory on other Matter
Network sites.

Adify’s other green ad network, for SustainLane,
will be geared more toward green lifestyles content, a segment
sometimes called LOHAS (Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability), as
opposed to the investors and business types Matter Network is focused
on. SustainLane’s properties include SustainLane.com and The
Unsustainables, an animated series that’s distributed to television,
mobile devices and the Web.

Adify first began supporting
vertical ad networks a year ago, but only officially rolled out its
white label ad network solution last April. Its first deployment was
for Washington Post’s Newsweek Interactive, which according to Adify
has successfully signed big advertisers like Marriott and Lufthansa. In
the last four months, another 35 networks have been initiated using its
system.

"Advertisers want an audience that’s more and more
fragmented; they will not give up control over where their ads are
running," said Joelle Gropper Kaufman, VP of Marketing for Adify.

With
regard to the sustainability market, Kaufman said, fragmentation of
media only makes sense given the very different constituents served by
sites like TreeHugger.com and InsideGreentech.com. "Green as a category
is probably going to get too broad," she said. "The business side… is
different from the people who want to buy organic food."

Green ad networks have been tried before. Back in 2005, GreenAds launched
to represent ads on sites like Grist.com, TreeHugger.com, DrWeil.com
and EMagazine.com, but it "paused" in 2006 so management could
concentrate on another, more lucrative business, that of integrated
marketing firm SRB Marketing.

Meanwhile, Adify’s green
publisher customers are hoping the green market is ripe enough in 2007
that they can achieve serious reach for advertisers by partnering with
the right digital properties.

"At this point it’s a
comparatively low rumble," said Matter Network’s Penwarden. "But if
we’ve done our homework, there’s a lot of people who… may not be the
most savvy Web publishers, but they’ve got important things to say.
That’s where we can help them: by taking their sites and supporting
them with an ad network powered by Adify."

This article was originally posted at ClickZ on August 27, 2007 by Zachary Rodgers.

               

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