My Weekly Update advises Yahoo to concentrate more on its own content and less on building out an ad network, but that’s because Yahoo needs to concentrate. Ad networks can be good businesses, especially when they can do some focusing themselves, and not just compete with Google and Facebook for remnant display inventory. Two examples of such differentiation come from Glam Media and Federated Media. AdAge thinks Glam is going public in Q2, and has a profile on its mostly women-centric approach. Federated’s John Battelle talks about turning a blog network into a conversation platform in this interview on McKinsey’s CMO site.
Millennial Media is providing another solid bit of data on Kindle Fire sales, saying that the Fire’s ad impressions have been growing by 19 percent daily since its mid-November launch. The Kindle Fire is now on a faster initial pace than the iPad.
Facebook recently started offering Like topic-based targeting in its self-service ad platform and via its advertising API. While its implementation seems simple, Facebook appears to be doing some data analysis to suggest related topics in addition to those an advertiser specifies, somewhat akin to paid search broad-match techniques. Such targeting and analysis could be applied to a Facebook Connect-based ad network that serves up ads outside of the Facebook site, should Facebook or anyone ever build such a thing. (Are you interested, Microsoft?) At the same time, comScore shows Facebook becoming an increasingly important site for video consumption. High-quality online video advertising inventory is valuable, though Facebook isn’t exploiting that opportunity yet, and its quality content is often fee-based.
Advertising is the fuel for most online content businesses, and there are a number of stories on the topic today. Like Yahoo, that blamed a mediocre growth quarter on an ad salesforce re-org, AOL is also shuffling the troops. It’s replacing its head of sales with a chief revenue officer position, and tasking the CRO with managing publishing and advertising products, and with integrating AOL’s flashy premium ad formats into its ad network. Flipboard, the iPad content feed reader that wants to be the newsstand of the future, is rolling out its first ad product with Conde Nast. It seems pretty magazine-y, with a full-screen look the company hopes will be treated by readers like content. That’s not unreasonable for glamor, gadget, and car pubs. And Meredith, the publisher of Better Homes and Gardens, is starting a print-oriented program for advertisers that might point out online directions. Meredith says it will track purchase behavior for big advertisers who commit to long-term deals and guarantee sales lift.
Yesterday, Yahoo reported mediocre quarterly results, sponsoring the usual instant analysis and speculation. Overall sales were down 23 percent, but that’s partly because Yahoo sold off HotJobs to Monster.com and doesn’t count its revenues anymore. What Yahoo calls ex-TAC revenue – as with Google, TAC stands for “traffic acquisition costs” meaning the money each shares with its ad network – was down 5 percent. (Yahoo would have generated more TAC when it was supplying search to other companies; now Microsoft does Yahoo’s search.) Sales of online display advertising, where Yahoo is still a market leader, were up a meager 5 percent, a figure CEO Carol Bartz attributed to a sales re-org that postponed some big deals. AllThingsD’s Kara Swisher thinks Yahoo’s products feel stuffy and old-fashioned, lacking a social media element. I wrote about that last fall. Others suggest Yahoo buy Hulu. A rumored new content/ad syndication network holds some promise.
Perhaps the biggest news in tech this week in on the social network front, where two things happened: First, Google launched an ambitious new project in Google+, which was released in limited beta to pretty stellar reviews, particularly for a Google social product (an area where most efforts have largely failed). Second, MySpace is being sold for $35 million to an ad network called Specific Media. No doubt a stark contrast, where one former social network goliath fades into the night and one tech giant finally launches what could be a significant competitor to the company that brought about MySpace’s demise in Facebook.
Just as 140Proof, an ad network for real-time feeds, hires a new sales VP from Gawker Media, we’ve released a new report on the market opportunities and challenges. Twitter doesn’t want anyone but itself serving ads within the feed, and lately it’s been de-emphasizing what it calls Promoted Tweets in favor of other formats. That leaves tricky issues around sponsored tweets, or targeting feeds on third-party Twitter clients or other platforms. Last fall, I wrote about how to get into the market early. It’s still relatively early in this immature but potentially lucrative segment of social media advertising.