Now that our industry seems to be picking up some serious steam in terms of reputability, with major and minor offline companies alike finally—and quickly—building an online presence, online advertisers may increasingly find themselves scrambling to provide the magic word: content. As the recent OMMA panel which took as its starting point the statement, “the Online Medium is ill prepared for the influx of marketing dollars coming this way” made clear, this industry will need to tap ever expanding barrels of content if we are all to continue to making money—and avoid fighting (more than we already do) over what we have.
Perhaps as a result of the increase in content we’ve already seen coming down the pipeline, greater numbers of niche portals—which target specific consumer subsections like shopping, real estate or even pharmaceuticals—are popping up on the industry radar. While there’s no question that there remains a need for the large all-service portals like Yahoo and AOL, the kinds of targeted audiences that smaller niche portals provide certainly offer advertisers something to smile about, given their ability to allow advertisers to target their ads to extremely specific audience segments.
Michael Poythress, president of a new niche portal called TheHomeNet.com, geared towards “For Sale By Owner” real estate deals, is one of the leading advocates of the power of the niche portal. “These portals are creating more room for advertising and targeted advertisers,” he says. From his perspective, the niche portal will increasingly become an invaluable industry tool.
In Poythress’s experience, using services from major portals, like Google’s AdWords, for specific activities like listing your home can bring about difficulties. “I’ve seen actual house ads in Google AdWords format that some companies will pay to do. [But] that will only work for so long,” he says. “It will work great for the one or two people who do it because it was novel. But as more and more people do that it’s going to start to fill up and crowd out everything until it’s a bunch of noise again.”
This is where Poythress sees niche portals gaining control of the market. “Those advertisers who are trying to reach buyers who are looking for a 2 bed/2bath in the NY garment district will be able to reach those target customers through these [niche] portals,” in a way that currently isn’t likely to be possible on one of the bigger sites. And when your search starts to get more targeted and specialized, guess what? So can your ads.
For Martin Andersen, General Manager of PriceRunner.com (a site that aggregates in-store and online prices of products and services), the major difference between what large and niche portals can offer advertisers lies with the initial attitude of the consumers each tends to attract. “On PriceRunner we have buyers, not surfers—meaning that the users that are coming to PriceRunner know what they’re coming for,” Andersen explains. “They are in a shopping mode; they are looking for products and services. Unlike, for example, if they are going to Google. They could be looking for many different types of things [there].” From Andersen’s perspective, smaller portals like PriceRunner provide “a great place to be for advertisers, because [they’re] very targeted.”