ADOTAS – Flipping through a newspaper, chances are you’ll find a story on the bottom right with the label “ADVERTISEMENT” cemented above in a little bold box. Do you really need that warning? The “article” is not only in a different font but reads like the blog of a 15-year-old cheerleader — “Like OMG! Caribbean vacations are awesome!”
But what if the content in the ad wasn’t sponsored — or at least not in the traditional sense? Instead of branded content, what if an advertiser brought you interesting stories gathered from the best blogs around the web?
You’d have what Technorati CEO Richard Jalichandra calls the “big bang” product: conversational media ads, or Cmads, which make up around 90% of Technorati Media’s served banners. Since their launch, banner click-through rates for Technorati have improved 10 to 15 times, averaging between 0.7% and 0.8%.
Technorati tends to be only associated with its blog search engine, but Technorati Media, launched in June 2008, is the largest social media-focused ad network with 4.5 billion impressions served in June 2010, with a reach of 125 million users in the U.S. and 250 million globally. For May, comScore ranked Technorati Media the fourth largest U.S. social media property (behind Facebook, MySpace and Blogger) and the 24th largest U.S. web property.
A typical Cmad is served in a 300X600 format, though advertisers are increasingly using expansion, and feature rich media ad at the top to draw attention to an attached feed of relevant content, aggregated using Technorati’s social search technology.
Relevancy differs from advertiser to advertiser – for example, a Toyota Four-Runner campaign featured gathered articles concerning outdoor activities such as rock-climbing and camping that would be associated with off-roading. When users click on stories, they aren’t sent to a branded product page – “That would be disingenuous,” Jalichandra comments — but the actual content source.
Thus the brand isn’t sponsoring the content, but the conversation; the advertiser becomes a facilitator rather than an interrupter. In addition, the ads have everything a user could ask for in one package –- video, audio and the power to share on Twitter and Facebook.
Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery – in the last nine months Jalichandra has noticed other companies offering similar solutions. However, they can’t offer Technorati’s “Authority” ranking, which measures a site’s standing and influence within the social media world via linking behavior, categorization and associated data over a six-month period.
In addition to repping premium blogs and niche social networks across a variety of verticals, Technorati has stepped into the audience targeting realm, partnering with various DSPs and exchanges. The lightbulb moment, says Jalichandra, was when a client asked whether they could use Cmads on other sites.
Well why couldn’t Technorati’s ad networks target audience for them?
“We didn’t want to be a me-too audience targeting network,” Jalichandra says. “There’s a higher value in social media ads. And you can deliver social ads in any context, wherever an audience is.”
When sitting down with a client, Technorati’s sales team will ask if they buy sites or audience. Typically they answer one or the other, but Technorati is encouraging brands to go hybrid. Currently 70% rep and 30% audience targeting. Jalichandra is hoping that is split evenly by the end of the year.
Jalichandra is quick to admit that the company is still in startup mode and growing steadily, but the company, which has raised $32 million in funding since its launch in 2002, reported breaking even in March and profits in April, May and June.
“We’re a private company and don’t disclose exact results, though we will say we’re exceeding our plans and pleased with our results thus far,” Jalichandra notes.