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Jun 8, 2008

About.com Advertising Network

Ed: About.com is one of the early blogging communities. Guides post content and share ad revenues with the company. About is owned by the New York Times.

Tough sales pitch. Aggregating a bunch of no-name publishers to sell brand ads. BT is sales pitch, but branding is the real problem.

Just Ask For Directions

Online media buying can be lot like the stereotype of men driving. Advertisers like to use a map, spreadsheets, analytics, just about any technology to get to their destination, but often they are loathe to stop and ask a real live human being for directions. Among the first sites to implement behavioral targeting technologies in the early 2000s, About.com is as experienced in the BT field as any publisher. But while it leverages some of the most advanced technologies for advertisers, the site is by its very nature a people place, driven mainly by hundreds of human "Guides" who host precisely targeted verticals throughout the site. Senior Vice President of Sales Sheryl Goldstein recently deployed a new and very human way of monitoring user behavior online — simply ask the Guides what their peeps are doing. Just put down the GPS for a second and ask for directions.

Behavioral Insider: How did you come to use your About Guides' expertise in the ad product mix?

Sheryl Goldstein: I got here six months ago after six years at AOL. I realized very quickly that we didn't have a very compelling go-to-market story..We were basically selling our reach. It was very much around, we reach more moms than iVillage., more men than ESPN. A buyer would be hard-pressed to be convinced that if I am trying to reach men that About is a better choice for me than ESPN.

What was really missing was what was unique to About that would have some meaning to advertisers. We have these guides and they create all this content and they are vetted experts. People love to come chat with them. These guides know which search terms they are using, what these people are seeking because they are on the digital front line. They are like a human component of the digital interface. These guys do nothing but focus on this one topic. They have keen insight into what these people are looking for and why they are coming to talk to a vetted expert in the first place...

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