On editorial integrity: There is obviously a church-and-state divide. A lot of times we present what we think is a great idea but the client says, “No, we want X, Y, and Z,” and we’ll just have to go back to them and say unfortunately we can’t do that. Certain publishers definitely cross over that line. I’ll tell a client, “We want to create something for you that is going to be successful for us, and that means our users are going to want to read it and want to share it with their peer group. If you guys are too heavy-handed, it’s not going to work. You can tell us you want a slideshow about your automobile. Sure, we could create that for you, or someone else could create that for you. But no one is going to read that.” That’s just an ad unit.
An example of a Salon custom campaign: We recently completed a campaign for Bulgari. They wanted to reach dads and grads—it was a graduation/Father’s Day campaign. They were looking to tap into masculine charisma, and so we created an original series about the idea of fathers passing on cultural touchstones: things that fathers wanted to pass onto their sons and daughters. We had contributors like Nick Hornby, Rick Moody, Captain “Sully” Sullenberger of the Miracle on the Hudson. It was 100-percent sponsored in a series that we created exclusively for Bulgari. It didn’t in any way rob the Salon user of the content that they’re used to. These were very high-quality pieces.
On the future of mobile: I think for certain advertisers, mobile is the right platform, because they want the person on the go—they’re constantly on a plane flying from one business trip to another, or they’re a busy mom or dad. When you’re trying to reach that person, mobile is the right space, but it’s a small screen, and you can’t do those big splashy ads. But with the gps on your phone, being able to super-geo-target you down to where you’re standing—let me send [you] an ad for the nearest Starbucks.
Bigger mobile ads are coming: If, in 10 years, 75 percent of content is consumed on mobile, the ads are just going to get bigger. That’s just the way it is, so long as the content is free; that’s the trade-off. The ads are just going to get bigger, and you’re going to have a full-page takeover on your iPad 11; you’re going to sit through 15 seconds of advertising to access the content that’s free. Salon being around for so long, for 17 years, we’ve ridden all these different waves of ways to monetize the Web. It costs money to produce content, so how do you pay for it? We’re not a dot-org; we’re a dot-com, so there has to be a means to keep the lights on.
Andrew Gorenstein is chief advertising officer at Gawker Media. He was previously senior executive director of digital sales at Condé Nast.
On homepage roadblocks: If you see a brand image above the splash [main] image on any of the Gawker Media homepages, that is part of a homepage-roadblock experience. It’s a nice way to showcase a sponsor in a way that’s actually very native to our experience and not something that you get elsewhere on the Web. Couple that with the display ads that we provide on the page and we’re trying to cut through clutter. We have a lot of success with that.