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.
On custom content deals with sponsors: We were seeing such demand for sponsored content, and because we really do see it as one of the key points of differentiation for us, we built an internal creative services team, which is essentially like a studio within Gawker. So an advertiser would say, “We want to reach the Gizmodo [gadget enthusiast site] audience and we have this particular message.” They work with our folks to apply the appropriate tone and feel for Gizmodo, to ensure that it has the best potential to really resonate with the audience, as opposed to just some boilerplate corporate copy. The fact that the content is slugged “sponsored” is really secondary, because if it’s good and there’s a benefit to the reader, then that’s still a positive experience.
An example of sponsored content: We had a Comic-Con sponsorship with Sprint, and the package that our team put together garnered over a million pageviews.
On mobile: With mobile we’re talking about handheld and tablet. With handheld, to be honest, the consumption is because it’s convenient. I’m walking down the street, I’m on my device and I can gobble up five articles and that’s great. But from the advertising side of it, half the time you can’t even read whatever the particular call to action in the ad unit is. There just has to be a better experience that can be brought to the user so people can really monetize it. We spend a lot of time thinking about it now. The tablet mimics the desktop experience, which is much cleaner. I think there are a ton of cool things that can happen with swipe and things of that nature, but on handheld it’s really tough.