At a time when the newspaper industry is having a tough time growing revenue, Parade magazine has opened up a new sales front: selling ads on the Web sites of its partner papers.
Parade publisher Brett Wilson said the effort gives local papers a shot at national ads they wouldn't get through ad networks or on their own, while Parade gets a cut of the revenue.
“We're providing revenue back to the local sites that we'd hope would be incremental,” he said.
Some 135 of Parade’s 500 carrier papers are in the online network. With Parade.com, they represent 10.3 million monthly unique visitors, per comScore. By June, Parade expects to get that figure to 190 papers and almost double the online audience.
So far, Pepsi and GE have gotten aboard as sponsors. While Wilson couldn't quantify the revenue he expects the effort to generate, he expected to be Parade's biggest online growth driver this year.
Parade came up with the idea to sell into the papers' Web sites as a way to make money from free celebrity and games content that it began distributing to the carrier papers' sites a year or so ago. “As we push this content out, there's a cost for us, and as our digital footprint grows, we wanted to take advantage of that,” Wilson said.
The strategy effectively makes the Sunday newspaper supplement something of an online ad network. It's a term Wilson dislikes, given networks have gained a reputation for misrepresenting which sites they're authorized to sell and commoditizing Web site inventory.
“We hate to use the word 'network' because of the negative connotation,” he said. “But in reality, we are a syndicated network--in the positive sense of the word.”
Wilson noted that there's an important difference in that Parade can customize the ads around the Parade-branded content it syndicates. For example, for Pepsi, Parade created a gallery of celebrities that do charity work. Pepsi used the gallery to promote its Refresh Project, a community grant program.
Parade’s content strategy is part of a trend playing out across print media, more of which are relying on outside sources for their editorial content.
PBPulse.com, the entertainment site of the Palm Beach Post, is one of the sites that uses Parade to supplement its staff-produced content.
“We pull content from lot of places, and Parade is a good source for us,” said PBPulse editor Jonathan Tully. “It’s more along the lines of covering Hollywood, and that's something we just can't do ourselves.”
Ildi Pap Conrad, U.S. director, print investment, OMD, saw the Parade strategy appealing to retailers and packaged goods makers that want to drive people to purchase.
“I have seen more clients in the past year want to be able to target more specifically via print,” she said. “Everyone's trying to balance cost and targetability, and [Parade] is a pretty efficient buy from an audience perspective.”
As reading shifts online, she also saw it as a way for Parade to keep its own product relevant.
“They have a huge reach through their partner papers, and this extends their reach,” she said.