Helping Brands Grab the Long Tail

NEW YORK A new service unveiled today aims to solve the riddles of the Web: If it is made up of infinite niches, why do the top sites account for most of the ad revenue?

The answer, in part, is because it is extremely difficult to plan, buy and execute campaigns on thousands of small sites. While direct response marketers have used Google’s automated AdSense system effectively to reach small audience pockets, brand advertisers have mostly stayed away from the so-called “long tail.”

Quantcast, a startup firm in San Francisco, hopes to apply math to the problem, allowing brand advertisers to create custom networks of sites that fit their demographic target. The service collects data from several sources about sites of all types, using it to make demographic profiles of Web destinations. To aid the process, sites and blogs can install a tracking code on their venues. What results is a site profile including gender, age, sex, income, ethnicity and other information typically only available for the largest of sites.

The system allows advertisers to enter target criteria, or a site where they enjoyed positive results, to receive a custom network of venues that fit the bill. The system is similar to Google’s Site-Targeting feature introduced last year.

Yet Google’s far-flung network and reliance mostly on text ads has appealed most to direct marketers, or “lower funnel” advertisers, said Konrad Feldman, co-founder of Quantcast.

“If you look at the $70 billion spent on TV advertising, the majority is upper funnel,” he said. “The branding-based advertisers have to go online to find those audiences.”

For now, agencies and advertisers can use the Quantcast service for planning purposes. The company plans to add a buying service in coming months that will make it as easy for brand advertisers to run campaigns across hundreds of sites as it is for direct-response marketers to use Google.

“To properly exploit the niches in the tail, there has to be a way of finding them and buying them,” Feldman said.

The 12-person firm has been in stealth mode for a year, he said, building the technology that is producing demographic profiles for over 100,000 sites.