IQ News: New Sponsorship Model, Ad Strategy for CDnow

As part of a new advertising strategy, online music retailer CDnow will launch a “Websessions” event this week starring 14-year-old blues sensation Shannon Curfman. The behind-
the-scenes peek, sponsored by sportswear e-tailer and teen site, both in New York, will feature a mix of performances, interviews and clips, and can be accessed at
“[In the Websession], you get a picture of this person as a human being and as an artist,” said Harold Blumenthal, senior vice president of media at Fort Washington, Pa.-based CDnow. “Here is an opportunity for a sponsor to play a role.”
With an emphasis on sponsorship of events, CDnow’s new ad model resembles that of a traditional television network, with the company providing the programming and advertisers supplying dollars to sponsor that content.
By shifting some of its focus from e-commerce to content, the five-year-old CDnow seeks to attract consumers, as well as sponsors, to its now content-heavy site. A long time in the making, the sponsorship strategy is not an alternative to the recent aborted merger with Columbia House record club, a Time Warner-Sony Music joint venture, and its search for a new partner, the company said.
“Around the middle of last year, we started looking at the landscape of product sales and tried to discover how to monetize the eyeballs that were coming to our site. [Consumers] were downloading music clips and looking at content,” said Christopher Maccara, CDnow director of corporate sales and development. “Advertising was the next logical step.”
With close to 3.5 million registered users, CDnow offered advertisers an audience who already had a propensity to buy, he added.
While many sites start as a content site, later adding an e-commerce element, CDnow established itself in reverse–first as an e-retailer and then as a content site. The content, generated by the media arm of CDnow, offers news, reviews and artist interviews from a wide range of music genres, from rock and hip-hop to country and gospel.
“CDnow is unique in that it is a major-league retail site that is becoming a major-league advertising site,” said Blumenthal. “People come to our site to read reviews, download content and stay for 15 and 20 minutes. They use it as an alternative
to TV.”