NetShelter Bets on Content With New inPowered Ads

Ad network touts early Samsung campaign

NetShelter Technology Media, which runs advertising across a network of 4,500 independent tech bloggers, is launching a new way for brands to reach tech consumers, one that tries to abandon traditional banner ads and embrace editorial content.

Those units are part of what NetShelter is calling its inPowered platform, which combines a new type of ads with an analytics service to measure their effectiveness, as well as an "insights" tool that tracks a brand's influence based on social mentions and on NetShelter sites.

NetShelter's new ads seem to follow a larger trend in online advertising as more companies focus on editorial content as their most compelling ad unit. (The trend is most obvious on the social networking front, where Facebook and Twitter allow advertisers to promote user content through their respective Sponsored Stories and Sponsored Tweets ad units.) NetShelter co-founder and CEO Peyman Nilforoush says content enjoys a particular advantage over ads in the tech world, simply because consumers usually spend a lot of time on research before they buy a new gadget.

An inPowered ad doesn't behave much like a traditional banner ad. Instead, it offers a list of relevant quotes from across NetShelter's network (which includes blogs like IntoMobile, 9to5Mac, MacRumors, and BetaNews, and which, according to comScore, reached 152 million unique global visitors in October). Clicking on any of those quotes brings up a pop-up window with links to articles, social network updates, and more.

NetShelter says it developed its inPowered technology in partnership with a few key advertisers. For example, Samsung has been running an inPowered campaign for most of 2011, linking to articles about its Smart TV products and also promoting those links through a tab on its Smart TV Facebook page.

NetShelter president Pirouz Nilforoush (Peyman's brother) wouldn't say exactly how many clicks the Samsung ads received, but he said the numbers were higher than those of a normal banner ad. And once users clicked, more than 50 percent of them clicked again to read a full article. One in every four of those readers shared an article on social networks. Ultimately, NetShelter estimates that the ads led to a 52 percent increase in viewing of Samsung Smart TV-related content.

As for which articles get promoted, Pirouz Nilforoush says the links are generated automatically, based on the content that's getting the strongest response from readers. Brands can step in and curate the list, say by removing negative articles, but Nilforoush argues that they can take a fairly hands-off approach. After all, most articles aren't entirely positive or negative, so rather than worrying about that, brands should focus maximizing reading and sharing.