Since launching in October 2009, the network has grown to 15 websites (including the recently acquired Laptop Magazine
) and in the last year has enjoyed traffic growth of 163 percent. As of June, the site garnered 56 million unique visitors from its own sites and another 40 million from the broader network made up of 100 syndication partners.
I spoke with Mark Westlake, chief revenue officer of TechMediaNetwork, about the company's business model. Here is an edited version of our phone interview.
eMedia Vitals: We've written about TechMediaNetwork and your strategy of pairing quality content with relevant advertising. Could you explain how you make money from advertising?
Westlake: Many people focus on the easy revenue stream, display advertising, but we look at the entire page as landscape and not just the ad units. There are so many different things we can do on a page that can get a person's attention and that can drive revenue.
Think of it this way: When you come to a page of content, users are usually going to get there through some sort of navigation, whether it be search, direct mail or bookmarking. We do a lot of content syndication
; we syndicate our content out to Yahoo, MSNBC, Fox News, even CBS news. Our content is exposed to a lot of people. That traffic is a way for us not only to expose our brands and our content to the consumer, but it also gives us the chance to get them to take some sort of action, whether it's clicking on an ad or clicking on a contextual link. All of that is engagement. You could say we're really good at engagement, but more importantly we're really good at monetizing engagement.
We consider ourselves a new publishing model. We're a quality content publisher that not only creates content but also provides content to partners. We monetize that quality content through our monetization platform, which basically consists of multiple revenue streams.
Right now you have companies that say they're a content network but really they are an ad network that runs ads on content sites. And then you have a lot of vertical networks, which are networks that sell display advertising on content sites within a particular vertical. They might own some of the properties but they don't own all of them.
We treat our partners like a content publisher and not like an ad network would treat most of their publishers by just selling them display advertising. We work with our network partners through selling display, selling contextual ads, selling e-commerce, and so forth. But we also do things like SEO consulting. Right now we're working with some of our partners on syndicating content. We can share content back and forth, which will drive engagement, which eventually drives revenues for both companies.
So do smaller publishers need to have syndication partners and ways to extend audience if they're going to compete with the bigger players?
Westlake: Today, one of the challenges for smaller and mid-sized sites is that advertisers want to work with fewer partners; they want to do bigger deals. You have to have the scale in order to compete.
Advertisers want their brands surrounded by quality editorial environments. The people that are placing the media buys — the advertising agencies — want to buy audiences because it's easier to buy audiences. We combine audiences with quality editorial environments within a vertical and give them targeted scale, which is something unique and very hard for small people to compete with. And that's where our competitive edge is compared to networks and to some of the other technology news properties out there.