CollegeHumor site finds ad niche in sponsorships

by

REUTERS

http://www.reuters.com/article/internetNews/idUSN2740051520080428?pageNumber=1&virtualBrandChannel=0

By Michele Gershberg

NEW YORK (Reuters) – CollegeHumor.com’s founders want to help their audience members fulfill “their stupidest wish ever” — maybe a machine to dress them in the morning or a chute from their bedroom to the front door.

The idea, which is still in development, is a hallmark of the site’s wacky humor, but also a new advertising strategy that lets sponsors build stronger ties with young men by catering to their tamer dreams.

Its success will be one of several segments key to the growth of its parent, Internet conglomerate IAC/InterActiveCorp, which plans to spin off four of its businesses this year and focus on Web advertising and media.

CollegeHumor co-founder and editor-in-chief Ricky Van Veen said the online ad model for sites like his own had completely changed in recent years. Advertisers used to buy standard online formats, like banner ads, then ask the site to drum up something creative to add a little punch.

“Now advertisers won’t even talk to you unless you have a great topline idea, something cool,” Van Veen told Reuters. “They use the banners and the rest of the stuff to support the deal.”

CollegeHumor has built sponsorships with ad partners such as Sprint Nextel Corp, Doritos and Procter & Gamble’s Old Spice brand.

One of the biggest audience responses came from a partnership with Unilever’s Axe, a maker of men’s body washes and deodorants, which invited users to submit a clip for the “World’s Dirtiest Film” contest. The site drew more than one million visitors.

In its newest partnership, the site is offering a paid summer job for an aspiring comedy writer in a contest open to college students, with expenses covered by Virgin Mobile.

NEW IAC

CollegeHumor is one of several dozen sites that will comprise the new IAC after the spin-offs, along with dating service Match.com, virtual world Zwinky and events newsletter VeryShortList.com.

IAC is due to report its quarterly results on Wednesday, when investors hope to hear about Chief Executive Barry Diller’s plan for carrying out the spin-offs.

In March, Diller won a court battle with the company’s controlling shareholder, Liberty Media Corp, over how the businesses will be structured.

Diller planned to complete the spin-offs in the second or third quarter, putting the fortunes of “new IAC,” and sites like CollegeHumor, in even greater focus for Wall Street.

“We’re really trying to do this in a way that traditional media brands can’t,” Nicholas Lehman, chief operating officer of IAC’s programming division, told Reuters in an interview. “We can take very different chances.”

Lehman helped Viacom Inc’s MTV Networks build out its digital media strategy before joining IAC last year.

He noted that each of the sites within IAC’s programming portfolio uses a slightly different advertising model. For example, RushmoreDrive.com, a news and job information site geared for the U.S. black community, focuses on search listings while Very Short List emphasizes sponsored e-mails to members.

CollegeHumor co-founder Josh Abramson says that U.S. economic concerns haven’t dampened interest in the site, which is home to about 6 million monthly viewers.

“Spending as a whole is down,” he said. “But people are still desperately trying to reach our audience.”

(Editing by Kim Coghill)

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