Web traffic for The Huffington Post, which turned five on Sunday, is massive—in February, it rocketed past 40 million unique monthly viewers, according to one metric. (Nielsen put it at 13 million uniques in March.)
But the site has yet to turn a profit.
That’s about to change, according to CEO Eric Hippeau, who tells MediaWeek that HuffPo will become profitable in 2010 for the first time since it launched on May 9, 2005.
The line from Hippeau is that until recently, HuffPo has been in “investment mode.”
That’s also what its chairman, Ken Lerer, told The New York Observer when Hippeau was named CEO a little under a year ago.
“Eric thinks this isn’t the time to be profitable—it’s the time to invest,” Lerer said.
Now, as HuffPo’s chief revenue officer, Greg Coleman, tells MediaWeek, the goal is to double HuffPo’s revenue ($15 million in 2009) over the next two years.
How are they gonna pull it off?
For one thing, they’re building up their sales team. Since coming on last September, Coleman’s brought on 18 “experienced sales executives” who have scored deals with big advertisers like General Electric, Siemens, Mercedes, HP, IBM and Discovery.
But let’s not forget media analyst Ken Doctor’s breakdown from a few weeks ago:
Figure that HuffPo made revenues of $12-15 million last year, a consensus estimate. Let’s say it might do $20 million in 2010, though that could be generous, given the tepid rebound. So $20 million would be an average of about $1.6 million a month. Thirteen million monthly uniques, $1.6 million a month would mean about 12 cents a unique visitor per month.
The New York Times, on the other hand, generates about $15 million a month with 16 million monthly uniques, which translates into about $1 per unique visitor a month, Doctor writes.
That’s the strength of being a company that has long sold advertising, owns key agency relationships and does print/online bundling. Still: a dollar per unique compared to 12 cents a unique. As in all things web, we could say, HuffPo is being underpaid or we can say the Times is being overpaid. Whatever, that’s a delta worth knowing and exploring.
Good luck, Arianna!
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