Vibrant Media, purveyor of in-text advertising, is trying a new product that might make the whole concept seem a little less evil.
Vibrant ads are the double-underlined hyperlinks that have become ubiquitous over the past few years. They open into a small window when passed over by a cursor; the advertiser pays when an ad is clicked. Many readers find them annoying, and they’ve been been controversial at some publications. But with click rates between 3% and 10%, they’re effective.
Now Vibrant is testing an editorial version called “Vibrant Related Content.” These will look like a normal hyperlinks with a single underline, but they’ll open a window of related links, images or video pulled from elsewhere on the site. The window will also contain ads, either pre-roll video or display, sold on a cost-per-thousand-impressions basis, so advertisers pay based the number of ad views, not clicks. Readers will be alerted that it’s not a normal hyperlink from a small magnifying glass, indicating the presence of more content.
Vibrant is selling the concept to publishers as a way to increase clicks by visitors by helping them to information they might not have otherwise found. The danger, of course, is that the links aren’t wanted or useful and it just feels to the user like more spam. So far, 50 sites are experimenting with the service, including NBC U’s iVillage and Gannett’s Detroit Free Press, which are using it to direct users to related articles.
It’s potentially a new line of business for Vibrant, whose CEO Doug Stevenson says the company will sell $80 million in-text ads across 3,500 Web sites in 2008. The company lost a recent high-profile hire, Sean Finnegan, to Starcom MediaVest, but Stevenson says Finnegan will remain on Vibrant’s board.
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