IDG TechNetwork Targeting Enterprise, Consumer and Gaming Audiences Says CEO Longo

IDG TechNetworkPeter Longo is CEO of IDG TechNetwork, a vertical ad network. Why was IDG TechNetwork started and how did you get involved?

PL: IDG TechNetwork was started to engage the distributed content universe that existed outside of our parent company, IDG. There are literally thousands of websites that are focused on technology, and IDG around the globe operates 450 of them, which leaves a lot of the market available to monetize. IDG has a long history of selling advertising on its own websites, and deep relationships with the largest technology advertisers in the world. By adding quality websites from outside of IDG, it grew our monetizeable inventory dramatically, and gave our advertisers confidence that they could access that inventory in a safe, reliable environment.

I personally became involved quite by happenstance. Bob Carrigan, the worldwide CEO of IDG, and I have known each other for years as competitors when I was at Ziff Davis, and we met at a conference and shared some ideas which led to my joining the company.

Does IDG TechNet own the sites within its ad network? Are they owned by IDG?

We do not own the sites in our network, and all of our inventory comes from sites that are not owned and operated by IDG. Our strategy from the very beginning was to build a third party network of technology websites.

What differentiates IDG TechNet?

There are lots of things that are different about what we do at the IDG Technetwork, but first and foremost we are exclusively focused on the technology category. Most networks offer two flavors of technology audiences, business and consumer. At the IDG TechNetwork, we look at the world of technology the same way our advertisers do, with many different vertical segments. Unlike any other network, we are comprised of three primary audiences: Enterprise, Consumer and Gaming.  Within those audiences, we have developed over 50 specific vertical channels. Whether an advertiser is looking to target developers or virtualization buyers in the enterprise market, digital camera buyers in the consumer space, Xbox gamers in the gaming market or any one of over 50 different vertical segments we have the channels and sites to make it happen.

Another significant differentiator for the IDG TechNetwork has been the diversification of our product line. The core of our business will always be our premium advertising relationship with our technology advertisers, however we have also developed some additional key platforms:

  • Lead Generation: We have relationships within our network that allow our advertisers to have a direct relationship with the same unique technology purchasers they have targeted with their advertising. In the month of May alone we generated well over 10,000 qualified leads for our clients.
  • International: Our parent company IDG has always considered international media a cornerstone of our company. At the IDG TechNetwork we have adopted the same strategy. We operate 9 independent ad networks outside the US with in-country teams and local websites and we have a pool of inventory that is worldwide in reach.  It is possible through our owned and operated networks  to advertise through the TechNetwork in virtually every country around the globe. For advertisers, we are truly the only global technology advertising network.
  • Content Syndication: We bundle content and advertising relationships together and separately to create unique environments for clients. We have these types relationships with many major media outlets including the NY Times, Bloomberg BusinessWeek the LA Times and Chicago Tribune to name a few.
  • Video and Data: We have just launched advertising platforms in both Video and Data. For advertisers looking to place video advertising, or for clients looking to target specific verticals through data-enhanced inventory, we can now offer solutions in both areas.

What is your ad network’s data strategy?

Our data platform continues to develop, but our core strategy has been to use publicly available data, combined with our own proprietary data and the unique visitor histories on our network to compile data profiles. The publicly available data comes from the data partners we have integrated with through the AMP platform including Bizo, Exelate, BlueKai and others. We append that data with data collected from our IDG Tech Panel. The IDG Tech Panel consists of business and consumer purchasers of technology who have completed extensive questionnaires as background so that they can later participate in surveys from any number of technology companies. Finally, we use unique visitor histories from our network to track the topical technology interests of visitors to the websites comprising our network. Once all that data is compiled, we can build out audience segments for our advertisers and a wide variety of technology targets.

Do you use ad exchanges either to extend reach for advertisers or sell excess inventory for your ad network’s publishers?

We have tested exchanges just to be as smart as possible about all opportunities for inventory utilization, but its not a core part of our strategy and doesn’t represent a meaningful inventory source for us. We tend to to focus on deep relationships with our sites and to push for exclusive relationships.

How do you insure brand safety when buying for your advertisers or selling for your publishers in exchanges?

Any buying we have tested has been on a site-specific basis from sites that we know and approve.

How do publishers make money with IDG Tech Net? And, how sophisticated are they? Do any have ad servers, floor pricing, etc.?

We work on a revenue share with the sites in our network. Each site that joins signs a contract that gives them the opportunity to share in our success, the more money we earn on a CPM basis the more money they earn. Our sites run the gamut from large sophisticated sites to those that are smaller and primarily focused on content. We’re a premium network and tend to focus on higher priced inventory, so floor pricing isn’t usually a topic.

What’s your view on how the ad network business will shake out? How will the ad network model need to morph to survive?

I think the ad network model will continue to evolve as it has done already over the last few years. Some of the trends that have already begun and I will expect they will continue i.e.: site transparency, more exclusive relationships and increased ability to target audiences. In the future, ad networks are going to have to be increasingly reliant on data to drive their targeting capabilities and to drive their interactions with DSP’s if they are to be successful. Its hard now to gauge the impact that exchanges will have on the market, but I think it will be significant. Certainly the horizontal networks focused primarily on display advertising will be the most affected. The vertical networks like the IDG TechNetwork that have deep category knowledge will be less affected initially. We consistently focus on having multiple lines of revenue, not just CPM display advertising alone, and a high degree of exclusivity with our websites in order to maintain an identity outside of the ad exchanges.

Finally, is IDG Tech Network profitable today? How many employees do you have -any thoughts on next year? Please discuss your anticipated growth.

We are growing at a rapid pace right now in the middle of our second year and so all employee growth has been tagged to revenue growth. Two years ago we had four employees, now we are at 30 and I expect to exceed 50 a year from now. Most of our growth has and will come in sales, business development, marketing and ad operations, however we need employees next year to support our new lines of business as well.  Yes we are profitable.

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