Seven years ago there were less than 50 online ad networks. Today there are more than 300. But that number could shrink just as quickly, reports Lucia Moses in MediaWeek. At least, that's what her executive sources at publishers Rodale, Martha Stewart and Forbes hope. Rodale's MaryAnn Bekkedahl says that when her company experimented with an ad network, it served ads in the wrong language, broke exclusive arrangements with sponsors, and tried to put a fast-food ad in on a fitness site. Forbes.com CEO Jim Spanfeller tells Moses Forbes has the solution: It offers advertising clients its own third-party sites handpicked by the company for editorial compatibility. Martha Stewart Livig Omnimedia does the same thing with its Martha’s Circle, co-CEO Wenda Harris Millard says, because “magazines are wonderful brands and the networks are not going to protect [them]." But we know what's really going on here.Publishers are bad-mouthing ad networks, only to offer the smaller publishers who really need them their own networks instead. That's not cutting out the middleman to protect brands — that's steering away interlopers from outside the media business, while jealously guarding their relationships with Madison Avenue. Either way, smaller publishers which can't afford their own salespeople will get taken to the cleaners. It's just a question of who drives.
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