The best websites of 2010 all offer a unique take on their respective content category and the ability to attract millions of engaged Internet users.
Where there's a list of killer websites, there's a host of digital advertising opportunities for the taking.
Last week, Time Magazine published its 50 Best Websites 2010 list. It includes sites from a variety of industries and verticals, everything from music and video, family and kids, to sports, financial, and shopping. It's always interesting to stumble across unfamiliar consumer destinations while reviewing a list like this one, particularly from a digital marketing perspective.
Indeed, this year's roster included some wonderful contenders that, as marketing partners, have plenty to offer. Some may already be on your radar. Some don't offer third-party advertising at all. What they all have in common, though, is a unique take on their respective content category and the ability to attract millions of engaged Internet users.
What follows are some options to get you thinking about what makes these sites the "best."
Sports fans love to talk. They vent and gossip about their team or athlete of choice, and cheer during the big games. What better way to facilitate this form of communication than through social media, where they can interact with their peers online?
That's exactly what Citizen Sports is all about. The site, acquired by Yahoo Sports earlier this year, offers online fantasy leagues and games, Facebook and mobile applications, live scores, and quizzes relating to every imaginable type of sport. Through these social and mobile products, Citizen Sports connects consumers in the context of their sport interests and activities; users can do everything from trash talk with their Facebook friends to make game predictions with fellow fans using their iPhones. Sports fans are a desirable demographic for countless advertisers, but add to the equation a series of highly interactive content products and Citizen Sports becomes a prime place to reach them.
Through a partnership with Major League Baseball's digital arm MLB Advanced Media last year, the organization began selling ads on Citizen Sports applications. However, buyers can also purchase ad space directly through Citizen Sports. For the benefit of both consumers and marketers, the publisher takes a very uncluttered approach to advertising by limiting the number of advertising partners affiliated with each of its products.
Apps can be sponsored and customized per an advertiser's needs. In one campaign from Burger King, the brand sponsored the MLB "Beat the Streak" fantasy game and got a highly integrated ad partnership in which elements of the Burger King brand - like "The Burger King" himself - were incorporated into the game. The result was an enhanced game featuring branded content that didn't detract from the sports information users were looking for.
The self-proclaimed "most popular food and drink blog in the world" has used some in-demand site ingredients to create an online destination with exceptional flavor. This community of 1.5 million users - which includes Serious Eats, Serious Eats: New York, Slice, A Hamburger Today, and Photograzing - blends blogs, videos, message boards, and editorial content. There's news, information, and entertainment to be had, everything from reader recipes to restaurant recommendations from experts as well as the Serious Eats community. Every resource that's of value to a food lover is tapped and presented in an interactive way.
Serious Eats offers what you'd expect to get from any digital advertising partner worth its salt: pre- and post-roll video ads, banners of all sizes, newsletter sponsorships, text ads. But given that it's a trusted online community first and foremost - something few media buyers would hesitate to leverage on behalf of their clients - Serious Eats also creates custom campaigns designed to drive brand word of mouth.
In one effort for Häagen-Dazs, the premium ice cream brand sponsored a Serious Eats video in the name of its "Häagen-Dazs loves Honey Bees" campaign. Through this honorable cause, the company is working to help scientists uncover the reason why honey bee colonies in the U.S. are dying, and trying to preserve them. The sponsored video that appeared on the Serious Eats site was an on-site look at the role honey bees play in pollinating fruits and crops. It was a natural fit made to enlighten, educate, and entertain.
Parenting websites are a dime a dozen, which is probably a good thing considering the number of parents out there who could do with some guidance. One place they can be sure to find it in a fresher, more current form is Babble.
The editorial team behind this site clearly knows what modern parents want; Babble features useful articles on selecting baby names and pregnancy health next to tot-friendly recipes and cute celebrity daddy-daughter moments. There are interviews with said celebrities too, along with blogs, polls, and studies. In essence, the site is like an irresistible cross between Us Magazine and BabyCenter, with an emphasis on what's hot in hipster parenting.
Like most sites for parents, Babble is attracting a wide variety of advertisers eager to target moms; those powerhouse consumers who can research photo printers and baby formula with comparable ease. Brands like Huggies, Pampers, and Similac have all partnered with the site to create custom campaigns. For Similac's placement, which ran on the site last week, the brand wallpapered the home page with its newest product and sponsored an online poll on baby tummy trouble, the data from which Similac can use to supplement its consumer research.
In another campaign, Clorox sponsored a "germ matrix" that invited mothers to explore an age-specific map of particularly germy areas like the kitchen and playground. The tool then educated them on how to avoid and manage the microbes (using Clorox products, of course).
"Given that we're a newer site, we have a lot of flexibility with the way the site is built, and fewer limitations with how advertising is presented," says Alisa Volkman, co-publisher and VP of sales strategy with Babble Media. We think it's really important to allow advertising and editorial to overlap in ways that appeal to the reader and also satisfy the advertiser's objectives."
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Tessa Wegert is a business reporter and former media strategist specializing in digital. In addition to writing for ClickZ since 2002, she has contributed to such publications as USA Today, Marketing Magazine, Mashable, and The Globe and Mail. Tessa manages marketing and communications for Enlighten, one of the first full-service digital marketing strategy agencies servicing such brands as Bioré, Food Network, illy, and Hunter Douglas. She has been working in online media since 1999.
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