America Online will debut several new rich media ad units when it unveils its AOL.com portal later this month, and advertising has been a top priority in the design plans, ClickZ News has learned. The new Web portal is the centerpiece of AOL's strategy to build up advertising revenues as its subscription business -- once a mainstay -- continues to founder.
"As much effort as we spend on improving the consumer experience, we're also spending on improving the advertiser experience," David Liu, general manager of AOL.com, told ClickZ News. "My job is to make sure the platform is being monetized."
The AOL ad sales team is currently on a road show promoting the new units, which will become active with the launch of the new AOL.com. The ad sales team has been involved in every development meeting for AOL.com's new portal, as well as the recently launched AIM Mail. AOL also looked to Time Warner sister company Advertising.com for expertise on what kinds of ad units sold and performed best.
The portal will include several unique rich media opportunities on the main homepage, as well as on homepages of other sites in the network. For example, AOL recently ran a branded takeover "road block" of its member home page for Disney, and the company is expected to continue to offer the unit on the general Web portal.
All units will comply with the IAB's Universal Ad Package (UAP) guidelines, continuing AOL's commitment to an open Web strategy. AOL was much criticized several years ago because ads were difficult to buy and track on its proprietary Rainman publishing platform.
However, the company is committed to highlighting content and advertising beyond the home pages, hoping to improve display ad opportunities, especially video and rich media units.
"A home page is important as an organizing principle, but we benefit more from getting users more deeply into the experience," Liu said. "Every time we interact with a user, we're going to deliver the payoff first, and then link to additional relevant content on our network."
Broadband content will be key both to bringing and keeping new users, and providing rich media and video ad opportunities. Liu said AOL will also use its programming savvy to tailor parts of the site to its core demographic of 25 to 49 year old adults, while catering to a younger audience through AIM.
"What we'll have is like an interactive TV channel with unlimited shelf space," Liu said.
To highlight content throughout the network, AOL has invested heavily in SEM and SEO services, making sure every content page is optimized for relevant search results on AOL Search and other search engines. When AOL subscribers log into the Web mail service, or when users log into the free AIM Mail service, they will see links to top news stories on AOL.com.
Further taking advantage of the "network effect," All pages of AOL network properties will show a top navigation bar linking to other sites in the network. In addition, on sites like MapQuest, more effort will be made to offer users relevant links to information on AOL CityGuide and other properties, Liu said.
Though AOL executives said they had advertisers lined up for the portal's launch, they declined to divulge more specific information.
Leading up to the launch, AOL has been revamping its advertising opportunities for months. It has been standardizing all of its sites on a single ad-friendly media player since April. It made some advertiser-focused changes to AOL Search in January.
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Kevin Newcomb joined ClickZ in August 2004, covering search marketing and other online marketing topics. He has been reporting on web-based businesses since 2000.
Before the bubble burst, Kevin was a marketing manager for an online computer reseller, handling copywriting, e-mail marketing, search marketing and running the affiliate program.
With a combination of real-world marketing experience and years of business journalism, Kevin brings to ClickZ a unique ability to deliver news and training materials that help online marketers do their jobs better.
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