Say Media wants to be the Condé Nast of blogging, creating a premium environment where content and ads command attention. The company's Orion platform, based on technology acquired with SixApart, is tailored to handle everything from content creation to how ads appear.
"A lot of publishing problems are not addressed by most content management systems," says Troy Young, president of Say Media. "The bigger issue is how you holistically present content and advertising together."
Dogster's new look features a simple navigation bar along the top of a two-column layout. In the left column is a large photo and teaser for the site's top story, with a list of recent stories below. The right column, slightly more than a quarter page wide, contains a single display ad for Hill's Science Diet that expands when a site visitor clicks or hovers for three seconds.
Other sites in the media stable have similar formats, although it's far from uniform. Dogster, for example, is still a work in progress, while ReadWriteWeb is less cluttered than it was previously but not as clean as Remodelista.
Advertisers can place a range of content inside the expandable rich-media ads, according to Young. For example, an Intel ad leads to an application where users can answer four questions and get a recommendation for computer hardware. They can also watch video, learn about products and click through to the Intel e-commerce site.
Say Media says it provides an optimized user experience for mobile devices, but advertisers do need to make multiple versions of ad creative to fit. The company has creative studios in several locations and will work agencies or directly with advertisers, using its own authoring tools.
Ads are sold on a cost-per-engagement model, with pricing dependent on the editorial environment and the audience. Young says rates range from $0.30 to $3.00 per engagement.
The company provides tools to help editors and writers understand and promote the most attractive content, and it offers advertisers an analytics platform that tracks an ad's interaction rate, time spent, and the various things people do inside the ad.
The company's transformation from geeky video ad network to media powerhouse began in 2010, when VideoEgg bought Six Apart, provider of the Typepad blogging platform and Moveable Type blogging software, as well as an ad network.
Young, president of VideoEgg, became president of the company rebranded as Say Media. It bought high-profile sites including Dogster, Catster, Fashionista, TechDirt, ReadWriteWebM/a>It also acquired digital agency Sideshow,/a> and began rolling together editorial and advertising in a more integrated way under the rubric of the Orion platform.
Earlier this month, Sean Combs advertised his Ciroc vodka brand with rich media banners on sites in Say Media's sports vertical.
Tourism Tasmania is using Say Media to roll out its largest ever cost-per-engagement advertising program, reaching more than nine million Australians.
Ultimately, Young says, the company wants to make great editorial the key to premium ad revenue. "Today, people who are good at social are really able to get ahead. We want to train our editors and writers, and continue to build features into the platform. The publication of the future needs to be really good at technology and great at content."
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Susan Kuchinskas has covered interactive advertising since its invention. The former staff writer for Adweek, Business 2.0, and M-Business covers technology, business and culture from Berkeley, CA.