Yahoo is taking its “we sell, you sell” ad model vertical. It hopes to use its deepening relationship with its newspaper partners as a template to fulfill its mission to become the Web’s biggest ad network. Through recent relationships with Cars.com, Forbes.com, WebMD, and CNET, the firm wants to connect its nascent AMP ad platform with ad inventory representing auto, finance, health, and tech content. The company also plans to focus on health content for an upcoming vertical expansion.
Through an exclusive relationship with Cars.com announced in December 2007, Yahoo employs behavioral data from Cars.com users, such as which auto make and model pages they’ve viewed, to target auto listings ads against Yahoo ad inventory. According to Cars.com President Mitch Golub, the firm will offer the behavioral product at its manufacturer advertising upfronts this year.
Now, Yahoo wants to broaden the partnership. “There’s a burgeoning ad serving and selling piece as well,” said Michael Yang, GM Yahoo Autos and Real Estate. Yahoo wants to push out its network strategy, known internally as the “we sell, you sell” project, to partners including Cars.com. This would mean Cars.com would sell Yahoo inventory, while making some of its own inventory accessible to Yahoo, to be sold and managed through the ad platform Yahoo is developing. Yahoo is testing that ad network model with a handful of sites run by its newspaper publisher partners.
“The ‘we sell, you sell’ AMP platform… was really jumpstarted by the newspaper consortium,” said Yang.
Alluding to partnerships with WebMD, Forbes, CNET, and Cars.com, Yang yesterday told the audience at The Kelsey Group’s “Drilling Down on Local” conference in Seattle, “The goal is to get premium publishers into our new network and on our display system.”
Yahoo recently joined with CNET networks in a tech content distribution and cross-selling partnership that mimics its deals with some of the newspaper consortium partners.
In addition to extending Yahoo’s reach, the company uses some of its vertical partnerships to generate revenue from local advertisers. Cars.com is one such partnership. Selling to local advertisers can be “hard” for Yahoo, said Yang, noting the firm “finds particular partners and verticals that help us get down to the local level.”
The health vertical also could be one with local implications for Yahoo. Though Yang shared little about the company’s plans for rolling out new health-related projects, he mentioned hospital and doctor ratings as “some of the things that we’re going to be taking a look at.” Companies including About.com and Microsoft already have made inroads in the health category.
Cars.com’s Golub describes the integration process for the current Yahoo deal as smooth and efficient, something echoed by newspaper industry representatives involved in integrating Yahoo’s AMP ad management platform with paper sites on a trial basis. To be clear, Cars.com is not integrated with Yahoo’s ad platform.
“They’re pushing us; they’re challenging us,” said Golub of Yahoo. “This is not just an exchange of dollars.” One benefit of working with Yahoo to target behaviorally is streamlined reporting. “We can go to an advertiser and say… here’s the value, and we’re only talking about two sites: Yahoo and Cars.com,” said Golub.
Cars.com has 700 ad sales and ad services staff and expects to generate $400 million in revenue this year, according to Golub.
Whether Cars.com has the new vehicle related inventory to accommodate an expansion of the Yahoo partnership is questionable. Auto research and buying sites such as Cars.com have been highly sought-after forums for carmakers looking to reach in-market auto buyers. Indeed, behavioral targeting has been popular with auto sites for years since it helps them meet inventory needs of new car advertisers by targeting users outside of make and model-specific content; such pages sell out quickly.
“We’re experimenting with Yahoo cross-selling into Cars.com and our other sites; currently we have more demand for [new vehicle related] inventory than supply,” explained Golub during a talk with ClickZ News at the conference.
The car site has more used car inventory to play with, although Golub said used car advertisers “have also been buying more of the pre-owned inventory.”
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