Martha Stewart-Run Ad Network Could Help Blogs Ditch Google

Specialty ad networks are a good thing if Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia has anything to say about it. The media and merchandising company is stretching its online advertising presence by launching Martha’s Circle an ad network focused on home and decorating topics akin to marthastewart.com.

The company has already signed advertisers including Ace Hardware, Macy’s and Bank of America, promising them the ability to target to specific content areas such as food, kids, home and entertaining.

Advertisers looking to reach the traditional Martha Stewart audience will be able to purchase ads across the network, including blog network Apartment Therapy, 101 Cookbooks, Style Me Pretty, Smitten Kitchen and Mom Junction. Martha’s Circle will provide advertisers with premium ad units and campaign level reporting and optimization, according to the company.

“I think that Martha can do a great job of knowing who her audience is and if they match the right ads and companies to this space, the quality level will be high and we’ll all make more money off of that,” said Maxwell Gillingham-Ryan, co-founder of ApartmentTherapy.com, a home décor blog network. “Martha could potentially bring great quality to the matching of ads in this space.”

Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia isn’t the first women’s media company to launch an ad network specifically to reach its audience. Companies like Glam and iVillage have been competing for advertising revenue, and attracting big name partners. Glam chose Google as its exclusive search provider in June, and NBC Universal’s iVillage became the exclusive sales agent for Sugar in the same month.

Gillingham-Ryan already had been approached by Glam and Federated Media to join their ad networks, but what drew him to Martha’s Circle was the specific focus on home decorating.

“We saw them as a nice fit in terms of content, but didn’t think they were the forefront of online,” admitted Gillingham-Ryan about Martha’s Circle. “Glam and Federated are bigger in that area, but we are willing to go with someone that represents what we are interested in.”

Apartment Therapy’s site includes five ad placements, and now offers two of them through Martha’s Circle. The blog network receives a minimum payment for the placements, which Martha’s Circle sells at a higher CPM to advertisers. The blog network sells the remaining spaces itself or through Google AdSense.

“For us in our niche, since we’re house and home, and we know there is the potential to sell ads to real companies like Home Depot, and DWR, selling ads through Google is a sign that we’re not doing a good job,” said Gillingham-Ryan. He aims to increase ad revenues by joining the niche ad network in the hopes of abandoning AdSense altogether, he said.

“Google’s CPM is very low. When we counted our pageviews and ran the numbers, it was shockingly low,” he said.