IBM’s healthcare director had an article published on The Huffington Post last year about primary care, and conducted a back-and-forth discussion with readers in the story’s comments section. It’s an example of a growing component of the media firm’s ad revenue pie, and what Huffington Post president and chief revenue officer Greg Coleman calls the site’s “calling card” to advertisers and agencies.
In the past few months, Huffington Post has hired 12 ad sales, operations, and marketing staff away from firms including Yahoo, MySpace, and The New York Times. Among them are three social marketing execs, tasked with guiding advertisers on the best ways to use the site’s sponsored content opportunities, and ensure that the sponsored content takes on a social life of its own through SEO.
Huffington Post hired Jarrod Dicker, formerly with Minyanville Media, and Daniela Perdomo, previously with AlterNet, as social marketing managers. Camille Norris has moved from her role as research analyst with The New York Times to social marketing research manager at Huffington Post.
The “Smarter Ideas” page on the site is sponsored by IBM and features links to several posts, some of which are made by IBM and labeled Sponsor Generated Content. An October article from an IBM researcher on electric cars is promoted on the page, along with links to sponsored articles on high-speed rail and water management. Non-sponsored stories are featured as well.
“The ability to really get our advertisers to engage in the conversation in real-time, whether it’s blogging directly on The Huffington Post or engaging in the comments…where they’re naturally going to be retweeted with the company’s hashtag…the level of interest we have in this marketing form is gigantic,” said Coleman.
A year ago The Huffington Post predicted it would boost ad revenue six-fold in three years. Coleman said the company is on pace to achieve that goal, and has “more than doubled” its ad revenue since a year ago. “I see us going through that. We’re now spiking and the number of clients that are renewing their business is just very high.”
The sponsor content and other social media-style offerings have become “the centerpiece” around which advertisers are also spending on more standard display units, he said. “It’s really our calling card right now,” said Coleman, noting that the sponsor content products have brought in “a meaningful amount here and an amount that is growing very fast.”
As part of the company’s new hiring haul, three former Yahoo sales execs who previously worked with Coleman before he left Yahoo’s advertising division in 2008 were poached. Sam Figler, previously VP of global sales and business development at Yahoo, will serve as SVP business development for The Huffington Post. Lauri Baker and Jennifer Carroll, both formerly account directors at Yahoo, are now account executive and account director, respectively.
“It’s nice to have the chance to bring over some people you’ve worked with,” Coleman said.
The company also added new account directors, managers, client services execs and an ad trafficker from firms including WeatherBug and MySpace.