Hyper-Niche Publishing Has Another Moment, This Time In Video

Former AOL and MTV Networks moguls are behind a new broadband network that has plans to spawn dozens of niche vertical sites. Next New Networks has launched five of 101 planned properties, each with episodic video and animated content on a hyper-focused theme.

Herb Scannell, co-founder and CEO of Next New Networks, said the company is still ironing out its ad strategy and executives are in talks with interested agencies. He also said Next New’s path to monetization likely won’t involve pre-roll ads.

“People I’ve talked with at agencies think users are looking for a different sort of thing than what’s on television,” Scannell told ClickZ News. “We are thinking mid-roll makes sense. We’re looking at deeper integrations with advertisers.”

Scannell brings a hefty pedigree to the project, as the previous president of Nickelodeon Networks and vice chairman of Viacom’s MTV Networks. His involvement and that of major investor and board member Jon Miller, former president of AOL, have brought Next New the favor of mainstream media outlets long before its proposed galaxy of sites blinks into existence.

Interactive old-timers may notice something familiar in the audacious 100-site business plan. It’s the same number of niche properties Jason Calacanis once declared he’d launch by the end of 2005, in the early days of his blog publishing start-up Weblogs, Inc. The actual number maxed out around 70 or 80, and was later further reduced by AOL after Calacanis left the company.

Nick Denton, publisher of Gawker Media and a longtime Calacanis rival, said hyper-niche publishing hasn’t turned out to be the boon many anticipated.

“I think it’s pretty clear now that it’s best to focus efforts on a few strong brands,” Denton said. “Web is not as friendly to niche plays as people thought.”

Next New will maintain a dual focus on studio produced and amateur content, which sites in the network will directly solicit and screen for quality and advertising safety. The first batch of sites includes two comic- and animation-focused channels, Channel Frederator and PulpSecret; two car channels, Fast Lane Daily and VOD Cars; and fashion site Threadbanger. Future themes will range over topics including lifestyle and “ideas” properties. All the current sites target an 18- to 34-year-old demographic.

“Our perspective is a community perspective… We don’t think these communities are necessarily served by TV,” said Scannell. He said the company would sell to endemic advertisers in each of the verticals where it’s publishing.

In settling on future niche programming areas, Scannell added, “We’re also thinking about what marketers are looking for.”

Some of the network’s current content seem at odds with Next New’s promise to provide a safe, clean environment for media buyers to place campaigns on behalf of blue chip advertisers. An early episode on Channel Frederator is backed by profane hip-hop lyrics.

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