Online Publishers Boast Ad Gains

The Online Publishers Association (OPA), a group representing a number of well-known content sites, said on Thursday that a survey of its member companies showed ad revenues rising sharply in the third quarter, despite gloomy reports of the state of the Internet advertising industry.

In talking with 18 OPA members, including Forbes.com, the Wall Street Journal Online, and ESPN.com, the trade group found that established media companies are doing better online, with third-quarter ad revenue growing at an average of 35.7 percent over the same period last year. For the year, the OPA said the group’s ad revenue was up an average of 23.8 percent. Meanwhile, total revenue grew an average of 47.4 percent in the third quarter, while year-to-date revenue rose 35.5 percent.

“These results confirm that high-quality content sites are continuing to capture an increasing share of the online advertising dollars,” said Michael Zimbalist, the OPA’s executive director.

According to AdRelevance, the top sites are riding a broad increase in advertising on news sites. The measurment unit found ad impressions to news sites increased 15 percent to over 4.5 billion in the third quarter.

In recent months, the OPA has worked to distinguish its members — which largely publish content created in-house or by an offline parent — from content aggregators like Yahoo, MSN, and AOL. In one example, the OPA recently trumpeted in-house research showing that loyal visitors to a Web site don’t mind its advertising, even expressing a better perception of the advertisers’ brands.

This would benefit sites with established offline audiences, like many of the members of the OPA, which includes the online brands of many top traditional publishers like the New York Times and Washington Post. Zimbalist said that established media companies are finding their online units to be areas of growth in a sluggish ad market.

At Washingtonpost.Newsweek Interactive, the division has seen 50 percent growth in advertising in the first nine months of the year. In August, the washingtonpost.com, which boasts 5 million monthly visitors, began requiring users answer a three-question survey of personal information, so that it could better offer advertisers a targeted audience.

“Advertisers have come to believe in the effectiveness of the Web, unlike a couple of years ago when people just measured click-throughs,” said Caroline Little, Washingtonpost.Newsweek Interactive’s chief operations officer, pointing to recent evidence that online advertising improves brand awareness and direct response.

In addition, Little said the medium’s growth can be attributed to advertisers looking to connect with consumers at work. Unlike TV and print, the Internet is the primary media used on the job for many Americans. According to a Nielsen//NetRatings report in September, 46 million U.S. officer workers were logged on to the Internet at work, up 17 percent from last year, and the top 10 news sites had a combined 60 million unique visitors.

“Web marketers are beginning to realize the consumer reach potential at work,” said Nielsen/NetRatings analyst Charles Buckwalter.

Since much of the at-work traffic goes to news and financial sites, the OPA has branded the at-work hours the “Internet’s primetime” and advertisers should see it as the best medium to reach consumers at work.

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