Post-L90, eUniverse Again Tries Network Play

Looking to pick up where it left off after the L90 debacle, Web publisher eUniverse is creating a new division to extend its ad network by wooing new affiliates and advertisers.

eUniverse’s new unit, Performance Marketing Group, is intended to work with smaller Web publishers to carry ads from eUniverse’s advertising clients and its subscription-based sites, in return for a cut of the revenue.

The division, which will share offices with its Los Angeles-based parent, already touts a sizable affiliate force, since it launches with relationships with more than 400 sites that had been linked to eUniverse through prior affiliate agreements.

Much like the major ad networks and affiliate marketing solutions providers, the new company plans to attract new affiliates by essentially offering smaller sites an outsourced ad sales, delivery and optimization service in exchange for some of their ad inventory.

A subdivision of the new company, dubbed PMG-Velocity, will concentrate on selling ads on this network to clients, typically charged by eUniverse on a cost-per-click or cost-per-action basis. In addition to eUniverse’s own sites, clients obtained from PMG-Velocity’s parent include Simply Wireless and Columbia House.

The move seeks to expand eUniverse’s audience, which is ranked the sixteenth largest Web site network, reaching about 4 million monthly visitors, according to Nielsen//NetRatings . Executives said the effort was borne out of eUniverse’s success in selling advertisers on pay-for-performance ad deals across its own sites, and its success in also marketing its paid products (such as the CupidJunction dating site) to its audience via house ads.

“The Performance Marketing Group was created to help market eUniverse’s products and services outside the company’s network and achieve full market penetration,” said Dan Williams, general manager of the new unit. “In addition, the tremendous success rates we are garnering with our own properties encouraged us to begin offering our unique marketing services to other companies looking to promote their products.”

The establishment of a new eUniverse division focused on marketing and selling networked ad inventory picks up where the company left off in March, when it abandoned its planned acquisition of L90, a Web ad network and rep firm now doing business as MaxWorldwide.

eUniverse had intended the acquisition to sell inventory on sites operated by eUniverse and its affiliates, while encouraging big-name advertisers to sign on. Questions about L90’s accounting practices ultimately led eUniverse to bail out on the purchase, however.

MaxWorldwide, itself, continues to suffer from accounting woes. Earlier this week, the company was delisted from Nasdaq because it did not file a quarterly report on time. MaxWorldwide held off on the filing because of new accounting inconsistencies discovered by PricewaterhouseCoopers, which had replaced Arthur Andersen as MaxWorldwide’s auditor following earlier accounting misclassifications.

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