Warner Bros., Lifetime and Others Join Women’s Ad Network Race

Warner Bros. Television Group is joining the ranks of large media brands extending female audience reach by building women-centric site networks or aligning with complementary networks. The producer of programs like “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” today is launching news and community site MomLogic.com along with a companion network of smaller sites into which it will sell ads and share content. Unilever is an initial sponsor.

Yesterday Lifetime Networks announced an ad and content-sharing alliance with Glam Media, following Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia‘s home and decorating content network launch last week. NBC Universal Digital Media hooked up in June with female-oriented Sugar Publishing to sell advertising and share iVillage content.

“Advertisers don’t want to leave the comfort of the brands they want to associate with,” said Brett Bouttier, SVP digital for Warner Bros. Television Group, suggesting these new online networks allow well-known firms leverage established media brands to help develop new ones.

While some networks are built around verticals like technology, auto, travel, education or sports, starting with women-oriented content makes sense, according to Bouttier. “Women have traditionally consumed more media than men,” he said. “They’re incredibly valuable to advertisers because they control [consumer spending].”

The MomLogic Network currently has less than 100 sites, and will be managed using Adify’s small publisher ad platform. Warner Bros. will also offer MomLogic.com display, video and performance-based advertising through Advertising.com. The Adify system might help Warner Bros. find additional partner sites for the network, too, said Bouttier.

Another women-aimed content producer that got its start on TV, Lifetime Networks, takes a similar approach to Warner Bros. The new Lifetime Glam network has been created in conjunction with the relaunch of myLifetime.com, which will serve as the network’s flagship site, along with women-centric sites and blogs from Glam’s existing network and other sites. The two will also swap content from Glam’s beauty and style channel and Lifetime’s video and game sections.

Glam is using the relationship to promote its ad platform, which among other things will manage ad serving, content distribution and billing for the Lifetime network. “For the big media companies it’s all about having innovation and really being able to quickly offer their advertisers and their consumers something new,” said Glam VP of Business Development Jennifer Salant.

As large media firms “have made that transition from print to online, they’re seeing a tremendous challenge in providing the same type of scale online that they could provide their traditional advertisers,” said Peyman Nilforoush, co-CEO and head of agency relations for technology content site network NetShelter.

Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia last week broadened its reach beyond marthastewart.com by launching the Martha’s Circle ad network, featuring sites like 101 Cookbooks and Mom Junction. An early online provider of women-aimed content, NBC Universal Digital Media’s iVillage signed a deal in June making it the exclusive ad seller for Sugar Publishing’s female-oriented sites such as ShopStyle and just-launched parenting site LilSugar.

Not only do such pairings provide more ad inventory in specific content areas for large publishers, they give small partner sites the chance to earn higher CPMs from brand advertising than they might through performance-based networks like Google AdSense.

Belonging to a vertical content network can enhance ad rates because the content and audiences can be organized in more precise ways according to sub-topics. Also, combining several small sites focused on similar subject matter creates the reach and frequency advertisers demand.

Sites with bigger names can also fuel scale by driving additional traffic to new network partner sites. In the cases of the new Warner Bros. and Lifetime deals, content distributed from lesser-known partners to larger sites should raise visibility of those smaller sites and push users through to them. Also, brand name sites tend to be better optimized for search, which could lift partner sites in search engine rankings.

“The obvious appeal for networks like ours is to have brands in the network that drive inbound traffic,” said Scott Cherkin, VP of business and product development at Travel Ad Network, a collection of niche travel sites including travel guide site LonelyPlanet.com and mapping site Rand McNally.

Without joining a network, “for a small publisher it’s impossible to get the awareness of huge advertisers and get the scale to fit with you,” said Dan Suratt, EVP digital media and business development at Lifetime Networks.

In addition to ramping up a health channel soon, Lifetime plans to launch a myLifetime.com gaming section through a relationship with casual game provider, RealArcade next year. The company will also offer the site’s content via mobile devices in 2008, and expects to continue building its reach through site acquisitions next year.

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