CBS MarketWatch.com Hops On Revenue-Hunting Bandwagon

CBS MarketWatch.com this week rolled out new pricing and new ad formats amid
a site redesign — a move that it says will increase its appeal to
advertisers, but which could wind up proving a distraction from the site’s
content.

“CBS MarketWatch.com has always been a powerhouse content provider,” said
MarketWatch.com Chief Executive and Chairman Larry Kramer. “But our new site
will let us offer more content and tools than ever — to our readers, to
advertisers, as well as to our licensing and distribution partners.”

In addition to a rich media “window” — similar to the Internet
Advertising Bureau’s proposed 336×280 “large rectangle,” and the formats
currently in use by other publishers like CNET Networks, Disney and
internet.com — the company is selling space on its Web page backgrounds,
also known as “wallpaper.”

The move is unusual, and a gutsy one for the San Francisco-based
property — since most publishers and designers typically feel that
background images could distract from the content.

In 1996, New York-based i-traffic (now owed by interactive shop
Agency.com) contracted with portals Yahoo! and Excite to use special
wallpaper in a promotion for its client Disney’s release of “101
Dalmatians.” Those efforts plastered the sites’ Web pages with
Dalmatian-like spots.

But the effort seems to be attracting advertisers. MarketWatch.com
announced that Anheuser Busch has signed on to sponsor the CBS
MarketWatch.com home page through January, 2002. Anheuser Busch will
promote its Budweiser and O’Doul’s brands using the site.

In addition to Budweiser logos in the backgrounds of some Web pages,
Anheuser Busch purchased Friday afternoon Web space — in an effort to prime
its primarily male demographic for “happy hour.”

That particular announcement is the first time the
site has begun selling advertising based on time-of-day. The arrangement,
MarketWatch said, meets the needs of packaged goods advertisers.

Terms of the ad deal were not made public.

The news comes as publishers — both portal plays like Yahoo!,
[email protected] and Terra Lycos, and niche sites like CBS MarketWatch.com — are
struggling to make the most of waning ad spending. Last week, Yahoo! gave
its first earnings warning based on expected shortcomings in ad revenue,
while Merrill Lynch analysts Wednesday reiterated their forecasted 25
percent drop in Web ad spending in 2001.

To cope, Web publishers have been rolling out larger ad sizes that often
incorporate rich media — which could appeal to advertisers seeking larger
creative spaces than can be provided in a 468×80 banner ad. Just weeks ago,
the New York-based IAB, an industry-sponsored association, introduced a
number of new voluntary guidelines designed to boost traditional companies’
interests in online advertising. The ads are larger and proportionate (which
encourages repurposing of offline and online creative into new inventory),
and one unit is even specifically for pop-up ads.

However, that comes at the price of ceding increasing amounts of screen
real estate to advertisers. And with MarketWatch’s introduction of
“wallpaper” ads, which effectively advertise in all of the blank space on a
Web page, the effort has reached a new level.

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