Real Media Unveils Vertical Network, Publisher Ad-Buy Discounts

Ad technology and serving company Real Media launched two new publisher programs this week — a vertical network and preferred ad buy rates — designed to lure new affiliates and to compete with offerings of the larger players.

The company’s new iCover Network, which is similar to DoubleClick‘s Sonar Network, among others, includes more than 400 national and local sites in 11 vertical content categories, including Business/Finance, Health, News, Entertainment, Sports and Lifestyle.

In addition to commercial and content sites, iCover also includes Real Media’s network of domestic newspapers, including The New York Post, Dallas Morning News and Chicago SunTimes.

Unlike the company’s 53-site Portfolio network, Real Media does not exclusively handle the iCover network sites’ ad sales, said Real Media vice president of ad sales Brian Quinn.

Instead, the vertical network offers publishers the opportunity to sell off excess inventory to network advertisers interesting in bulk purchasing, through run-of-network and content segment buys.

“Advertisers seeking cost-effective, mass reach media buys and quality service at every stage of the campaign will greatly benefit from the iCover Network,” said Real Media president and chief executive officer Chris Neimeth.

The network expands on Real Media’s previous Retail Direct vertical network by establishing a centralized sales force and serving platform.

The company also announced its Real Media Rewards program, a preferred ad rate plan specifically for its Web publishing partners.

Participating publishers will receive a discounted advertising rate on Real Media’s Portfolio sites, and a flat rate for all iCover categories.

Additionally, publishers in the program will not be charged a serving fee for delivering the ads on Open AdStream, Real Media’s ad serving platform.

“We recognize the value our partners bring to Real Media and we are rewarding them with a cost-effective means of reaching their target audiences and driving users to the Web sites,” Quinn said.

Real Media’s bid to increase its publisher base could come as a result of efforts to boost the bottom line of a company with a history of growing expenditures and fiscal woes.

An influx of $30 million last month from investor Advance Internet forestalled what appeared to be dire straits for the company: by January it had spent about $13 million of the $14.5 million it had received from investors since 1996, according to SEC filings.

Market conditions also have not been on Real Media’s side; the company filed in February to go public with the aim of raising $71 million, but a pricing date yet to be set.

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