Vertical ad networks: the coming boom

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It is raining Vertical Ad Networks in India. What is that, you ask? Essentially, a vertical ad network is an aggregate of websites around a niche audience, served up to advertisers as one single interface. For example, all tech-related websites and blogs could be of interest to say, a PC manufacturer. An ad network offers the gamut of such niche content to advertisers. It is meant to be a win-win situation for both the publisher & the advertiser. Of late, there has been a spate of announcements in this sphere in India.

Not surprising that the online media has gone the way of traditional media in terms of fragmentation. For media planners, life was relatively simple a while back when they had to choose between two or three publications or a handful of channels to reach their audience. Now with 300+ plus channels, life is not simple. Similarly, even in India it is no longer as easy as choosing between say a Yahoo & MSN or Cricinfo & CricketNExt. With India specific content – be it mega publishers or individual bloggers – booming, there is a need to monetize the content. It is virtually impossible for traditional media planners to sift through these sites and figure out which one of them is right for their brands.

Of the lot, I found Divanation – a women’s ad network, GoSindbad – a travel ad network and Tonictag – a technology ad vertical, interesting. Women are the biggest target audience for advertisers in traditional media. Goosefish, a venture from Webchutney naturally sees potential and has created Divanation. Interestingly, Goosefish has investments from Network 18, who is emerging as a serious contender in spaces across TV & online along news, tech, business, jobs, cricket, shopping and other spaces. They already have indiwo, a woman’s portal. What this means to the small publisher or the individual blogger is interesting. They were dependent on Google Adwords until now and this provides new vistas for them. For example, I stumbled upon Bombay Bitch (a Goosefish venture) a blog focused on movies, fashion and glamour. A traditional media agency may not have considered it automatically for their brands. It makes sense to go with a partner who can aggregate similar sites for them.

And as web habits evolve, even within a category audience will dig deeper and wider. A travel enthusiast may not just stop at a Yatra or makemytrip but also delve deep into adventure vacation, blogs on specialist travel, cheaper vacations and so on. Specialists travel portals on cruises, off-beat vacations and luxury are bound to emerge. Merely taking the horizontal ad network and placing your ads on the top 2-3 travel websites may not be enough.

My bet on this space: vertical ad networks to do with youth and education. The mantra for several brands is to connect with the youth. TV commercials, supposedly reflect that. And education has seen a boom in the offline world. With properties like emerging, the next wave is going to be on online education portals. The launch of YouTube India has already aided such moves.

In the days to come, such vertical ad networks will be a crucial part of online strategy for both advertisers and publishers.

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