Demand Media is developing a pay-per-click (PPC) advertising platform that in the long run could work in concert with Google's. The plan is to test the service with "a handful of brands" on LiveStrong.com, the joint venture with Lance Armstrong unveiled last year.
The paid search platform, which would eventually roll out across Demand's publishing brands, will work in a similar way to Google's PPC applications, Demand Media Networks EVP Larry Fitzgibbon tells Online Media Daily. "We're already in discussions with a couple of advertisers to test the service," he says.
The tool would give brands a means to target consumers as they search for food items in LiveStrong.com's database. He equates the service to "diamonds for brand marketers who want to understand how people interact with their products," as more consumer product goods (CPGs) companies introduce health-conscious foods.
The challenge of getting CPG companies on board remains. Many have shied away from paid search marketing campaigns, through analysts and industry experts such as Jenny Liu, industry marketing manager, CPG, Google, has highlighted in the past the huge opportunities for those CPGs willing to take the risk.
LiveStrong.com tracks and cross-references more than 100 million food and fitness items, as of March 2009. It provides marketers with unique promotional opportunities for its more than 1.3 million registered users who spend on average six minutes and 20 seconds interacting or searching for information on the site.
The site doesn't collect and store personally identifiable data, but in aggregate can pinpoint trends. For marketers who want to promote healthy bread or other food items, LiveStrong can provide hundreds of millions of data points such as geographical locations, as well as likes and dislikes of consumers. Fitzgibbon points to Subway, for example, which might want to know what type of foods consumers eat with its sandwiches.
Fitzgibbon says 25% of the food and the fitness tracked across LiveStrong.com originate on mobile phones, either BlackBerry or iPhone. Apple's app has been downloaded nearly 630,000 times. "We're tracking about 10 million items each month," Fitzgibbon says, which argues the site is the most popular vertical food search engine on the planet. 'People have discovered many food items, about 11 million searches on the site, but as many of them search for us on Google and find us that way."
The search provides calorie counts, carbohydrates, protein and more for items like frozen fries. Users have registered more than 2 billion calories burned. These searches provide a unique opportunity for marketers to place paid search ads next to the food items.