CNET's New Email Program

by , Nov 29, 2001, 12:00 AM
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CNET Networks, an online advertising innovator that developed the Messaging Plus Unit and other novel formats, is turning to a more conventional vehicle now -- email.

The company is launching an email program it calls Bull's-Eye because of its ability to target prospects. Pete Deemer, CNET's VP of Outbound Media, says the company conducted a survey of 15 million subscribers to its 200 email newsletters this summer to develop a database it can use for the Bull's Eye program. The company learned detailed information about subscribers, including their titles and the type, size and location of the companies they work for.

"We built a database of several million users, so advertisers can go into it and select highly targeted groups for their campaigns," Deemer says. A an example of a market for an email campaign might be managers at manufacturing companies with 1000 or more employees west of the Mississippi, he says.

The email will feature a CNET logo and header at the top and bottom with the advertiser's message in between.

CNET officially introduces Bull's-Eye next week, but began offering the program to marketers in October. CNET says it has signed up a dozen clients so far, although it is only able to name one -- Sun Microsystems.

Customers will pay CPM rates from $300 to $3000, based on the amount of targeting and size of the audience. If a search for a target audience yields a small number of names, the CPM rate is much higher, Deemer says. "Advertisers said how can you expect us to pay a high CPM, but the cost of reaching the audience through other mediums is higher," he says. "This is the opportunity to reach them with certainty."

Reaching audiences with certainty is an e-mailer's dream because of the amount of unwanted email most people receive, which makes them wary about opening email. Ben Isaacson, executive director of the Association for Interactive Media, a division of the Direct Marketing Association, asks if CNET subscribers opted in to receive email. "They opted into the newsletter, but did they inform subscribers about these offers? What level of permission do they have?"

But Isaacson thinks the CNET venture is a strong one. "All major content sites look to opt in email services, but CNET has a better demographic," he says. CNET is of course renowned for its high-tech audience, an affluent professional group that is ideal for advertisers. And this is the first time CNET will send email to them. In the past, CNET has run ads in the email newsletters it sends, but hasn't sent solo emails directly to subscribers. "This is an email expansion that gives advertisers more real estate and more targetability," Deemer says.

Perhaps the only problem with CNET's Bull's-Eye program is the limits on the kind of email it will send. At first, only html and text email will be sent, with Flash available in December. Many companies are now offering rich and streaming email products that won't be available from CNET initially.

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