CNET Rises Up With Intromercials
While CNET is far from the first Internet venue to embrace intromercials - CBS Marketwatch, for example, has been featuring them for a few months - the company is perhaps the first to place limits on the type of information it will display.
"The messaging has to have some news impact," says CNET Networks executive vice president of sales and marketing Greg Mason. "We're not allowing vendors to use these units for promotional messaging." The Sun ad, however, seems to straddle the promotional/informational line: it notes the features of the company's Sun Fire V60x server, but only after its cost is displayed prominently.
According to Mason, intromercials are designed to help marketers in the enterprise space "get impact around significant announcements, but not in a way that would be perceived by [site] visitors as grating or annoying. It's a nice balance of an impactful message that is relatively unobtrusive." Indeed, users can elect to bypass the intromercial, which comes and goes before you know it. On subsequent visits (news.com boasts more repeat daily visitors than most sites), the ad is scaled down considerably.
"As a user, you're only viewing the large message one time," Mason says. "The second time you come in, you see it again but in a more standard size."
While Mason believes that intromercials have considerable potential as a marketing vehicle, he cautions that they won't flourish overnight. A major challenge is that the format requires customized creative - and this usually takes more than a little time to coordinate and produce. "[The intromercial] is obviously not a standardized unit yet," he notes. To assist would-be intromercial advertisers - IBM and Microsoft are two companies Mason mentions as prime candidates - CNET is offering help on the production end. Additionally, the company is allowing vendors to book time well in advance - say, to coincide with a big product launch.
CNET will likely begin featuring intromercials on its other sites "sooner rather than later," according to Mason, and hopes to be seen as one of the new format's biggest boosters.
"Within six months, I believe the web is going to be considered a much more integral component for new campaigns and new product information," he says. "Given our place in the tech industry, hopefully we'll be a key player."