Best Publishers Online: The Mother Lode
This month, OMMA chooses the online publishers, portals, and sites we believe exemplify excellence in their respective categories. These destinations offer readers a mother lode of rich and diverse content on a consistent basis. And in the realm of marketing, our picks are innovative leaders, aggressively deploying new ad formats and video features, while striking a delicate balance between readers' interests and advertisers' needs.
Selecting the best sites was not an easy task. We nominated five online destinations in 10 categories, but featured a single site in each segment that represents the best of the pack. The best-of-breed sites represent a unique blend of editorial content with innovative advertising integration and the incorporation of video features. While we assessed online traffic and advertising revenues, these factors were not overriding influences. Naturally, though, if a site is an 800-pound gorilla in terms of traffic -- as is the case with many of the individual Yahoo! and AOL channels -- there is no ignoring it.
Ultimately, we came up with a variety of criteria and based our choices on highly subjective observations and experiences.
NEWS & INFORMATION
Online journalism doesn't get much better or more real-time than here
MSNBC.com understood the web long before its major media rivals because the brand grew up online. Its TV-like console design, highly evolved video stream interface, and best-of-breed content partnerships with Newsweek, The Washington Post, Forbes, and NBC News, along with other partners and its own original reporting, make it a strong example of online journalism.
The site aggregates news like a next-generation portal. A rich collection of blogs, including Keith Olbermann's and those of reporters in Iraq, as well as audio streams from reporters in the field, make the site feel real-time and in touch. This paid off handsomely in 2005 with superb, highly personalized coverage of the South Asian tsunami, Iraq, and Hurricane Katrina. In the wake of the nation's largest natural disaster, MSNBC.com forged a unique connection with its audience by offering a bulletin board that helped families find and reconnect with one another. The board accumulated more than 120,000 entries. The site also offered a variety of maps, graphics, video, and search features related to the disasters.
The video streaming console serves consumers and advertisers alike. Users construct their own playlists from a menu of branded TV programming, and sponsors can surround the clip and stay on screen after the pre-roll video without appearing intrusive.
MSNBC.com is a leading destination for Fortune 500 and consumer packaged goods advertisers. In fact, MSNBC.com seems to perform especially well with large rich media placements on a site that never feels cluttered with ads.
But what we like most about this brand is its ability to demonstrate how major media can embrace the next generation of the Web. Going beyond blogs (it features a blog by "NBC Nightly News" anchor Brian Williams), the site makes it easy for amateur newshounds to link to stories and even shows how the items, as well as MSNBC cable columns, are playing in the user-generated blogosphere ("Blog Talk" and "Blog Roundup").
The irony is unmistakable: While this news brand trails on cable, MSNBC.com grabs 23 million monthly visitors online.
Warts and all, Wikipedia.org and Wikinews.org emerged in 2005 as emblems of the consumer-generated content movement. The peer-generated and -reviewed entries constitute a substantial resource that demonstrates just how important user-generated content is becoming.
CNN.com helped seal the deal for free, ad-supported video streaming by liberating its video clips from a subscriber vault and actually placing them on its front page more effectively than msnbc.com. Now much more than a newsbot, Yahoo! News offers a real-time strategic overview of major media feeds. Yahoo! moved one step closer to becoming a news organization itself last year; it was the first portal to put a reporter on the ground in areas of global conflict (Kevin Sites "In the Hot Zone").
And it took no time at all for People.com to attract massive traffic when it emerged from behind AOL's subscriber wall last year. Better still, the venerable celeb brand got its stories right and helped round out the growing legitimacy of Web news by making even online gossip reliable.
Controversies aside, the nation's leading print daily also leads the online business
Sure, the Gray Lady got roughed up in 2005 amid declining ad revenues and circulation at the newspaper and the Judith Miller/ WMD controversies. But the New York Times Co.'s NYTimes.com continues to execute the smartest digital strategy and offer the sharpest content of any newspaper. The site is packed with multimedia features and video, slide shows, brilliant graphics, and extras.
NYTimes.com's long-standing registration-only approach pays off especially well for advertisers, which helped give the brand a nearly 30 percent hike in ad revenue last year. The site sports a clean, elegantly branded interface and offers judiciously placed ads, plenty of which are video-based. The Times Co. leverages its rich content superbly, creating a lively home on the Web for popular sections like jobs, real estate, and autos.
The purchase of Primedia's About.com last year extends the Gray Lady's reach into the lucrative pay-per-click business and adds 22 million unique visitors to an existing base of 13 million. The Times Co.'s online success comes down to the core content: It offers the deepest and most authoritative coverage of world news and culture of any print brand, period. No newspaper delivers the breadth and depth that the Times does online.
Led by its Op-Ed dream team of Dowd, Friedman, Rich, and Brooks, the fee-based TimesSelect product defied conventional wisdom in 2005 by attracting more than 330,000 subs. We think loyal readers will continue to pay for this level of editorial quality. The vast majority of NYTimes.com remains free, though that could change this year. The Times is using scores of granular RSS feeds and audio programming to extend its reach as a news aggregator and provider of on-demand content. You can get a Times wire on your desktop parsed by specific sport, international news region, or even job listing by career type. For all of its recent troubles, the lead story about nytimes.com is how the oldest and most erudite of news brands is spry enough to anticipate an age of democratized, on-demand information. Gray? Hardly.
The Washington Post Co.'s Washington post.Newsweek Interactive unit excelled at Washington insider coverage for the Web, especially of Plamegate and the Supreme Court nominations. And now with Slate.com on board, it has assembled a strong mix of investigative journalism and snarky opinion. It's also pioneering new ad formats, including display units in RSS, video podcast pre-rolls, and full-day ad buyouts across properties.
The San Francisco Bay Area's MercuryNews.com continues to serve its region well, but the rest of us know that its access to Silicon Valley developments is as authoritative and thorough as it comes. latimes.com stood out in 2005 for its ultra-flat redesign, which brought an incredible amount of content, savvy multimedia leadership, and one of the most ambitious podcast schedules of any news brand to the surface.
USAToday.com deserves props for tying itself to consumer needs with enhanced product reviews, gaming coverage, and the most visible extension by a newspaper brand into mobile distribution.
BUSINESS & FINANCIAL
BW Online is at the top of its game with a full complement of blogs, podcasts, and slide shows
The business of news made headlines in 2005 as blogs and podcasts became a fixed offering on corporate and news web sites. Although business news sites reported on the phenomenon, none reacted as cleverly as Business Week when it delivered a May 2005 cover story in blog format ("Blogs Will Change Your Business") while simultaneously launching its Blogspotting blog on BusinessWeek.com.
In 2005, BusinessWeek Online launched 10 blogs, including an MBA blog where business students create their own blogs. The well-trafficked blogs are part of an online facelift the McGraw-Hill Co. site began in mid-2004 though the majority of the changes occurred in 2005, after editor-in-chief Stephen Adler came on board.
"BusinessWeek Online has been progressive and perhaps uncharacteristic, with new features on the Web site," says Howard Manus, VP operations for BusinessWeek Online. "We created an interactive gallery, more animation, lots of slide shows, [and] we've done a lot more in the area of polling."
BusinessWeek Online includes daily podcasts and slide shows, which use icons of a tortoise and a hare to allow users to view articles slowly or quickly. With unique user growth up 56 percent January through November 2005, the online crew pushed further with the December launch of a pop-up desktop news alert based on pre-selected trigger words.
TheStreet.com upped its blog offerings last year and launched its video initiative. "People who are wealthy want value," says TheStreet.com editor David Morrow. "They want to tell their friends they bought a Mercedes but got a deal on it." That's how some may feel when they read TheStreet.com's new celebrity stock picks articles written by experts on the market.
Yahoo! Finance brought in its own slew of celebrity experts -- eight in all -- following the success of Suze Orman's 2004-launched "Money Matters" column. Forbes.com's site is well organized with tabbed categories and has a new landing pad with video, interactive games, polls, comic strips, e-mail time capsule, and new guest authors, including Kurt Vonnegut, Jane Goodall, and Stan Lee. Finally, The Wall Street Journal Online continues to innovate with a personalized front page option and stellar sister sites including RealEstate Journal.com and CareerJournal.com.
Sheree R. Curry
COMMENTARY / BLOGS
It covers all the latest gadgets, but this upstart's biggest asset is decidedly low-tech: its insider's voice
Gizmodo.com, a snarky smorgasbord of consumer technology news, isn't afraid to tell the truth about the latest product announcements and news. It calls a spade a spade when necessary, but it also heaps praise when rightfully deserved. Though it's geared toward tech geeks, even non-techies are tuning in to the coverage.
"We want to break through most of the hype about technology companies," says John Biggs, news editor of the site. Many consumer technology sites simply aim to be the first, often regurgitating news from press releases and wire copy. But Gizmodo has a different approach that remains true to the philosophy of Gawker Media's blog empire, from which it was spawned. "Today's cool new video players will be tomorrow's thing in the junk box in the basement, so we try to figure out what will be the best, the coolest stuff," Biggs says. "We try not to make it too geeky. Some of the stuff is for geeks and hard-core fans, but anyone who pops on can find something."
As such, the key feature of the site is actually something quite simple and non-technical: its voice. That insidery Gawker tone is infused throughout the blog's posts, and indicates that these guys know what they are talking about. They have seen and touched new gadgets both cool and uncool, and can speak frankly, bluntly, and with authority about them.
Gizmodo posts about 40 times a day and generates 233,000 unique visitors each day. Traffic tripled in the last few months of 2005, an increase Biggs attributes to the additional coverage that recent hires have made possible. Gizmodo now has four reporters, up from one (Biggs). Monthly page views are at about 10 million and unique visitors stand at about 2 million, both up 60 percent year over year. The site is text-based and added new features last year, including several RSS feeds. It also has built-in tags, so that if a user wants to learn about Sanyo, for example, he or she can easily find all Sanyo stories.
Other changes last year include a cleaner two-column design and an invite-only comment section to allow "Gizmodo confidantes" to contribute. The site boasts that it's open to custom advertising ideas, such as the iPod "Shrine" reader submission contest that ran last fall. The concept was connected to the launch of the video iPod.
Other favorite blogs and commentary sites include Instapundit.com, written by University of Tennessee law professor Glenn Reynolds, which sports a sharp, right-of-center take on current events, politics, and news. We also love PaidContent.org, which has become a must-read for the digital media and entertainment industries. It boasts generous daily coverage of how new content distribution platforms are transforming the media business. Salon.com's chick-infused Broadsheet blog sports a snarky female voice, and Wonkette remains a savvy and spicy political and gossip blog, even though founder Ana Marie Cox has moved on.
Adding podcasts and powering up search, TVGuide.com gets a top-notch tune-up
TV Guide underwent an extreme makeover last year, going from digest size to full-size magazine, even ditching the majority of its TV program listings to stay fresh in a world where TiVo and DVRs rule the roost. It should come as no surprise that the transformation included changes at tvguide.com that added a lot of new features and content. This site rejiggering is just one of the reasons OMMA selected tvguide.com as best in class in the entertainment category. The site is tops among a group of formidable competitors including IMDb, Television Without Pity, Yahoo! Entertainment, and People.com.
TVGuide.com remains a work in progress, adding supplementary data to show listings, increasing the number of celebrity photos, and working to make the home page user interface cleaner and more user-friendly. The site's biggest additions can be summed up in two words: video and search. "We've added a lot more video content and launched the beta version of our search engine in November," says Dave Bovenschulte, vice president, TV Guide Online.
TVGuide.com's search engine is sure to give rival imdb.com a run for its money. While IMDB boasts an extensive database of movies and data on actors, the stats are often outdated and may or may not be accurate. Daniel Manu, director of content for TV Guide Online, says that all the content found on tvguide.com is 100 percent fact-checked prior to posting. The site is updated several times a day, seven days a week.
The site's biggest move into video content came late last year when it became an exclusive video partner for Showtime's "Sleeper Cell." The show debuted simultaneously on the Showtime network and tvguide.com. Manu says the site went from having "almost no video to 60 to 70 different shows," with daily video updates.
TVGuide.com last spring launched TVGuidetalk, a podcast, on which editors discuss breaking news about TV shows and host celebrity guests.
One of the most popular areas of the Web site is "The Watercooler," which reviews TV shows that aired the previous night. TV Guide's writers discuss their favorite shows from a fan's perspective, rather than a critic's point of view. TV Guide Channel launched a "Watercooler" TV show in January.
"TVGuide.com is really a top resource for entertainment content," says Adam Herman, senior vice president, integrated media director, MediaCom U.S. "Besides the local TV listings, there are daily TV previews, a database of thousands of movie reviews, games, and content from TV Guide magazine to attract and keep viewers. The site gives viewers exclusive content via broadband streams and podcast downloads, which is helping advertisers reach their target market in more innovative ways than simple banner placements."
Already a content leader, this powerhouse is netting brilliant plays with video and ad integration
Just as it did on television, ESPN.com quickly established itself as a preeminent online purveyor of all things sports. Offering tens of thousands of columns, chats, and video highlight clips on a 24/7, 365-day basis, espn.com has proven its content chops. The site also noticeably improved on the marketing front in 2005.
ESPN.com upgraded its Motion video player to include adjacent ad units. Shortly thereafter, the sports behemoth's espn360 broadband service launched, offering full-game broadcasts and exclusive video clips, interviews, games, and the ad slots for which marketers had been clamoring. "Video is the hottest advertising inventory we have," says John Kosner, vice president and general manager of new media at espn.com.
ESPN.com also gets high marks from advertisers for creative marketing ploys and its willingness to hammer out unconventional partnerships. Take a recent tie-in with Ford Motor Co. surrounding the broadcast by ESPN sibling ABC Sports of college football's Bowl Championship Series. Rather than the generic banner ad and contest pairing, ESPN.com's creative team added a game in which players were challenged to chuck virtual bratwursts at a moving target.
ESPN.com opened its doors to Toyota as the title sponsor of its online "SportsNation" section, which attempts to gauge America's "sports pulse" through daily polls and other interactions. Unilever tied its Degree antiperspirant to ESPN's coverage of the World Series of Poker via an online poker game that not only netted nearly 250,000 regular players, but also sent the winner of an online tournament to the actual World Series of Poker in Las Vegas.
Those checking in with ESPN.com on a regular basis likely frequent CBS Sportsline.com as well. The site may boast slightly fewer must-read columnists and less in the way of video, but it makes up for these relative deficiencies with the best fantasy sports games and tools on the Web. Sportsline.com also publishes NFL.com, NCAASports.com, and PGATour.com, which offer a raft of potential cross-site marketing opportunities.
FoxSports.com, hosted by MSN, may be the best up-and-coming sports site, offering a combination of ESPN.com's strengths (columnists like Ken Rosenthal and video surrounded by ad content) and fantasy games and stats à la CBS Sportsline. USAToday.com's sports section, as always, remains a destination of choice for a comprehensive national overview. MLB.com ranks among the best official league sites: An independent beat reporter covers each of the game's 30 teams, and for a fee the site offers streams of games for out-of-state fans and those without cable TV.
Apple's online music store dominates distribution -- not only of music
Apple's iTunes music store has had such a big impact on consumers' listening habits that it's difficult to remember the world of online music before its April 28, 2003 debut. In those dark days b.iT.(before iTunes, natch), music aficionados downloaded songs from a host of below-the-radar sites, thumbing their noses at copyright laws. The files were often tainted and the file-sharing sites became a breeding ground for viruses and spyware.
Then came iTunes. What Apple realized before the music industry did is that people didn't mind paying for tracks, so long as the browsing and purchase processes were streamlined and user-friendly. Your mom might not be able to download her photos without a meltdown, but she can find, buy, and listen to that special Johnny Mathis song with relative ease.
While several formidable competitors have ratcheted up their marketing efforts over the last 18 months, particularly Yahoo! Music, which charges a monthly subscription fee, and back-from-legal-purgatory Napster, iTunes spent 2005 expanding its depth and breadth. Apple added podcasts, allowing listeners to subscribe via the iTunes store or by entering the URL of podcast feeds and last fall, iTunes became the first service to offer downloads of such popular TV shows as ABC's "Lost" and "Desperate Housewives." A raft of music videos and NBC Universal programming, including "The Office" and "Battlestar Galactica," followed shortly thereafter.
While marketers across categories are eager to cozy up to the iTunes juggernaut, Apple offers precisely zero ad units within the iTunes store. But it has struck alliances with nearly every Hollywood studio to show movie trailers and with record labels on the Tell-a-Friend viral marketing tool. Apple teamed up with Google on an offer for iTunes-signed labels; marketers that purchased Google keyword ads received discounts when they linked to specific artists on iTunes. Of the other top music publishers, Yahoo! made strides in 2005 with the debut of its subscription music offering and the continued reign of its launchcast online radio service. Napster, reborn as a $10-per-month subscription service, offered the most music (1.6 million songs compared to iTunes' 1 million), though its policy of terminating access to downloaded songs once a subscription is canceled irritated some consumers.
RollingStone.com distinguished itself with the Web's most comprehensive slate of music news, including limited access to its voluminous print archives.
AOL Music opened its doors to all comers in 2005 and has become a top destination for exclusive live performances, videos, and artist trivia. AOL's Webcast last July of the global concert extravaganza Live 8 proved that it can handle massive live events with technological aplomb.
WOMEN & FAMILY / HEALTH
From blogs to message boards, iVillage has proven to be a woman's best friend
Every woman needs a trusted friend -- someone she can turn to for an honest opinion, the latest dish, a laugh, or help with a serious issue. For roughly 15.6 million women across the U.S. -- nearly 9 percent of the total online population and 12 percent of online women 18-plus -- that friend is iVillage.com. Where else can a woman get candid advice on how to explain sex to her pre-pubescent son, constructive suggestions on how to downplay a derriere that really does look fat in those jeans, or the straight facts about osteoporosis and breast cancer?
In October 2005, iVillage was named by comScore Media Metrix as the No. 1 women's community site and the No. 4 community site overall and is OMMA's best online publisher in the Women & Family/Health category. The other winners are WebMD; Better Homes and Gardens' bhg.com; marthastewart.com; and the Food Network's foodtv.com. IVillage offers a reality check for many readers. For example, the blog by Ann Glamore, a mother of three, chronicles her hectic home life. Her blog can make women in the same situation feel less alone. To escape, the site offers plenty of Hollywood gossip, games, and style tips. The site is also on the cutting edge of new media, offering blogs, streaming video, RSS feeds, e-mail newsletters, and message boards with instant messaging features.
The site, which also owns and operates Astrology.com, GardenWeb.com, gurl.com, and coupon site SmartSource.com, unveiled a more user-friendly design in 2005 and renewed its contract to distribute content via msn. It also agreed to offer Yahoo!'s search products to iVillage visitors, launched a Newborn channel, and licensed Rapt Inc.'s advertising optimization technology.
The acquisition of Healthology Inc., an online producer and distributor of physician-generated health and medical information, enables it to offer more than 1,200 streaming videos.
Despite losing Wal-Mart as an advertiser last year, iVillage, which averages 368 million monthly page views, has no problem filling its three home-page ad slots. Advertisers range from insurance to education, dating to travel, mobile to retail. The biggest advertiser category remains consumer packaged goods and includes . Procter & Gamble, Kellogg, Quaker, General Mills, Unilever, and Johnson & Johnson.
Despite competition from blogs and other tech sites, CNET still rates high
For gadgets, games, and general technology properties on the web, 2005 was the year of the blog. Upstarts like engadget.com and gizmodo.com came from Internet oblivion to steal much of the buzz from the Web tech publishing establishment. Nevertheless, when it comes to handicapping a best-of-breed for the category, it's still impossible to ignore CNET Networks.
Started at the dawn of the commercial Internet in 1992 by Halsey Minor, CNET has grown into a top-10 global Internet property, comScore Networks reports. CNET's dozen-plus Web properties -- which include cnet.com, download.com, gamespot.com, and techrepublic.com -- grossed more than 110 million monthly unique users as of late 2005, up 24 percent year-over-year; average daily pages viewed grew 61 percent for the same period to 99 million. Not bad for a niche service.
Not surprisingly, CNET drew significant advertiser interest in 2005. Kraft Foods, Wal-Mart, Showtime, Wrigley, Dodge, Best Buy, America Online, and New Line/Warner Bros. were just a few of the top-tier marketers investing in the property.
CNET also made rare quantitative marketing analysis news in developing a cross-media optimization study for Ford Motor Co. that showed a mix of search-term purchases and online marketing buys identified qualified potential customers for Ford's flagship F-150 truck.
Life isn't perfect, though, not even for CNET. Though monthly unique users were up year-over-year, users fell from 115 million in the second quarter of 2005 to 110 million in the third quarter. CEO Shelby Bonnie implied during an investor conference call that major redesigns across the CNET brands temporarily drove off some users. Merger rumors continue to swirl. The company is a natural acquisition target for such giants as Yahoo!, MSN, or Google. And some observers question whether CNET's management is focused entirely on day-to-day operations.
But CNET's biggest challenge will be managing competitors. The early adopters CNET serves are particularly fickle and easy to lose to upstarts. Engadget.com, for example, grew from a minimally trafficked blog to a top-1,000 Web destination in little more than a year. And though a fraction of the size of CNET, it is frequented by such tech industry heavyweights as The Wall Street Journal's Walter Mossberg, which threatens CNET's traditional role as tech's taste arbiter.
What's worse, other sites -- including upstarts like Engadget.com and Gizmodo.com, and more established tech properties like Lycos Wired News and Slashdot.com -- show growth in traffic and industry cachet. But if CNET faces some scrappy competition, it's hard to argue with the site as a value proposition for advertisers.
The go-to gaming site isn't just an online arcade, it's also a virtual community center
Increasingly, marketers are looking to leverage branded placements in video games. And if big-name franchise Xbox and PlayStation titles become blockbuster movies with product placement, then casual online games are like the TV shows that people can't live without.
Casual game sites have managed to capture advertisers' interest by providing impulse entertainment that not only draw millions of users, but manage to keep them playing for hours and returning frequently. Anyone who's booted up "Bookworm" or "Bejeweled" knows that you don't play just once, and you don't play for just a few minutes. An outstanding example of the casual game site oeuvre is Pogo.com, a site owned by Electronic Arts, the games publishing giant.
When Pogo was acquired by Electronic Arts in February 2001, it had already accrued nearly 17 million registered users. The deal was touted as a way for EA to break into a broader consumer market, particularly mature consumers and women -- in other words, casual gamers. By July 2001, Pogo's content had been fully integrated into EA's own site, and in 2003, the company debuted Club Pogo, a subscription service that provided players with faster access to new games, better prizes, no advertising, and special chat functions.
Last November, ea announced that the subscription service had more than 1 million subscribers, with 75 percent of those being women over the age of 35, a sharp contrast to the mostly young, mostly male video gamer demographic.
The site's two main draws are its casual games and the community built up around them. Pogo has forums and chat rooms, as well as ways for players to measure and compare their performance with others, even in single-player games. A sense of competition and community has developed around games that, when hosted on other sites, are purely solo affairs.
Several other noteworthy sites focus on the community of gaming, rather than simply the games themselves. Slashdot is entirely about the community and culture of gaming. Gamespy runs not only a game review and community site but also an online matchmaking service for popular multiplayer PC games.
Advertising on Pogo consists of simple display ads, as well as ads that run during the loading times for site features, primarily games. The site's advertising is heavily targeted, drawing from its registration data to match ads to users. "The games are broad in their demographic appeal, so we deliver to older females, to adults 25 to 54, even to youth ages 18 to 24. The diversity of advertisers really spans the gamut," says EA's national ad sales director, Bob Lonigro. "Very, very few advertisers just do a run-of-site."
Some of Pogo's blue-chip advertisers include Kraft Foods, Daimler-Chrysler, Gillette, and Johnson & Johnson. Like our other top picks, ign.com and Yahoo! Games, Pogo has been successful at attracting advertisers outside of the video game sector.
On-Demand Gets Buzzed
With fits and starts, and suffering from more excess hype than theglobe.com (remember theglobe.com?), on-demand media gave us a glimpse of its future with video streaming, RSS feeds, and audio/video podcasting. By streaming the Live 8 concert, AOL sealed the deal for video Webcasting, while others -- MSN/MSNBC.com, ESPN.com, and Yahoo! -- have made the platform a viable spot to move TV dollars. But at the bleeding edge of this format, we have our eyeballs on Blinkx, whose SelfCast service lets you create your own TV channels out of a million-clip repository. Call it Must Make TV.
Yahoo!'s seamless integration of RSS feeds with MyYahoo gets special kudos for making the magic of XML brain-dead simple, at long last. InfoWorld.com and Washingtonpost.com started moving us into a world of display advertising within the feeds.
Like Yahoo! and RSS, iTunes jump-started the geeky podcasting platform by adding one-click subscriptions into a huge network of programs. Video podcasting is an especially exciting extension of TV media and advertising. Ziff Davis and Washingtonpost.com are pioneering in-stream ads, but Heavy.com's packages of branded entertainment for iPod and Sony PSP gave us a glimpse of a brave new world: on-demand advertising.
Current mobile marketing expenditures may be RAZR-thin, but having 200 million potential opt-in devices walking the streets of America is hard for marketers to ignore for long. Among media brands, no one touches ESPN, which serves millions of mobile Web ad impressions, is pioneering sponsored applications, and just launched its own phone service. MobiTV shocked us all in 2005 by revealing that more than 500,000 people subscribe to its handheld TV streams, and the company is about to sell ads into the local avail space. Stay tuned.