Say Media’s Passion Play

VideoEgg was known as an-banner ad network, but now rechristened as Say Media it has grander ambitions to save the media industry with a workable business model.
The company is taking its first big steps in this direction with the acquisition of its first properties and the imminent launch of its first homegrown site, The bet: digital media’s future lies in niches, aggregated by technology, and monetized with innovative brand programs.
Say has its eye on “passion verticals” like beauty, fashion, pets and sports. One area it’s not interested in: news, which has several things working against it, according to Young: “short shelf life, highly competitive, huge investment.”
Pets, on the other hand, is ideal. For one, people are passionate about them. Say announced it  bought Dogster, which also operates Catster, and has about 2 million visitors per month, according to Say. Compete pegs’s monthly uniques at a little over 450,000 and’s at 270,000. Dogster hides its stats from Quantcast.
The numbers are solid but hardly unreal. Young said Say will need to build and acquire other vertical properties. It’s only in offering a bundle that such independent media attract brand dollars. Say has a 200-person sales force. That will complement endemic programs Dogster’s own sales team will sell in the category.
“You have to aggregate a lot of them and connect that content to a scaled advertising network,” Say president Troy Young said. “You connect passion and influence with attention.”
The model isn’t entirely new. Enthusiast media has been a solid (and lucrative) category for years in the magazine world. Dogster and Catster would seem more modern versions of titles like Paws and Cat Fancy. Unlike a traditional media company, Say operates a large ad network and has technology having acquired the Typepad blog platform.
“If you’re going to build a new Conde Nast, you have to have a very significant technology layer in your company,” Young said.
Say is betting big on Pratt, the founding editor of Sassy and Jane. Her site launch is due later this month. It will be built with an eye to new forms of audience engagement, including a section that will broadcast her text updates and photos from her phone.
Other companies have tried new-style version of publishers. The closest is probably Federated Media, which was begun on the proposition it would be a “federation” of independent sites. FM was to take over the publishing functions.
Like FM, Say is depending on new ad models emerging that make content pay in ways that until now it hasn’t online. Part of that is “conversational marketing” programs that enlist authors on behalf of sponsors. Those have led to controversy in the past, but Young believes it’s needed to get brands off the sidelines.
“You need to create better ad models and connect them to a broader network,” he said. “Passion always sells.”

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