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May 20, 2009, 9:37 a.m.

Talking Points Memo’s advertising strategy explained…in 100 seconds

Last time we checked in with Talking Points Memo, which was December, the political news site planned to get serious about in-house advertising sales as it added reporters in Washington. Since then, TPM hired its first vice president of sales, Diane Rinaldo, and vastly accelerated the site’s advertising revenue. (Expanding in D.C. has not been as smooth.)

Bringing on Rinaldo, who was previously director of political advertising at Yahoo, represented a major life-cycle moment for eight-year-old TPM. The site had long relied on networks like Blogads to support its operations, but further expansion would require selling space directly to advertisers at higher CPMs. The recession — with its forecasts of doom for online advertising, particularly among political sites — may have forced TPM’s hand.

In the video above, Rinaldo says that TPM sold more advertising in March and April than it did in all of 2008. (That refers only to in-house ad sales, not total advertising revenue, which has roughly doubled each year since 2005, according to Rinaldo.) I’ve cut the video in the style of TPM’s popular feature, “The Day in 100 Seconds.” Incidentally, Rinaldo told me they still plan to sell ads against “100 Seconds” and other videos — but not the clips that TPM rips straight from CNN and MSNBC, which might have raised copyright concerns.

Some other statistics to consider: Rinaldo says that 60 percent of TPM’s visitors come to the site “more than once a day.” That’s impressive no matter what, but it’s important to note that the statistic is based on TPM’s reader survey, where the sample is undoubtedly biased toward loyal readers of the site. The survey also found that TPM readers are slightly more affluent and educated than readers of NYTimes.com. (The Times still charges a higher CPM for its ads, however.)

Josh Marshall, TPM’s founder, editor, and publisher, recently told All Things Digital’s Peter Kafka that the site draws about 1.5 million unique visitors and 15 million page views per month. Marshall, for what it’s worth, was sitting at his desk just feet from me and Rinaldo during our interview in TPM’s new loft. And if you listen carefully, you might wonder if we taped this on the set of VH1’s Pop-Up Video: Those bubble noises in the background are incoming-message notifications on Skype, which TPM somewhat notoriously relies on for its internal communication.

A full transcript of the video is after the jump.

Diane Rinaldo: I was at Yahoo for about six years, the last two years of which I was leading the political advertising sales group…Talking Points Memo was looking to expand and bring someone in-house to start ad sales

TPM is somewhat unique in that it straddles two audiences: …the national audience of business leaders and thought leaders…. Even higher income level, even higher education level than The New York Times online…Inside-the-Beltway audience:…people who work in the government…people who work in positions to influence legislation…And that’s very valuable to the advocacy advertisers…D.C. is about 0.2 percent of the U.S. population, but it’s 3 percent of our audience…The ad manager tool that we use provides for geographic targeting […] so we can target the D.C. metro area, and that’s a very popular target that we…sell on a regular basis…

And I think what’s important, too, and very unique to us is how engaged they are…Sixty percent of our audience comes to TPM more than once a day…They actually have, if you would, a bond with TPM…

Each year since 2005, ad revenue has nearly doubled…We have booked in the last two months more than we booked in all of 2008…

Video is a very big priority for us…Our goal is to grow our video audience and to launch some form of video advertising…For “The Day in 100 Seconds“…a full pre-roll…of 15 or 30 seconds might be difficult, so what we’ll toward is maybe a model of an introduction and then a mid-roll or post-roll.

Zach Seward: The other…type of video that TPMtv does is…a minute, two minutes of something that’s recently been on…CNN. Is it possible to sell ads off that?

Rinaldo: A lot of that, we would not sell advertising in…

Seward: Because of copyright concerns?

Rinaldo: Right.

POSTED     May 20, 2009, 9:37 a.m.
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