Squeezing dollars out of the Net

Be ready to reap the benefits as retailers realize the value of niche marketing on the Net

Since its inception as a commercial medium, the Internet has posed a persistent question to would-be Internet millionaires: how do I turn a profit on the Web? It’s a question that only a select few have answered. Whatever the formula for success, advertising has played an integral role in driving the economy of the Net. Banners, contests and promotions have all found their way into the mix. Yet the majority of Internet advertising dollars still go to only the most highly trafficked sites, among them Yahoo! and other Web portals.

Recently, however, targeting specific markets on the Net has caught the attention of companies who previously believed that the best way to attract attention was to get as many eyeballs to view their banner ad as possible. "We’ve definitely seen an increase in interest about the Internet habits of African Americans and other minorities," says Idil Cakim, an analyst at Cyber Dialogue, a New York City-based Internet marketing research firm. The company conducts research for companies such as ABC, America Online, Procter & Gamble and General Electric.

Every year Cyber Dialogue conducts The American Internet User Survey, which queries 2,000 randomly selected households. The most recent survey yielded some interesting results about the Web habits of African Americans and other minorities. "Minority Internet users are less likely to view ads as an interference in their online experience," says Cakim, who cites a greater willingness by nonwhites to click on online ads. According to the study, only 24% percent of minority users view ads as an intrusion compared with 37% of white Internet users.

"The advertisers are finally starting to come around," says Lawrence Tuckett, who has also seen a greater interest in African American-targeted sites by advertisers. Tuckett is the director of Ethnic Marketing for Interactive 8, a New York City-based Internet advertising and marketing firm. However, Tuckett adds, black-owned sites must meet the advertisers halfway by making themselves more attractive. "The most important thing that African American sites need is significant traffic in the range of 100,000 unique visitors and 500,000 impressions [or page views] per month," he says. "Otherwise the large advertisers aren’t going to look at them."

Black sites shouldn’t assume that they have dominion in creating content for black people, Tuckett warns. "There’s already competition from large media companies like Cox and Tribune," he explains. Cox owns Black Families.com and Tribune owns Black Voices.com. Still, he maintains that there are plenty of opportunities for black-owned sites to attract advertisers. "Black-owned sites have to be creative in how they approach advertisers by delivering real value." He suggests "out-of-the-box" thinking that proves to advertisers that you’re willing to work for the relationship and prove that you’re delivering more than just eyeballs.

"For instance, you can set up a deal that pays you a dollar for each advertiser’s application that is filled out via your site," says Tuckett, who explains that this sort of arrangement reduces both the risk and the

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