In Internet-speak, the tide has finally turned towards monetizing Web assets.
While many are achieving cohesion by melding separate Internet units into television operations, NBCi's independent status calls for close work between teams. "Every week that goes by, it just gets more and more integrated," says Jim Shineman, senior vice president, business development, NBCi. "It's not just about going out on sales calls with the NBC team. They really understand what we can offer their clients above and beyond the traditional TV advertising campaign."
In a unified sales organization, the managerial challenge is to get salespeople to invest efforts promoting less lucrative online offerings.
"We started in late '95-'96 with a commission structure that rewarded TV personnel for selling the Internet," says Larry Goodman, president, CNN sales and marketing. "We wanted them to see that this was a new and important part of our portfolio. If the typical TV commission was 1%, interactive got 5%. We wanted TV and interactive media bundled together. We wanted the sales staff to see it as a unified sale and not separate things."
Convergence goes beyond the back office. Advertisers are being pitched new opportunities that link on-air and online.
Cartoon Network Online General Manager Jim Samples sees this driving sales. "We're starting to go beyond the button-and-banner approach. Advertisers are eager for a real tie-in with their product, usually a game or a contest." What's cutting-edge in online offerings? "We hope to do more Flash [Macromedia's animation] presentations," Samples says.
But they all know the challenge. "When there's talk of a recession, one of the first things to get cut is the ad budget," says NBCi's Shineman. "And the more experimental the campaign is, the less likely they are to keep it."
There are other contexts to consider, too. Jupiter Research senior analyst David Card says that frustration over monetizing the new-media market comes from a fundamental misunderstanding. "The Internet audience is growing, but it's still hard to make money off it," he says. "Many looked at the Internet as a technology market where fortunes are made fast. But this is the media business. It takes a long time to build brands in the media business. How long did it take USA Today and ESPN to make money?"