Robert is responsible for US sales of Answers.com and is based out of New York City. His experience encompasses a total of 20+ years in sales and marketing with 11 years in online ad sales.
Last summer, interactive advertising veteran Robert Formentin -- longtime VP of Sales at Advertising.com -- joined Answers.com as Vice President of Advertising Sales. I chatted with Mr. Formentin about Answers.com, what sorts of opportunities it presents to advertisers, and about his new role. (And if you missed Search Editor Kevin Ryan's column about Answers.com last week, .
Brad Berens: Answers.com is positioned somewhere between a search engine and a content site publisher. How would you characterize the company to advertisers?
Robert Formentin: By offering almost four million topics from over 100 licensed sources across several categories, Answers.com is delivering content-rich pages rather than just links. This means that our pages are the destination rather than simply a quick navigation mechanism, rushing the user off to other sites. As a result, we can deliver a captive audience interested in a wide variety of niches such as legal or health. Since Answers.com is not a traditional search engine, we go beyond the PPC business model and offer advertisers standard keyword and category ad targeting. We are also focusing on contextual targeting, and on allowing advertisers to sponsor their content with in the lineup of answer resources for users
Berens: Aside from its own portal, Answers.com powers some very interesting technology on NYTimes.com, CBS.com and elsewhere. If you highlight a word or phrase, hit "alt" and then click, it pops up a window with information culled from the Answers.com database. This is useful and interesting, but it's hard to find out about it if you don't know about it already. What is Answers.com doing to raise the profile of this technology?
Formentin: 1-Click Answers is one example of our tools that make getting answers easier, faster and more convenient. While we've historically offered a downloadable version, the NY Times and CBS News are using a web-based version of 1-Click Answers tool that enables users to access our vast array of content without leaving the publisher's site and without downloading any software. It's our intention to make this technology freely available to any website for the benefit of their users which we believe will increase our branding, visibility and ultimately increase traffic to Answers.com.
Berens: Answers.com has historically derived most of its ad revenue from Google Ads served on dynamically delivered search result pages. Does your arrival as Vice President of Advertising Sales signal a new direction for ad revenue?
Formentin: Google ads are attractive because they are both text-based and relevant, and thus a natural fit for a content-rich site like ours. But additional new revenue streams were always part of the game plan. My role is to drive the development of successful ad elements that won't compromise the integrity of the site, but enhance its functionality as an information resource for our users. Our goal is to feature ad elements that, like our content, are relevant to the user and therefore will find him/her more receptive. We accept all standard ad formats, including video.
I am also working on packages that deliver niche-interest audiences to advertisers and on programs that involve integrating marketer's content into our Answers result pages; in a way, it's very similar to product placement.
Berens: In the past month or two, Answers.com has made distribution deals with the New York Times, CBS News and Microsoft's new IE7 browser. What is the significance of these deals?
Formentin: In addition to the obvious value that Answers.com delivers to these major media companies, we also get significant branding and/or potential traffic from these partners. We will continue to strive to be the provider of quality content to major news sites and other niche publishers. Moreover, many of our distribution deals offer additional opportunities for us to extend our advertisers' brand and message to our partners' sites. We also expect our advertisers to benefit even further from the additional quality audience we expect to receive in these traffic deals.
Berens: With so many sites to advertise on, why should marketers spend their ad dollars on Answers.com?
Formentin: Answers.com is a hybrid that offers advertisers the relevance of search along with the branding opportunity of contextual placement. We can integrate advertiser-sponsored content into our answer line up and can handle every imaginable kind of ad unit. With almost four million topics, Answers.com covers a wide variety of user interest. Our categories cover entertainment including movies, music and associated artists, business and finance, law, science and technology, health, places and travel. We also incorporate general encyclopedic and dictionary information on almost every other subject matter so users are not forced to wade through thousands of search engine links to find what they're looking for.
Advertisers find an uncluttered environment and are not forced to manage numerous PPC programs and complicated search bidding scenarios. Our approach is simple: marketers can place graphical ads on relevant content pages generated by specific keywords or on broad category pages and reach users that have shown a desire for specific information. Our comScore audience composition indices are greater than many of our competitors. We frequently have a higher index than WebMD in health, MSN Movies in entertainment and Yahoo! Finance in finance.