Rise of the network, fall of the portal

Mark today in the history of media. In today’s NY Times, we hear an ad guy praising networks over portals (and by portal, we don’t just mean Yahoo, we mean any closed media property, including TV networks and newspaper sites). Networks used to have cooties; they were supposed to be nothing but aftermarkets for unsold inventory — or so the big media properties wanted us and media planners to believe. But networks are quickly becoming more targeted, more efficient, and more economical. From the Times:

Some of the ad dollars that in the past had been spent at portals are being spread around instead. Ad networks, which fan out ads to thousands of sites, are adding targeting and are signing up reputable sites, making them more attractive for advertisers.

“There was a time when we would go out and buy inventory on the portals,” said Quentin George, global head of digital media and strategic innovation at Universal McCann, which plans media for clients like L’Oreal and Sony. “Portals make it easier for us to buy and place media on behalf of our clients. But as time continues and as analytics capabilities increase, you find that your media dollars can work better elsewhere across a range of different sites.”

Michael Hayes, senior vice president and managing director for Initiative Interactive, which handles digital spending for clients like Home Depot and Bayer, said that advertisers might be turning away from broad buys and looking for more targeted campaigns on smaller sites.

“This is hurting the portals,” he said. “There are more options.”

This is why I say that the Glam model — whether that includes Glam itself or not only time will tell — is a key business model for the future of media. Welcome to the post-scarcity post-media economy.