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Published: February 27, 2008 at 02:09 PM GMT
Last Updated: February 27, 2008 at 02:09 PM GMT
This morning, National Geographic will announce a digital initiative they hope will push their Web traffic to new heights. It’s part of a revamp the venerated brand has been undergoing since last Fall with reorganizations, repositioning, management changes and new sales programs. Many of the new initiatives are on its Web sites, which have seen traffic soar since early last year. A significant part of the growth has been from user generated content, especially the “Your Shot” area on the National Geographic Magazine Web site, where people submit photos that are sifted by editors and voted on by users. A select few get published in the magazine. At the Magazine Publishers of America Magazines 24/7 Digital Conference today, National Geographic Magazine Online Managing Editor Rob Covey will announce “My Shot,” personalized Web sites on which users can post and exchange images. My Shot will launch with more than a million pages built for those who’ve already submitted photos. “We’re hoping to get 40 million pageviews from this,” says Steve Giannetti, SVP, Group Publisher, Magazines and Online, National Geographic Society. He and other executives spoke exclusively to JackMyers Media Business Report.
The announcement is one of many aggressive steps onto the Web. The magazine’s NGM.com site traffic has grown from about 5.6 million page views last January to 22.4 million last month, according to internal numbers provided by the executives. Your Shot accounted for about 14 million page views. Monthly uniques grew from 1.1 million to about 1.4 million. NationalGeographic.com, the flagship site, plans toward the end of next month to launch Geopedia, their version of Wikipedia, where users can view and add to information on any topic National Geographic covers. Next month will also see the relaunch of The Green Guide as a Web site and quarterly magazine. National Geographic purchased the environmentally oriented newsletter and Web site last Spring.
The National Geographic Channel Web site plans to re-launch at the end of March with a further focus on broadband content broken into channels by topic, more flexible ad opportunities including exclusive sponsorships, and increased use of interactive content such as games and photos. The lion’s share of ad revenue from the site today comes from broadband, said the channel’s SVP Media Sales Rich Goldfarb, NatGeo has also moved aggressively into wider distribution through third parties. They scored an early invite to participate in YouTube’s revenue-sharing experiments, put a prominent channel on MySpace (National Geographic Channel is a joint venture with Fox, which like MySpace is a NewsCorp property), participated in a Google beta content effort on its “Co-op” service, and have gone in with smaller players like Joost and P2P sharing service Vuze. Videos of everything from tornado destruction to fighting sea creatures have wracked up many millions of views across the Internet.
National Geographic is also working to integrate programming and ad opportunities across various TV outlets, the Web, magazines and radio in the U.S. and internationally. Currently, Goldfarb said, eight percent of ad sales internationally have been spent on “fully integrated” deals. One new attempt will be for a special magazine issue and TV special in May on China called “The China Event,” featuring photographs from Fritz Hoffman, a 13-year veteran of China, in the National Geographic Magazine with more of his work on the Web site. Amy Tan will write for the magazine and also blog. Similar treatment will be given to special coverage of Macao, called Vegas Comes to China.
The digital moves and cross-platform integration are a further solidification of shifts the organization has been undergoing for months. In October, National Geographic re-organized editorially under a new Global Media group headed by Tim Kelley, president and CEO of National Geographic Ventures, to streamline operations across the book, magazine, radio, TV, Web and other units. An announcement cited Kelley’s mandate to bring new life to National Geographic's digital properties. Earlier, the Web sites had consisted mainly of repurposed material, and only subscribers could access much of the content at the magazine’s site. Web staffers complained that the magazine’s management largely ignored the site.
From a financial perspective, the attempts so far seem to be paying off. The main Web site was sold out in the fourth quarter of last year, Goldfarb said, and the main channel and VOD properties are sold-out or nearly sold-out for the first quarter of this year. He said ad revenue is up 40 percent year-over-year, that last year’s Upfront brought in 43 percent more than the previous one, and that it’s all worth “tens of millions” of dollars. The top two ad categories are automotive and financial, and Goldfarb estimates they have from 250 to 300 advertisers on their properties at any one time. One thing that isn’t planned, though, is another Upfront extravaganza such as a mock trip to outer space (JackMyers Media Business Report, March 9, 2006) or to a secret Grand Central Terminal sub-basement tour (JackMyers Media Business Report, March 15, 2005). Instead, the channel plans to hold Family Day events in April in Chicago and New York for ad execs, spouses and children.
Dorian Benkoil is a regular contributor to JackMyers Media Business Report.
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