On Glam Ad Network, Beauty Reigns (Bloggers Don't) - InformationWeek

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2/8/2008
08:47 PM
John Foley
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On Glam Ad Network, Beauty Reigns (Bloggers Don't)

Glam Media's new online ad-placement system identifies target audiences for brand advertisers such as American Express, Bergdorf Goodman, and Neiman Marcus. Its algorithms put more value on certain types of content than others, starting with a Web site assessment that, among other things, rates content created by journalists over that generated by users and bloggers.

Glam Media's new online ad-placement system identifies target audiences for brand advertisers such as American Express, Bergdorf Goodman, and Neiman Marcus. Its algorithms put more value on certain types of content than others, starting with a Web site assessment that, among other things, rates content created by journalists over that generated by users and bloggers.Glam's service, called Glam Evolution, is in beta testing and scheduled to go live in the second quarter. Glam serves ads to 450-plus Web sites, some of which it owns and operates and others that have signed on to its network. Earlier this week, Glam announced that it hired Yahoo veteran Kiumarse Zamanian as VP of Glam Evolution. Glam's in the process of raising $50 million to $100 million in private equity, according to Silicon Alley Insider.

Glam crawls 50 million Web pages in a constant process of assessing value to advertisers based on a range of metrics, including ad placement, context, mode of user engagement, brand proximity, and editorial quality. Glam can determine if users are scrolling "below the fold" on a Web page and pausing long enough to view an ad there. And it draws conclusions about user engagement based on the type of Web page they're visiting. Glam has determined that women are not in "brand engagement mode" when they're on a social network, so it puts a lower premium on such sites.

Glam's primary audience is women ages 18 to 49. It tracks them by demographics (age, geography), psychographics (personality, interests), behavior (type of content visited), vertical, and topics of interest.

Almost all of this is automated -- Glam's proprietary algorithms run on a big Oracle database -- but one part of the operation is done manually, and that's the rating of Web sites as they're first entered into its system. Glam has determined that brand advertisers would rather display their ads near articles written by professional journalists and writers, so it places greater value on Web sites with a high proportion of such content. Bloggers rank lower in Glam's pecking order.

"We do make a human judgment that gives higher quality to professional journalists than bloggers," says Ryan Roslansky, VP of products (and, like Zamanian, formerly of Yahoo). "It's more enviable for advertisers to be showing up on a page that's written by professional journalists."

That's not surprising, but it's not written in stone, either. Over time, a blog's rank can rise above that of a journalist-powered site as Glam's automated system takes all the other metrics into account. Likewise, Glam values professionally generated content over user-generated content and tracks the ratio of each on a site.

Much of this isn't deeply thought-provoking content, mind you. Glam's flagship site, Glam.com, includes features such as Beauty Buzz, Celebrities in Bikinis, Disco Fever, and Simply Fab.

But there's some sophisticated technology behind the gloss. Glam's tech team includes Adam Souzis, executive director of tech research arm Glam Labs; Wendy Mazzoni, VP of ad operations; and Raj Narayan, co-founder and VP of engineering.

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