One-stop sales stop to lure UK Net advertisers

Neil Morgan is the man who intends to kick-start UK advertising on the Internet. He is also the man who compiles the light-hearted daily “e-zine” Anorak.

So is Morgan a man to be taken seriously? First, let’s clear up a couple of things.

If Morgan does wear an anorak, it is for walking at weekends. It is not the result of any impulse to assume the stereotypical uniform of the techie nerd. The title of the e-zine is deliberately “tongue in cheek”, he says.

And Morgan has a serious job. By day he is managing director of Cityscreen, the advertising supported, screen-based tabloid news service available to 40,000 users of Reuters in the City.

Cityscreen, established as an independent operation serving Reuters customers in 1994, has worked where most other new media ventures have failed, says Morgan, in generating ad revenue and a profitable business.

William Hill, Eurostar, Dunhill, Mercedes and American Airlines are among advertisers which have bought into the well-defined and lucrative market offered through Cityscreen.

Anorak was intended as a light-hearted but professionally produced spin-off from Cityscreen, updated daily. And it has a respectable daily readership figure of about 5,000.

But Morgan’s dabbling in Internet publishing convinced him that without aggregating fragmented Website audiences, with properly audited traffic data, advertising support for new electronic publishers just wasn’t going to happen.

Hence he decided to take the bull by the horns, and along with Ivan Pops and Steve Bowbrick of WebMedia set up New Media Marketing & Sales in August, designed to offer a single selling point for UK Web publishers to advertisers.

Morgan has hired Richard Holman, a former publisher with BBC Magazines who has just completed an MBA course, to take charge of the day-to-day running of NMMS from next month. Two other sales staff will join him on the project.

He is also working alongside the Audit Bureau of Circulations to ensure properly audited audience data on Website buys offered by NMMS is available early next year. So far, 27 Website operators have expressed an interest in ABC accreditation and the NMMS sales option, says Morgan.

“The whole idea is to make the job easier for planners and buyers of advertising on the Web,” he says. “If an agency has 15,000 to spend on the Internet, it may be getting 3,000 in commission. That’s not a lot of money in ad agency terms, and if it takes someone a week to book and negotiate across a very fragmented medium, you can imagine some are going to be put off.

“If we are successful, there will be others following us trying to do similar things,” adds Morgan. “But my intention is not to make money from the sales house. It is to kick-start advertising interest.”

He points to the example set by the commercial radio companies when they put aside commercial rivalries to back the Radio Advertising Bureau properly.

“They saw that radio had to sell itself against other media.” NMMS will be doing just that for UK Web publishers, says Morgan.

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