Summary:

Left-of-center political news blog TPM has tapped former Yahoo (NSDQ: YHOO) ad sales exec Diane Rinaldo to kickstart the site’s own in-house…

imageLeft-of-center political news blog TPM has tapped former Yahoo (NSDQ: YHOO) ad sales exec Diane Rinaldo to kickstart the site’s own in-house ad sales business. Although online ad revenues in general have been slowing down over the past year, TPM execs say that they have benefited from the 2008 presidential race — the company claims to have reached 3.1 million monthly uniques last October — and it’s been able to maintain momentum as the Obama Administration deals with the economy and the war in the Middle East.

New York-based TPM has been planning to create an ad sales team for months. The announcement is in conjunction with a site redesign that was completed late last month, which includes more prominent placement for premium ads on every page, Josh Marshall, the site’s founder and editor, said in a statement. In addition to giving its display space more visibility, TPM also wants to attract sponsorships of specific features, such as its expanded video offerings planned for later this year. More after the jump

I exchanged e-mails with TPM Deputy Publisher Andrew Golis, who told me that in general, advertising on site has been primarily sold via ad networks and BlogAds. Golis: “Our direct ads sales were done on a passive basis, basically selling ad space in response to requests over the transom. Our third party ad sales have held up nicely through February and direct ad sales were growing, even in advance of Diane coming on board. These revenue streams have been tremendously helpful in providing the funds to hire editorial staff and expand the business.”

The site attracts advocacy and political advertisers, as well as corporate marketers, Golis said. Having more premium placement is expected to cement those relationships, while being able to command more revenue at at time when most online publishers are struggling. “We offer standard display units, but also custom ads which will evolve over time” Golis said. “Larger ad units such as the OPA recently announced are a likelihood, and we’ll expand our video content and advertising in the coming months. We’re a small enough shop to be flexible and nimble, and expect to develop some innovative sponsorships.”

At Yahoo, Rinaldo most recently served as director of the portal’s political advertising unit. Before that, she was managing director of the Category team at Yahoo, where she handled retail advertising for the company’s search business. A 12-year online ad vet, Rinaldo was also part of the team that opened Microsoft’s first East Coast sales office for MSN prior to her stint at Yahoo, which she joined in March 2003 and left last month.

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