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Salon’s Traffic Rises, But Ads Struggle; CEO Calls iPad A ‘Fatal Distraction’

If you want proof that more traffic doesn’t necessarily translate into more ad revenues, consider the news and culture site Salon. The site credits last November’s design overhaul with growing the site to 6.3 million global users in March, a 35 percent versus the same period last year, according to internal Omniture (NSDQ: OMTR) numbers. The site says traffic is up 22 percent for Q1 as well. But Salon CEO Richard Gingras says that doesn’t mean that ad dollars are rolling in proportionately. “We do see signals of advertising coming back, but it’s not coming back as fast as we’d hoped. The economy is still weak and media buyers are still cautious.”

comScore (NSDQ: SCOR) puts Salon’s traffic for February at 3 million visitors in the U.S., putting it behind sites like, which ranks last on comScore’s top 10 general news sites, with 4.5 million unique visitors. So Salon, which has been around since 1995, has a lot of catching up to do. Aside from the redesign, which emphasized shorter, punchier content, Gingras credited smarter search- and-distribution strategies for pulling in bigger audiences. “We’ve been able to drive referral traffic up from search engines, social media sites, and third-parties, which is tricky to attract because it is directly dependent on site content.”

The site certainly benefited from the interest in the healthcare debate, but Gingras wants to ensure that Salon doesn’t have to rely mostly on big news items. He started building out into verticals like Salon’s food channel, which also includes e-commerce. He plans to add more verticals in the coming months, but he declined to say what other areas Salon will be branching out into. Possible areas include more consumer-electronics and women’s content. “It

2 Responses to “Salon’s Traffic Rises, But Ads Struggle; CEO Calls iPad A ‘Fatal Distraction’”

  1. News sites, especially news sites on either end of the political spectrum, are not where the growth is happening/returning (generally.) Advertisers care about a property with momentum but they also want to be close to content and people where the discussion isn’t about polarizing issues. Don’t see Salon in a place where that will happen. If you look at the momentum behind sites like HuffPo it is in non-political areas (including soft-core porn articles focused on celebrity skin and other racy topics.)

    Re. the iPad. Great digital user experiences will win. I’ve seen very little evidence that the user experience is so much better from “traditional” publishers and the barriers of entry are identical. Until publishers cut the print expenses completely this is not a true market advantage even if people elect to pay similar subscription prices to print editions for apps. My guess is that the winners in the ipad/tablet app market will be largely upstarts and digital-only publishers or entertainment production companies.