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

Richard Gingras, Salon CEO

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 Slate.com, 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

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