As it looks to repeat its ad sales successes from 2010, The Huffington Post is adding a dozen ad sales people to its roster. In an interview with paidContent, Greg Coleman, president and chief revenue officer, declined to go into sales figures, but did confirm that the company did reach profitability last year, adding that he made good on his goal to double the news aggregator’s revenues. “We’re putting plans and people in place that should allow us to double our revenues this year as well,” Coleman said. Part of the plan includes still more ad sales hiring and getting advertisers to commit to year-long ads tied to social media.
On the new hires, Coleman said that “the caliber of talent reminds me of the excitement at Yahoo in 2001” (for Yahoo, that was definitely the good old days). As well it should. Three of the dozen hires are from Yahoo — including Lauri Baker and Jennifer Carroll , who have both been named as account executives and most recently held that title at Yahoo (NSDQ: YHOO). One of the most significant hires on the list is Sam Figler, most recently VP, Global Sales & Business Development at Yahoo, as SVP, Business Developement at HuffPo.
Social media advertising, including “sponsored blogs,” is one of the key revenue drivers for HuffPo for the past year. To continue attracting advertisers there, Coleman has hired two ad sales staffers. Camille Norris, previously a research analyst at the NYT, has been named social marketing research manager. She’ll work with Jarrod Dicker, who will serve as social marketing manager. He recently held a similar post at Minyanville Media.
“We’ve made a lot of investments this past year and we’ll continue to hire as we go, in order to keep up the momentum,” Coleman said, noting that having its traffic rise to 26 million uniques a month on average has helped to convince advertisers to go along with his plans. “We’ve been advocating that clients buy social media differently from traditional media. We are talking about making commitments for a full year, because the conversation around the ads is still going on. From our perspective, social media ads should be evergreen. We have someone putting a lot of effort, in terms of SEO to work, to keep that alive. Early on, clients were finding that the topic they bought ads on was still getting attention, but they hadn’t budgeted for the additional ads. But that’s starting to change.”
Coleman wouldn’t say who he’s received year-long commitments from, but he did say he’s nailed down at least five.
In addition to all this, Coleman still plans to continue his part time job: teaching online advertising to 80 second-year MBA students at Georgetown. Each fall he invites a roster of guests, including his former Yahoo boss Terry Semel, AllThingsD‘s Kara Swisher and VC investor Fred Wilson, to speak to his class. “Fred comes to my last class and the students team up to do a presentation on a new internet business for him. He’s said that if he hears something he likes, he’ll help back it,” Coleman said, though so far, none have met Wilson’s criteria for funding. “But a few have come close. We’ll see what happens this year.”