Weather.com Gives Real Media Ad Serving Edge Over NetGravity

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Top 30 U.S. Web site Weather.com has slowly shifted away from No. 1 ad-network DoubleClick Inc.'s off-the-shelf ad serving technology over the last six months in favor of Real Media Inc., an ad server little known outside of Web publishing circles. And Weather.com is reviewing the ad serving on one part of its site that DoubleClick's NetGravity unit still serves.


The Internet destination for the Weather Channel, Atlanta, is coming off the busiest month of its five-year history, following brutal snow storms that buried most of the East Coast in January. Last month, the site served more than one billion ads and got 213 million page views, not including pages it delivered as the weather provider for America Online Inc.


With usage of the site growing, the company won't compromise on making sure it can fulfill agreements to place advertisers' banners with as few glitches as possible, said Weather.com chief revenue officer Paul Iaffaldano. Selling advertising is Weather.com's biggest source of revenue.


"The decision to use Real Media was sort of a natural process to explore solutions that allow us to get better," Iaffaldano said. "Who knows? Next year maybe it'll be a new version of Real Media, maybe it'll be something else that's even better."


Unlike online advertising networks that deliver banner ads to groups of Web sites they represent contractually, companies like Real Media and NetGravity provide Web sites with software they can use to place banners themselves. Weather.com used NetGravity technology exclusively before a review process it carried out last year.


The site began using Real Media for some of its pages midway through 1999 and now that company is handling the lion's share of Weather.com's ads. Iaffaldano said the New York company's technology "scales" well when faced with big traffic periods.


"For us, when we get a big storm like [in January], that's the equivalent of someone running an ad on the Super Bowl. We passed the test. We didn't crash when the storm came," he said.


Weather.com has entered a "transition phase" to improve ad serving on the Latin American portion of its site, a part NetGravity still serves, Iaffaldano said. However, he did not go so far as to say the company planned to abandon NetGravity.


Jennifer Blum, a spokesperson for NetGravity parent company DoubleClick, New York, said Weather.com and NetGravity recently inked a deal to continue working together.


Unlike typical content sites that expend great energy trying to retain their traffic and show them as many ads as possible, Weather.com emphasizes its ability to send its visitors off to "places that make sense," Iaffaldano said. The company targets visitors to its skiing section with parka advertisements, for example, or hits people investigating its golf page with travel packages to courses.


The Weather Channel and Weather.com are units of Landmark Communications Inc., Norfolk, VA.


Real Media is privately held but filed with the Securities & Exchange Commission for an initial public offering recently.
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