Demand Media’s Joanne Bradford Converges on Digital

Having run advertising for Yahoo and revenue for Microsoft’s media arm, Joanne Bradford now oversees revenue and marketing at a truly digital-native media company, Demand Media. A perfect example of the convergence occurring on the technology and media fronts, Demand Media offers content and software as a service. Its humor, how-to, fitness, golf, and other content is based on social, search, and mobile, and includes user-generated media as well as edited content. The company also runs one of the largest domain-name registration sites and offers social media tools and custom publishing.

The Makegood: As chief revenue and marketing officer of Demand Media, you are in an unusual position. Can you talk a little bit about the Demand Media strategy, and what it’s like to manage revenue streams from so many different types of businesses, including display advertising and technology services?

JB: We have revenue from several different sources. Some of it is direct relationships with advertisers, some of it is monetization from partners such as Google and some from creating original content for brand partners as well as publishing partners. We have social enterprise software tools for moderation and managing social interaction for web sites. We power about 400 publications and 100 brand marketers with enterprise software tools. Our domain name registration is one of the biggest in the world, and it’s one of our revenue streams.

The Makegood: It’s very much a 21st century digital business.

JB: It is. The idea is a company built on using all the things [that drive digital]. If you were to imagine a new world and create a company for that business world, it would look like Demand Media. You would know a lot about technology, you would know a lot about what consumers are doing, and be able to get insight into them. You would be able to access a creative work force of filmmakers, copywriters, and editors and put that into one company. Demand Media is bringing together publishers, marketers, and creators to give the best access and insight into information.

The Makegood: What will be the important avenues of growth going forward?

JB: Several areas in which we’re growing include publishing content for publishers and marketers. We have partnerships with National Geographic, Clorox, and L’Oreal. What they all have in common is the need for compelling content for many different audiences using insight and publishing at scale. We make sure to give [our writers] feedback based on search and social signals. It’s very important to marketers as well. They want to build web sites [and] fan pages and have the right content. But they don’t have the system to do it at scale. It’s difficult to do seamlessly. We do that better than any other publishers.

The Makegood: Do you see digital brand advertising changing, and if so, how?

JB: The first challenge we face is format changes. One important format now is Facebook. Another one is discoverable content and search. Another is mobile. This means content and creative need to change. What we need to do is start with a clean [slate] and build content around social, search, mobile, and video because those are the forces that are changing how consumers interact. We have not caught up with that as digital marketers.

The Makegood: How is what you do today different from your experiences at Yahoo and Microsoft?

JB: At Yahoo and Microsoft, at the time that I was there, the portal experience was that we were points of aggregation. The difference is that at Demand Media we go after points of consumer interest and intent. Instead of trying to direct a fire hose, we direct content to consumers’ attention and where they are.

Cracked is one of the largest comedy sites on the web. We took a defunct magazine, and reinvented it online. We have 2,500 writers contributing each week and it’s shared on the social graph of the web and consumed at a voracious rate on mobile. It’s all based on social. eHow is all based on what people are searching for and what they need answers to. Livestrong started as a mobile app.

[We look at] how can we start in the world of publishing today and use the tools of social and search and how we are putting those together. We’ll put them together in many combinations.

The Makegood: Do you plan to get into ecommerce?

JB: Never say never, but today that is not on our list. We feel there are still plenty of unmet needs for content.

The Makegood: The WSJ’s Kara Swisher suggested you as a possible candidate to helm Yahoo. What do you believe the portals, including AOL, should do to stay relevant?

JB: I think to be a point of aggregation is a difficult challenge in a world that is fragmenting quickly. So I would suggest they think about how to capture an audience that is fragmenting quickly. The way that people consume information and interact has really changed. I don’t think digital marketing and the publishing world have moved far enough to capture that change. That’s why I love the challenge of working with Demand Media because we’re really looking at it with a different lens.

  • Jerry Shereshewsky

    Ms Bradford is in an ideal spot to comment on the state of Yahoo today and where it might be heading. I would have loved to hear (read) her perspective.