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Ad Slump Forces Ninesmn to Turn The Page
Julian Lee Marketing Reporter, The Sydney Morning Herald

NINEMSN'S bid to reclaim lost ad revenue share to rivals will kick off later this month when it relaunches its home page with a greater emphasis on news, social networking and broadband video.

These are the platforms that ninemsn's new chief executive, Tony Faure, considers the key elements in getting Australians to stay longer and consume more content.

Further initiatives are expected to emerge in the coming months from a large consumer insights study the company is conducting into the brand and how people access it.

Although Mr Faure shys away from calling it a relaunch, it will undoubtedly be read as such by a market that has been looking to the market leader for innovation.

"We have lots of people who visit ninemsn and who use it faithfully and regularly. What we'd like to do is offer those consumers more, and we see this page [as] doing that … more reasons to visit more often and far more ability to dig deep more easily."

Mr Faure said the new home page, which has about 8 million unique visitors a month, would enable easier and faster access to the content that lies behind it, drawn from ninemsn's PBL stablemates, ACP magazines and the Nine network.

But greater engagement was the ultimate goal and greater ad revenue would follow, he said.

"We have a bigger and more engaged audience [than other sites]. But we believe if we can deepen the relationship and grow the audience then that gives us a better opportunity to translate it into ad revenue."

Kerrie Field, director of media buyer Mindshare Interaction, said the move made sense. "If the consumer is more engaged with a network and uses more than just one section or content area and is not just dipping in, then there's an argument for that network to get a larger slice of media budget."

Andrew Eckford, senior analyst at Nielsen/NetRatings, said: "If you looked at [ninemsn] as a whole portal experience, including Hotmail, you would be looking at 46 minutes a month and that's not including Messenger. But just within news and weather - which is regarded as a key area - that figure drops down to about seven minutes a month compared to about half an hour on Fairfax or News, so it's safe to say they have stronger levels of engagement than ninemsn."

Rivals and media buyers say ninemsn's share of the $800 million online ad market - and in particular the $250 million display ad market - is under attack from rivals. From a high of 40 per cent of that market, ninemsn's share is rumoured to now be as low as 28 per cent.

Mr Faure strongly denied its share was going backwards but declined to put a figure on his share: only the publishers themselves as well as the body that audits them know the true figure.

"I can tell you now, year on year, month on month, it is going up … we are the dominant player and our market share is increasing," he said.