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by Herman Manson (@marklives) The great global online media brands such as MSN, Yahoo!, Google and Facebook are well represented in the South African market, either through locally owned sales partners, through JVs with local media companies or through a local subsidiary.

Their big numbers mean they get a lot of attention, as does a series of established home grown online brands, like iafrica.com, ITWeb, and Moneyweb. But what of the young guns, the content start-ups, the independents making do without well resourced sales teams?

Sites like Mahala, the pre-eminent online youth mag in South Africa, 10and5.com, SA’s leading creative portfolio site, or ZA News, which hosts the Zapiro created show no local TV station would touch?

Greg Mason saw a niche that holds a number of pitfalls, not least media planners’ single minded (time saving) obsession with big numbers, but also opportunity.

Mason Media, his one man sales business, represents eleven South African online media brands, including the three mentioned above. Most of these sites averages 20 000 unique users and serves somewhere between 70 – 200 000 impressions a month.

Mason sells and manages their ad space for them, in return for a commission, freeing up management/content teams to do what they do best, run an online content site. Mason aims to help these site owners monetise their products so as to enable to them to continue pushing out unique, quality South African content.

For advertisers, says Mason, the attraction lies in the engagement these sites enjoy from their readers, which goes well beyond Webmail logins, and the connection and conversation they help facilitate.

For the most part sales go through ad agencies, says Mason, as the size of ad deals on these sites rarely encourages senior level brand managers to engage. Sponsorships are a more likely route for engagement with brands directly and is something Mason will be pushing, in close collaboration with his eleven publishers, going forward.

As it stands run of the mill banner advertising doesn’t bring in more than R25000 a month on sites averaging a 100 000 impressions a month, says Mason. That is obviously not enough to float a content site. That said, interest in the brands he represents has picked up dramatically over the past year, and revenue generated since March has already surpassed his sales figures for last year.

Mason warns smaller publishers not to compromise their editorial integrity and urges them to stay true to their journalistic purpose, saying its key to maintain your existing audience (advice any blogger would do well to take to heart).

He also calls on brand owners to recognise the power of audience support for local media brands, and to support local sites and the content they produce, content truly relevant to South Africans.

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Published by Herman Manson

MarkLives.com is edited by Herman Manson. Follow us on Twitter - http://twitter.com/marklives

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