Glam CEO: Female audiences just 'our first target'

At the ContentNext EconAds seminar, Samir Arora fleshes out visions for the ad network's expansion--and denies to comment on whether he made up buyout rumor.

Caroline McCarthy Former Staff writer, CNET News
Caroline McCarthy, a CNET News staff writer, is a downtown Manhattanite happily addicted to social-media tools and restaurant blogs. Her pre-CNET resume includes interning at an IT security firm and brewing cappuccinos.
Caroline McCarthy
3 min read

NEW YORK--Glam Media CEO Samir Arora showed up at ContentNext's EconAds conference on Tuesday afternoon looking dapper in brown leather shoes and a hot pink tie to match the handkerchief in his suit pocket. But really, he said, he runs a frugal company.

On his company's recent $84.6 million funding round, he said in an onstage interview with ContentNext's Rafat Ali, "We've really not spent that in anything so far." He added, "If you look at our history, we've raised $29.6 million to date before this round...we used less than that to get to be the reach we were with the revenue curve we have, so I think the company has been very efficient."

After the new round of money, he was equally cautious. "I did a hiring freeze," Arora related. "Everyone had to justify even the people they (already) had. My belief is that's when you develop the bad habits."

But some people in the audience were likely skeptical of Glam's shipshape condition, since the hype about the advertising and women's media company is some of the most controversial in the Valley--and Arora himself has proven to be a firebrand. Last week, rumors swirled around the D6 conference that Glam had slighted a $1.3 billion acquisition offer from an unnamed buyer, and then another set of rumors started to fly that Arora had started the rumor himself to prettify the company's image (and valuation).

Regarding that, Arora said in Tuesday's talk, "We don't talk, even comment on speculative rumors." But then Ali asked him how he'd respond to a theoretical $1.3 billion offer, and Arora expanded, "Flippancy aside, you have to look at all serious offers."

He continued, "This is not our first time around at this and we take these things pretty seriously, but let's move past rumors."

Glam Media CEO Samir Arora Rafe Needleman/CNET Networks

One thing that Glam will also be moving past, if Arora's wording is accurate, is an exclusive focus on sites targeting women. "We actually chose women as our first target," he said, talking about how Glam initially served ads on a network of fashion and beauty sites before expanding to entertainment, "lifestyle," and health. A new family and parenting niche had been announced earlier on Tuesday.

More gender-neutral or male-focused categories, like news and politics sites, are under consideration. Glam also recently launched a revenue-sharing video platform.

Arora maintains that Glam has been successful because it applies the tried-and-true principles of old-media magazine advertising to the digital realm. "Before you open the magazine, you know and trust the content and quality of advertising you're going to get," he said of "well-packaged" publications. He considers Glam to be the online equivalent.

He said that most ad networks have the wrong idea by focusing on the ad space that publishers can't sell through their internal sales operations. "Most companies have been very focused on remnant inventory," he said. They're good for cheap ads, he said, but not Glam's high-end ambitions. "Glam is very clear about that. When we started the company, we only wanted above-the-fold, what we call 'prime time' and prime targeted inventory." The company has since expanded but still requires participating sites to exclusively use Glam for their above-the-fold (i.e. before you hit the scroll button) advertisements.

Some hail Arora's vision as the future of online "big-media" advertising. Others criticize him as a snake-oil salesman and claim that he can't say he runs the largest women's network on the Web by counting the audiences that see Glam-served ads. But it's tough to deny that the controversy is netting quite a bit of press for Arora and his company.

So is his signature personal style, which he swears was shaped by Glam itself. "I did not own a single thing pink. (Glam) took me to a transformation."