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Introducing Real-Time Ads

Advertising, of course, is a revenue source for media.  But advertising can also be a form of interesting content in its own right. Think of the Super Bowl, where the ads have often been more entertaining than the game. Or Classifieds in newspapers --  Have you ever checked out employment advertising just to see what jobs are out there, or real estate ads because you’re curious what’s for sale in your neighborhood?

That’s why I’m excited that today we’re venturing into a new kind of online advertising, Real-Time Ads. Very simply, our goal is to create a fast-paced marketplace, full of advertisers’ messages that are newly posted and thus up-to-date, so that readers will want to keep coming back to check out what’s happening.

Imagine a restaurant that can post its daily lunch special in the morning and then its dinner special in the afternoon. Or a sports team that can keep you up-to-date on its games and other team news. Or a  store that could offer a coupon good only for today. Or a performance venue that can let you know whether tickets are available for tonight. Or a publisher or blogger who gives you his or her latest headline. Real-Time Ads is easy for marketers to use, because they don’t have to create any new messages just for our site. They can automatically feed us the messages they’re already creating on Twitter or their own blogs. If you are publishing content frequently and pushing it out through an RSS feed, you can be up and running on Real-Time Ads in minutes. (If you’re not already doing this kind of pushing out of frequent messages, maybe our Real-Time Ads will inspire you to start.)

Our operations director, Karl Pearson-Cater, created the format for Real-Time Ads, working with Garrick Van Buren, a local web application consultant and developer specializing in harnessing the real-time web stream. Garrick's recent projects also include:, RE07.US,, and Karl also got some help from Kraig Larson, who streamlined the the Real-Time Ads widget design. Kraig is Chief Creative Officer at Ciceron.

We are not the only site in the country experimenting with real-time ads -- for example, Ed Kohler’s local blog The Deets offers them, and so does a Chicago news aggregator -- but we’re a very early adopter and we’ve worked hard to develop a friendly format.

We’re launching our beta test today, with advertisers who were invited by us to participate in a four-week test at no charge, because they have RSS feeds and update them frequently with messages that we believe will be of interest. One of the advertisers is us -- our Inside MinnPost blog -- so we can test the format ourselves and show others how it can work for a blog. The others are: St. Paul Saints, South Dakota Tourism, Guthrie Theater, Regions Hospital, Sun Country Airlines, Idea Peepshow - Fast Horse, Geek Girls Guide, Black Hills - South Dakota, eWorkPlaceMN,, MN Fringe Festival, Banjo Brothers, and Summit Brewery. Client Update 6/25 4 p.m.: Walker Art Center,, and Twin Cities Hotel Deals.

Additional testers will be added in the near future. If you’re interested in participating, or have questions about the program, email us at We haven’t yet set the price we’ll charge for these ads after the test is over, but it should be under $100 a week.

For the reader, keeping track of Real-Time Ads is real simple. Three advertisers, randomly chosen from among all those who have posted a message in the last 72 hours, will have their latest message appear in the Real-Time Ads widget on the left side of whatever page you’re reading. Every time you go to a new page on the site, those three will have rotated to a new randomly chosen set. If you click the button to see all ads, the window expands to show you up to 32 advertisers, the maximum we will handle at the outset. These ads will appear with the most recent at the top, giving advertisers an incentive to change their messages often. If you click on an ad, you will be taken to the advertiser’s website or Twitter feed.

MinnPost will continue to publish banner ads, which have been very successful for us and for our local advertisers. (If you read our site from outside Minnesota, you don’t see our banner ads, because we target them to local readers.) And we will continue to offer home-page sponsorships -- recently, UCare joined The Minneapolis Foundation and the Greater Twin Cities United Way as sponsors.  For information about all our advertising and sponsorships opportunities, email Sally Waterman, our advertising director: swaterman [at] minnpost dot com.

UPDATE: Zachary M. Seward posted an interview (watch below) with Joel Kramer published June 25, 2009: "Reinventing classifieds: MinnPost launches “real-time advertising”

MinnPost experiments with real-time ads from Nieman Journalism Lab on Vimeo.

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