Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

HuffPo Needs Ad Dollars. Can Yahoo Sales Vets Deliver?

colemanThe Huffington Post has a newish CEO, a big pile of investors’ money and a lot of readers. Time to turn it into a business.

That’s the idea behind a brace of new sales guys, brought in by sales head Greg Coleman, who is himself a newish addition to the site.

The hires:

  • Andy Wiedlin, formerly at News Corp.’s (NWS) MySpace, and Yahoo before that, will run West Coast sales.
  • Phil Cara, formerly at AOL, and Yahoo before that, will run East Coast sales.
  • Peter Cherukuri, the former publisher of Roll Call, will run sales in Washington, D.C.
  • Brian Kaminsky, formerly at Reuters, and Yahoo prior to that, will run sales operations out of New York.

Note the connection for three of the four new guys? Not a coincidence.

Coleman was the longtime Yahoo (YHOO) sales head until he got pushed out in 2007. He resurfaced last year as head of AOL’s (AOL) sales group but left less than three months into the job when new CEO Tim Armstrong brought in his guy.

At the new gig, Coleman’s plan is to use his new/old team to convince advertisers to start spending significant money. The site was on track to do something in the $10 million range last year, but CEO Eric Hippeau wants to goose that number to $100 million in the next few years in order to justify the $37 million that investors have sunk into the company.

Coleman came to the site last fall when it already had a good traffic story to tell–comScore (SCOR) counted 6.8 million unique users in September, which is more than’s 6.7 million. And that story will get better very soon, as comScore rolls out its new “hybrid” measuring system. Coleman says the new numbers will push Huffpo above the 17 million mark.

His team still needs to battle the perception that Huffpo is an all-politics (and lefty, to boot) site, since advertisers are often leery about anything political.

Sure enough, as I’m typing this Monday night, the site’s front page is dominated by Washington coverage–a banner headline about the Republican Party’s opposition to something called the Consumer Financial Protection Agency. And no matter what Coleman and his guys say, no one’s going to confuse the site with, say, Fox News.

Still, the site has long argued that it isn’t dominated by political coverage, and Coleman now says less than 25 percent of its traffic comes from that stuff. A heavy dose of entertainment/media coverage–did you know the dude from “300” now has man boobs and a paunch?–helps make that claim plausible.

Will advertisers buy it? People who aren’t Greg Coleman tell me marketers were already warming to the site this year, a result of work done by the previous regime. And in large part due to interest from entertainment companies pushing new movies and TV shows.

But if Coleman and his employers want to hit their $100 million goal, they’ll need to do a lot more work. For more on Coleman’s strategy, check out his conversation with Kara Swisher from last fall.

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— Valleywag editor Sam Biddle