NEW YORK: The Huffington Post, the online news service, is offering brands the chance to pay to insert messages into its various feeds on Twitter, the microblogging platform.

At present, the internet pioneer runs a number of different accounts on the social messaging portal, covering everything from sports to current affairs.
It will advise marketers on how best to utilise these streams to connect with members of the San Francisco-based site, an approach which must go beyond using simplistic advertising messages.

Greg Coleman, president and chief revenue officer of the Huffington Post, argued "you cannot use the social engagement for the purposes of really hawking your products."

 "The advertiser is really put in a position where they need to add value to the conversation that's taking place."

One example could be where an organisation that has sponsored an event like the World Series provides facts and statistics to users, Coleman suggested.

Similarly, a healthcare company with an interest in the Obama administration's current reform programme might use the appropriate forum "to bring to fore the facts" in a non-biased way.

While this sort of strategy may seem to resemble a more traditional "push" model than is often the case with new media, it could also be more effective than alternatives like display ads.

Ian Schafer, chief executive of Deep Focus, the interactive agency, said "it's interruptive, potentially, but it also presents an opportunity for the advertiser to say something worthwhile."

"In theory, there's more upside in doing it that way than in buying a banner ad. With those the default behavior is to ignore them. With this the default behavior may be to pay attention."

More broadly, the Huffington Post is aiming to double its revenues by next year, and increase returns more than six times over in the next three years.

It has also recently commissioned its first in-depth, third-party audience research, and hired four new senior executives to work on the sales side of its operations.

"I've been looking at the processes, the team, the tools that we have, the sales operation part, to be able to go to market with the gusto that I would imagine a brand like the Huffington Post should be able to go to market," said Coleman.

In an effort to achieve the same goal, the publication has diversified its content, moving away solely from politics into sports, entertainment and general interest.

Overall, "non-political" material delivered 82% of all page views among users last month, and 76% in October, compared with just 48% in June 2007, when these sorts of articles and features were first added to its core areas of activity.

Data sourced from AdAge; additional content by Warc staff