NEWS ANALYSIS: Trend for big websites to set up inhouse may hurt sales outfits - More and more sites seem determined to control their own sales

Media agencies don’t like it when successful websites take their sales operations inhouse - a rate hike almost inevitably follows. Buyers say this is to pay for more staff and a new sales infrastructure.

Media agencies don’t like it when successful websites take their

sales operations inhouse - a rate hike almost inevitably follows. Buyers

say this is to pay for more staff and a new sales infrastructure.

But like it or not, agencies may have to get used to hearing that

another big site is poised to recruit an internal sales team.

Freeserve is looking for 31 staff, having ended its relationship with

DoubleClick (Media Business, last week). Auction site QXL is handling

its own sales - but it may hire a sales house in the future.

Alta Vista is the only major portal that still uses a sales house -


The three-year contract has only been running for 14 months, and the

relationship is probably safe while former DoubleClick managing director

Andy Mitchell is at the helm. But agencies believe it can only be a

matter of time before Alta Vista recruits an inhouse team.

Should this worry the sales houses? Yes and no, say agencies. For small

to medium websites, having an external sales house makes sound economic


I-Level media director Ed Ling says: ’If you’re a start-up, it’s

sensible to hand your sales to a large organisation that can instantly

bring professionalism to your sales operation. You can also take

advantage of its technology.’

Basically, says Ling, it’s a matter of resources. ’When Freeserve

started up it only had about three or four staff. There’s no doubt both

Freeserve and DoubleClick benefited from their relationship.’

However, Ling says dealing directly with clients appeals to agencies

because that’s where the most creative deals come from. ’There tends to

be more flexibility. And if a sales house is representing 20 or 30

different sites, smaller players can feel alienated.’

Pete Robins, one the founders of Media 21, takes a similar view. ’Sales

houses know from experience how to pitch to different agencies in

different ways. But there are downsides. Sales houses representing

several sites may not know as much about individual products as they


DoubleClick managing director Eric Stein does not feel Freeserve’s move

indicates a trend. ’The decision whether to use a sales network or to go

inhouse depends on each site’s objectives. Freeserve’s content

relationships and expansion plans dictated its decision.’

Stein shrugs off predictions that bigger players will eventually work

entirely inhouse, leaving sales houses to mop up smaller players. ’If

you look at our line-up of sites, we have big names like Alta Vista

alongside smaller ones.’

In fact, he mounts a solid defence of sales networks. ’Working with a

network helps sites maximise revenue. We can get as much money as

possible out of the inventory they have. We give them access to the

latest technology and our analysis shows you will spend a much smaller

slice of your profits working with us than you will recruiting and

running a sales team.’

These are sound arguments. But it seems certain that more sophisticated

players will want to take command of their own destiny. As a Pirelli ad

once pointed out, power is nothing without control.


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