Glam Signals Its Social Aspirations With A Key Hire

Glam Media is one of the largest publishing and advertising networks on the Web, with a total reach of 90 million people a month in the U.S. Over the past six months, it’s launched a brand-targeted ad serving platform, Glam Adapt, and branched out from its singular focus on women’s sites to include men’s sports sites as well. Its next big push will be into social, and it starts today with the key hire of Ryan Stern as vice president of Glam Social Communities, a new business for Glam.

Stern was previously VP of publishing at FoodBuzz, a network of more than 16,000 food blogs. Her job at Glam will be to oversee a new content authoring system and convince 10,000 to 100,000 bloggers and video creators to start submitting their posts and videos into the system. In a sense, this system will be similar to AOL’s Seed, except that it will feed both Glam’s owned-and-operated sites and independent niche publishers who are part of its ad network.

The hiring of Stern signals Glam’s larger social aspirations. The investment in Glam Social, says CEO Samir Arora, “will be as as large a platform investment as Adapt. You will see hiring, building the team out, also M&A for acquisitions.” In two years, he wants to end up with “two pillars: the ad stack and the social stack.”

Arora is taking social very seriously. For the past 6 months, he’s been meeting with a few top executives to plot out “Glam 2.0.” They attempted to answer the question: “Once the whole world has a social map, what else do you do with it?” In particular, how do you map social onto niche content sites? The result will be Glam Social. Part of it will be this new crowdsourced authoring tool, but it will go beyond that. Arora wants to break up the content silos by linking social communities across related sites.

But Arora does not want to create another content farm, which are great for SEO traffic from search engines but not so good at creating the types of engagement brand advertisers are looking for. By tapping into social, Glam hopes to become the anti-content farm. He also wants to apply this strategy in a very distributed fashion across Glam’s network.

“The next generation of social is a lot of social features outside a centralized place,” he predicts. They haven’t really figured out what those features will be, but you can imagine things like a unified commenting system built on top of Facebook Connect, social recommendations across related sites within a given channel, or a check-in system which links back into the ad server (maybe the most loyal readers who check in and move up a site’s leaderboard will be worth more to advertisers).

What is significant about this new direction for Glam is that up until now its relationship with outside publishers has been purely as an ad network. But by managing and curating high-quality content on their behalf, that relationship will become more like a TV network with its affiliates where it is actually generating content for its affiliate publishers which they will be able to use to augment their own articles and videos. There may be central hubs by topic and channel where these stories and videos live, but the idea is to syndicate them broadly to publishers in the Glam advertising network.