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NBCUniversal, Vox Media Join to Sell Upscale Consumers to Advertisers

The Web, so detractors will tell you, is filled with challenges for advertisers. Click fraud is rampant. Viewer traffic is hard to qualify. Even trying to make sure someone actually saw a streaming-video promotion when it ran is an onerous task.

With that in mind, NBCUniversal and Vox Media say they are putting together an advertising package that will give potential sponsors access to a higher-quality audience that might offset some of those distractions.

Vox has partnered with NBCU to sell digital inventory across the combined digital portfolio of the media giant, which runs shows like “The Voice” and “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon,” and its partner, which operates sites like SB Nation, The Verge and Re/code.

“Unfortunately, there’s a lot of bad stuff happening in digital advertising,” said Jim Bankoff, chairman and chief executive of Vox Media, in an interview. So the companies are trying to offer something advertisers want – affluent, highly-educated audiences between the ages of 24 and 34 – and do it in a way that allows big sponsors to reach the consumer mass they need to make the purchase worthwhile.

Though NBCU has already begun weaving content and personnel from Vox sites into some of its news programming on CNBC and MSNBC, the pact marks the one of the first business agreements between the companies since the Comcast-owned media conglomerate invested $200 million into Vox Media last August. NBCU also invested $200 million in the entertainment-focused BuzzFeed in the same month. The deals were seen as emblematic of a shift in the media industry, which has long set owners of so-called “traditional” media like newspapers, TV networks and movie studios as rivals of upstart outlets focused first on web, mobile and social audiences. As consumers become harder to reach across all the venues, however old and new players have begun to embrace one another.

Other companies have also come together. Viacom is selling U.S. advertising for Snapchat, the instant-messaging service. And A+E Networks, owned jointly by Walt Disney and Hearst, is co-owner of the new Viceland cable network with Vice Media, the  digital-media company that has made a name for itself with a  “boots-on-the-ground” style of journalism that also fuels programming on its own sites and HBO.

An advertiser seeking to use the new Vox-NBCU program, which the two companies have labeled “Concert,” might align ads aimed at foodies with NBCU’s “Today” program and certain programs from Bravo, but also Vox’s Eater site, said Linda Yaccarino, chairman of advertising sales and client partnerships at NBCU (above, pictured).

“It really does link together just an incredible consortium of premium content,” she said in an interview.

The two companies said the partnership can give advertisers the ability to reach more than 150 million people across 8 Vox properties and NBCU’s digital assets. Vox has spent months working to build ad units that match the quality of the content on its sites, said Bankoff. The two companies will offer mobile, video and native advertising products.

Vox and NBCU unveil the initiative just weeks before advertisers are set to gather for two big sales events: the “digital newfronts,” in which players ranging from AOL to Yahoo haw their wares to Madison Avenue – and TV’s annual “upfront” market, when U.S. TV network try to sell the bulk of their ad inventory for the coming programming season.

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