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David Baxter PhD

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A Web Site for Pet Lovers, and Marketers Who Love Them
By LOUISE STORY, New York Times
November 19, 2007

KNOWING that you can never underestimate people?s love for their cats and dogs, NBC Universal and Procter & Gamble have set up a Web portal that looks something like a Yahoo or AOL for pet owners, with a bit of Facebook and MySpace thrown in.

The site,, offers a full menu of information about dogs and cats, from the serious (how to diagnose your pet?s illnesses) to the silly (funny animal videos). There are links to shopping sites (like and articles about topics like what to do if visitors are allergic to your pet (hint: vacuum). Visitors are encouraged to set up social networking profiles in order to meet other pet owners.

The companies that set up plan to share the advertising revenue. Procter & Gamble is already planning to market its Iams pet food and Febreze air freshener there, and NBC Universal, a unit of General Electric, is promoting some of its programs. Petside will also be linked to a pet-specific site in NBC?s iVillage site and promoted weekly on the Today show.

But Petside will be open to any advertiser, including companies with products that compete with Procter. Yesterday, the site featured prominent ads for Banc of America?s investment services and for LasikPlus Vision Centers.

?Keeping it narrowly defined as a Procter thing would not let it acknowledge its potential,? said Jim Stengel, the global marketing officer of Procter & Gamble. ?It can make a bigger splash and a bigger difference if it?s bigger and if it?s more inclusive.?

Procter and NBC say that if is successful, they may create more Web content together. The joint development model allows both partners to shape the site from an early stage, instead of just buying ad space at the end, the executives involved said.

Other future expansion plans could include inviting owners of hamsters, birds and rabbits to join, the executives said.

Although much of the information on is drawn from other providers (like the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals), the idea is to set up a formula to gather content from a variety of sources, and support it with strong brand names.

?Marketers and media companies are often very much aligned in what we?re trying to do, so why not try to do it together?? said Beth Comstock, president for integrated media at NBC Universal.

But passionate pet owners do not necessarily equal lots of Web traffic, according to Nielsen Online?s tracking., which sells supplies, attracted the most visitors pet site last month, about 2.48 million., an animal adoption site owned by Discovery Communications, was visited by 2.1 million people, and 1.1 million people clicked on Yahoo?s pet site and Animal Planet generated such small amounts of traffic that they were not picked up at all by Nielsen?s Web panel.

Procter and NBC executives said they thought their site would draw the sort of enthusiastic people whom advertisers want to reach.

?There?s a lot of content and e-commerce about pets, but it?s all fragmented,? said Mr. Stengel of Procter & Gamble. ?We thought there was a big service opportunity to put it all in one place.?

NBC is creating original videos for the site, including a series called On the Petside, and will offer advice from a veterinarian, who will take questions by e-mail and post answers online. The site?s Pet Vet section will help people diagnose maladies, using diagrams of cats and dogs that map onto symptoms and possible remedies.

Another feature helps people who are considering a new dog find the right breed. A visitor answers a series of questions about his home, family and the size pet he wants, and the site suggests possible matches. Photos of dogs and cats available for purchase or adoption are just a click away.

Procter and NBC signed up a number of existing organizations to supply content to Petside. Jo Sullivan, senior vice president for development and communication for the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, said the site offered the most comprehensive information for pet owners that she had seen on the Internet.

NBC is selling the ads on Petside as well as across a new ?pet ad network? on other sites like Worldwide Fido and DogCentral. The Petside content will also be syndicated onto external social networking sites and video sites.
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