Current TV began three years ago as a cable network that helped pioneer the use of user-generated video, produced by and for its demographic of 18-to-34-year-olds interested in progressive and youth-oriented subjects.
That ethos, inspired in part by co-founder and chairman Al Gore, meant that the network's companion Web site, current.com, eschewed advertising in favor of giving its community of short-segment producers all the news hole they could fill. User-generated content makes up about one-third of Current's video offerings.
"We are about democratizing media," Current's Amanda Zweerink says.
Now, however, parent company Current Media is looking to boost revenue as it tries to get its IPO out the door. In the last two months, the Web site has begun experimenting with a limited number of ads that are chosen so as not to offend the sensibility of the community.
That means no dancing monkeys or "anything in your face," says Zweerink, who oversees product and community efforts. It also means ads for Big Oil are out, especially in the days of $4.00-a-gallon gasoline.
While being discriminatory may limit its advertiser options, in their first weeks the current.com ads have click-through rates "that are higher than the industry average," according to Zweerink, although she wouldn't disclose specifics.
She did say that the site's number of users has exploded, rising from 250,000 monthly uniques last October to 4.5 million as of last month.
Current Media's bankers are no doubt hoping that will improve profits and help them sell the initial stock offering, which was filed for registration with the Securities and Exchange Commission back in January.
The company's S-1 filing shows that while it's growing revenue, its losses have widened. CurrentTV revenue rose to $63.8 million last year from $37.9 million in 2006, while its loss widened to $6.1 million.
According to Zweerink, Current is also looking into mobile distribution agreements for its short-form content, although no deals have been signed yet.