March 02, 2012

The Conversation Publishers Must Have With Advertisers

By Delynn Ho, VP Sales 

You're a digital media player with a great mobisite and significant traffic. You've built it and they were supposed to come. But where are the premium advertisers, the ones who value your content like you do, as it should be valued?

The advertisers who sign up to your sites don't pay enough. Or maybe you're not attracting any premium advertisers at all.

What should you be doing differently?

As Kok Fung wrote last week, there's a disconnect between publishers and advertisers. It's like they speak different languages. Publishers talk about CPCs, CPDs, CPMs, etc. Media planners want information about age, gender, income, readers' hobbies, shopping habits and more.

As a content publisher, you need to meet the media planners half-way by knowing your audience better and presenting this information clearly in a language that media buyers understand.

Here's how . . .


Advertisers will pay a premium for ad space that accurately reaches their target market. Targeted media buys are considered to be more efficient, because there's a higher conversion rate between people who see the ad and then make a purchase. This is why magazines like Men's Health and Teen Vogue have done so well: they reach specific demographic and interest groups and become natural destinations for particular types of advertisers.

It becomes a no-brainer, for example, for GNC to advertise nutritional supplements on the Men's Health website, because it knows the magazine's readership has the income and inclination to buy its products. Men's Health, by the way, tells advertisers that 81% of its 8.5 million person readership is male and that its readers have a median age of 37 and household income of more than $70k . . . which leads us to my next point, the Rate Card.

Defining your audience

The traditional approach to understanding a media's audience is to conduct an annual survey. Yes, these surveys might be simplistic and, yes, they have statistical flaws, especially compared with server statistics. But the demographic data garnered through surveys is widely accepted by the industry and referenced almost every day by media planners.

Here's a short list of the type of information that media planners demand and premium publications provide:

  • Demographics (age, gender, income, location)
  • Psychographics (general attitudes and interests)
  • Statistics (impressions, reach, unique users, etc.)
  • Advertising rates (CPC/CPD/CPM)
  • Ad sales contact details
Rate Cards need to provide advertisers with the information they need to inform and support their buying decisions.

Take a look at these examples: New York Times Mobile presents its demographics in a straight-forward clean manner consistent with the company's brand; it also presents specific mobile ad opportunities. Yahoo!'s presentation includes tips for marketers on how to reach key demographic groups as well as details on the amount of time each group spends on various Yahoo! properties. It also shares advertising opportunities (like "contextual placement") and tips for marketers (like "Boomer Men want to be productive . . . don't waste their time!"). In addition to basic data, The Guardian presents information about visitors' spending patterns.

How to produce a rate card

1. The easiest way to start building a picture of your audience is to run a basic survey. The shorter the better. Be wary that each additional question you ask will result in fewer completions. In fact, you can even ask just one question! Pose it in the form of a poll. (Tricky, eh? : )

2. For short surveys, you can offer participants a prize. But be careful. Do not offer prizes that could skew the results, like a trip to Disneyland (popular with parents), a pedicure (popular with my tribe) or a hedge trimmer (not sure who likes these, but let's figure it's men with gardens).  Cash, vouchers and iPads are generally considered the best incentives.

3. Definitely ask about age, gender and income.

4. Consider asking additional questions – for example, about education and interests -- that test your assumptions about your audience and which could provide insights to a media planner. Avoid questions though which will only lead to 'nice to know' facts.

5. Don't ask for information you already know. Your web analytics already give you a lot of insights, including browser, device, handset, location, etc.

Your goal is to be able to make a statement like this one:

Our average visitor is a 23-year-old graduate, most likely in her first job. She makes between $2,000 and $3,000 a month and is interested in fashion, movies and celebrity news. She connects to our site via an iPad or Android smartphone between 9pm and midnight on weekdays and every weekend afternoon.

Be sure to present your data as well in the form of pie charts and graphs that are easy to read.

Taking it to the next level

Once you've come this far, if you're ready to up your game yet again, media planners who are digitally savvy are looking for signs of social activity. They want to target communities that will like and share their content. They're looking for people to become citizen brand advocates.

Apple does this really well, provoking conversations about its products in blogs, forums and social networks.

So, if you lead an active community, be sure to quantify this social activity on your rate card. For example, cite the traffic generated by tools such as “discuss”, “send to a friend”, “like” and “share via Facebook / Twitter / etc”.

A wealth of additional benefits

The information you learn by polling, surveying and interacting with your audience will not only lead to higher ad revenues, you'll be able to improve the relevance and quality of your content as well. Getting to know your readers will enable you to tailor your content to their needs and preferences. You'll also be able to measure demographic shifts, linked to last week's campaign, yesterday's email blast or today's top story. It's this type of measurability that makes social media sites like Facebook such valuable media properties – they know exactly who frequents the site and this degree of detail makes advertisers very excited indeed.