Cover Story: How to Monetize the Web
If advertising trends follow a pendulum model, then we’ve swung quite a ways since the dawn of the decade, when venture capital money was being thrown around like tapioca, just to see where it would stick. Commercials like the famous “herding cats” spot during the 2000 Super Bowl sought to publicize brands by creating a generalized buzz, shooting for the widest possible audience regardless of cost. In today’s distressed economy, advertisers are watching every dollar spent, abetted by the Internet’s ability to take targeted advertising to a whole new level. Lead-generation strategies and measurable data are now top priority, and media companies are responding with a slew of new products designed to lure accounts with the promise of maximum return on investment (ROI).
Understanding how to make money on the Web today starts with understanding that it is essentially a buyer’s market. Ad agencies working with scant budgets demand measurable results and direct ROI. Strategies based on brand building have (temporarily, at least) been tossed out as inefficient relics of more prosperous times.
“What happens in a recession is people throw the brand out the window, and they want tactical campaigns,” says John McMahon, vice president and group publisher at Questex Media. “Obviously, the Web is set up perfectly for tactical efforts to drive transactions. Not that we don’t do it in print, but it’s not as robust or ROI-focused in print.”
For McMahon, the answer to this penny-pinching mood has been the ability to offer customized marketing “packages,” facilitating access to a target audience at key touch points. Such an approach drives the type of Web products the company is creating for its brands aimed at the travel industry: Luxury Travel Advisor, Five Star Alliance and the venerable Travel Agent family of publications.
“Tactical campaigns are digital programs geared toward common content,” McMahon says. “We’re not single-threaded. If you are in a company like ours where you have the ability to have a lot of different touch points, [you can] take a supplier’s marketing dollars and stretch them a lot further.”