Don't Let Your Advertisers Put You Out of Business
Has it been almost two months already? A train ride to New York for this year's Publishing Business Conference & Expo fixed this problem, while it will be great to see many of you in person again this week.
Last October, we purchased a group of blogging sites that fit nicely into our Consumer Technology Publishing Group. Besides one consumer magazine title launched a decade ago, this was my first real foray into the commoditized world of display advertising on consumer Web sites. It also introduced me head-on to ad networks and the teeth whitening and fat trimming ad creative that often ends up littering these sites.
Managing the six ad network relationships we inherited was somewhat of a daunting task. I reviewed eCPMs and fill rates and tried to get everyone here to understand that the more direct sales we made, the faster we would see a nice return on our investment. Until then, I prepared folks for pennies per ad impression and a strong desire to do more with the ad placements we offered.
Ad networks typically don't care about publishers. They often are dealing with hundreds if not thousands of Web sites and reap long tail rewards. We recently signed an exclusive deal with a new, targeted network that is guaranteeing 100% fill on a large chunk of inventory at a CPM that hopefully will allow us to have our investment in the black within a year of the acquisition. If you're working with ad networks, these exceptions are out there. Take your time and try to find them.
Then there's the never-ending push to get us to participate in co-registration programs. If you still don't believe that everyone can now be a publisher, consider the increasing amount of companies (many are your former or existing advertisers or vendors!) that want to sell your advertisers onto your Web sites and put your visitors onto their lists in exchange for promised revenue that's a long way from making up for the losses suffered in print advertising.
Perhaps publishers are becoming the 85-year-old widowed grandmother who gets taken by the nice guy on the phone offering to invest their social security check.
If you're considering co-registration, find out if the contract you must sign prevents you from doing deals with similar partners. You should work with as many of them as you can to test the type of results you can get. Test where the co-registration offers appear on your site and if you decide to include them on a registration form, study your abandonment rates carefully.
Make sure you also can participate not only as a publisher on a co-registration deal, but also as an advertiser allowing you to offer your own subscriptions, paid products and webinars. Devote someone to monitor the co-registration advertisers that could appear on your site. Similar to ad networks, you could start seeing offers that might turn-off your devoted readers.
Between co-registration programs and ad networks, I'm trying to make up my mind on which could hurt publishers more and dare I say put even more of us out of business. You would be foolish to not listen to offers from any of these companies, but time may be better spent training your own sales team and innovating new products.