Trade Print Dollars for Digital Lincolns by Rethinking Ad Value & Engagement
For the past decade, or more, we have listened to so many media executives say, “I can’t afford to trade print dollars for digital dimes.” And that sentiment, my friends, is why traditional media companies are going out of business.
Then there are publishers who have embraced digital, but only as a means to retain print advertising dollars, not as a robust revenue stream in its own right. “The dollars are in print and not digital.” Digital should never be viewed as a “value-add.” Access to an audience, in a trusted environment, is not worthy of being “value-add.” I’ve witnessed publishers have more concern over their print share of market than the long-term viability of their business.
How to Value Digital Ads
How do you trade “print dollars for digital Lincolns?” It is more straightforward than you may realize.
- Take your CPM for print. Subtract your printing/postage/production costs. Use that number as your digital CPM starting point. If you are only reposting print stories, then lower it more because the model isn’t delivering your audience unique content for the digital experience.
- Review the performance of each of your digital ad positions. The highest performing ad position is the highest cost (a percentage above the determined CPM), and then lower the CPM by performance from there. Just because a leaderboard is easiest to sell by your sales team – “it's adjacent to our brand” – doesn’t mean it deserves the highest CPM. Performance is what matters.
Earned access is the real value publishers can deliver — the cost to reach and engage, a specific, desirable, long-tail audience in a content environment that makes a client’s message an action step, not a bothersome visual. Publishers’ value isn’t their audience’s ROI based on an impression or click, but instead the lifetime value of introducing that audience to an advertiser. That is the correct metric. Don’t commoditize digital or any part of your business as it will eventually end your business.
If it works, advertisers will buy more. If it doesn’t work, you will quickly know and move your client’s ad spend to the areas that do. And then, the client will escalate that spend for years to come. I have made this argument for over a decade, yet I have experienced a lot of pushback from sales associates.
The counter-arguments: “Advertising is about ego, not performance.” “Sell digital based on leasing agreements for space.” “Sell 1/3 of the rotation and don’t make it complicated by linking spending to deliverables.” “Don’t provide analytics; if you force us to, they will never buy from us again!” “Our CPM is $10 because Google ads are cheap so ours should be, too.” What!!!
Digital advertising is about connecting with a specific audience, the level of engagement that occurs, and the action they take as a result. That hasn’t changed. Pick up a 1950s direct marketing book, and you will read the same point.
I encourage you to resist the objections you may face internally or else face a dire fate. The companies I’ve heard make these objections, have either been sold for “digital dimes,” filed for bankruptcy, or folded.
Sell Digital Ads Based on Engagement
An advertising dollar spent must yield a clear ROI. But so many publishers justify ad spend like this: “If you want to speak to engineers, you need to speak to their interests. Our staff knows how to speak to engineers because they have been serving them valuable content for 50 years.”
Let me stop you right there: You only deserve that claim when it is fact-based.
You need to provide proof that you have been writing content that is high-performing for the specific audience you serve. If the number of “new users” is more than 50% of your monthly “users;” if your site’s bounce rate is above 50%; if “pages per session” are less than 1.5; then don’t make the claim that you’re delivering valuable content to a targeted audience. You aren’t entitled.
An advertiser who buys on visitors or impressions is being sold a ruse. If I were buying digital ads on your website, I would buy anything consumed beyond the first page for each visit, and I’d want assurance those individuals see my message many times after. These multi-page viewers make up a highly engaged audience, and I, as a marketer, need access to that audience.
Selling ads based on engagement is about creating meaningful, holistic campaigns that grow brands. Each platform you offer provides a different level of experience. Print content is consumed differently than website, which is consumed differently than text message news, which is consumed differently than an app’s content, which is consumed differently than a video, and so on.
The one constant is the value of the potential (or current) client’s engagement with the paid for, action-provoking message. The cost of each prospect must be defined by how hard they are to reach and what level of engagement is provided in the offered platform or approach. Do not devalue what you provide. Ever. And, do not charge the same rate or CPM for each type of engagement. However, when you charge a rate, ensure it is logical and defendable.
Pricing access to your audience based on logic will enable your salespeople to clearly explain it and provide analytics when appropriate. Implementing these tactics to increase digital ad revenue will pay dividends in the long run.
Dean Horowitz is Co-Founder of IdeaSoil, LLC; a consultancy firm focused on the growth, expansion, and sustainability of businesses through the use of today’s communication platforms and techniques. Over 20+ years, he and his colleagues have delivered significant increases in profitable revenue by applying creativity, innovation and passionate customer-focus to such areas as content, data, digital, events, marketing services, research, SaaS offerings, and subscriptions. You can contact Dean at dean@IdeaSoil.com. Follow him @IdeaSoil. And connect with him on LinkedIn.