In this performance-driven medium, the push to increase performance is never-ending. I’ve seen many publishers invest deeply in people, process and technology to increase the revenue a page can yield, independent of the number of times it has been viewed. Today, it’s fairly common to have an internal discipline around optimizing unsold ad space, managing rate cards, packaging, links, etc.
As I work with publishers both large and small, there is a growing realization that working with data is the next logical step in leapfrogging page yield up another couple of notches. Here are some of the perspectives I gained from content thought leaders over the last few months.
1. Page yield is about optimizing the value the page has to the advertiser, publisher and user.
It’s always a balancing act. Too conservative and you leave money on the table. Too aggressive and you potentially turn off both advertisers and users. For example, a page with one ad and a few text links may look clean but it may not offer a broad creative palette for advertisers who would be interested in advertising on your site, thus choosing to spend a small portion of what they could if they had better options or worse, choosing to advertise elsewhere.
Similarly, we all know the joke about the “NASCAR” sites with banners at the top and bottom, buttons on the rail, highlighted in-article text, overlays whooshing around, and audio auto-playing. Not an environment designed for loyalty.
Our partners are finding that licensing data in an anonymous fashion to the marketplace increases page yield that doesn’t require making a trade-off decision. This is good news to Product and Sales teams.
2. Data licensing is NOT competitive with your sales team.
They are truly apples to oranges in comparison. Direct sales are about offering the advertiser a level of service and control. Pricing, ad formats, location, inventory levels, adjacency, rich media, reporting, optimization – these are a few of the range of needs that publishers fulfill when they engage with an advertiser directly. The publisher charges a premium to be able to fulfill these needs and over time, both partners have a good sense of the value each other brings and how to mutually grow together.
Data licensing to an exchange, on the other hand, doesn’t offer the advertiser any of those things. They are buying an aggregated pool of data and the media to support it independently of your site’s inventory. Advertisers forgo a lot to be able to achieve scale and cost efficiencies – you could liken it to a DIY approach.
At the end of the day, publishers offer a full car to advertisers, and data exchanges are more of a parts store. Most important, data licensing allows publishers to monetize their audience when they are not on their site. This is a relief to the sales team.
3. Data licensing has some of the best ROI in the industry.
Unlike expensive yield optimization technology, and the training and staffing required to maintain it and its various components, working with data is very low-touch. Once an initial mapping of a site’s taxonomy to the aggregated data taxonomy is complete, deployment of the code snippet often takes a day or two and then requires virtually no effort to maintain.
Therefore, training and staffing are not required to generate four, five, or sometimes six figures of profit every month. This makes both AdOps and Finance happy.
I wish there were more opportunities where the payoff for the effort is so high in proportion to the effort and risk. And given the financial goals publishers have received for 2012, this is as good a time as any to broaden the range of revenue-generators. A smart data-licensing strategy will lift page yield and jumpstart ROI for 2012.