Knowledge Bridge

Global Intelligence for the Digital Transition

Digital Briefing Live: Malaysiakini’s Chia Ting Ting on building a premium ad business

Malaysiakini, Malaysia’s largest independent news website, has been able to double their advertising revenue by being nimble and developing a premium advertising strategy that relies more on direct sales and less on ad networksAd networksAd networks provide an outsourced sales capability for publishers and a means…

Educating advertisers

It is one of the paradoxes of digital journalism that increasing the size of your audience doesn’t always result in higher income. Some of that disparity can be attributed to the fact that while advertisers want to shift their advertising budgets from offline media to online media, they also need to learn about the opportunities, Chia said. Educating advertisers about the possibilities of digital advertising is an important first step in building an effective and revenue-earning premium advertising strategy.

Educating advertisers starts with producing rate cards and media kits to fully introduce their site to advertisers. One of the key messages is that digital advertising is not a blind mass campaign, she says. Online advertising is about about measurability and being able to target specific audiences. She said:

You need to have a demographic breakdown (of the visitors to your site). That is the main product you can use to attract advertisers and convince advertisers to come and buy advertisement on your website.

To deliver better targeted and better performing digital advertising campaigns, publishers need to invest in technology that allows them to build a demographic profile of their audience. Malaysiakini has detailed information about the age, income and education of their audiences. They have information about the interests of their audience, such as whether they are into automobiles or online banking. All of this data, which is included in their media kits, provide essential demographic information to advertisers so they know who they can reachReach1) unique users that visited the site over the course of the reporting period,…

In addition to printed media kits, Malaysiakini also has an advertising blog which provides further information about advertising packages and advertiser-focused events. These events and conferences are another way to educate advertisers and communicate to them the opportunities they have with digital advertising.

“We actually have a new media school. We discuss different topics, and we invite advertisers, agencies and advertising department staff,” she said. They sometimes charge for these conferences, particularly when they have high profile speakers who bring expertise in digital advertising campaign measurement, models and services. Some conferences are on very specific topics such as how to use measurement tools like Google Analytics.

Premium advertising strategies

One of the factors contributing to the challenge that news organisations have faced in earning advertising revenue from their digital audiences has been downward pressure on digital advertising rates. Many early stage news websites are reliant on advertising networks for their ad strategies, but falling rates over the past several years have made it difficult for news sites to earn enough revenue from digital advertising alone to cover their costs. Malaysiakini earns less than 10 percent of its advertising revenue from ad networks. Instead of relying on ad networks, they have developed premium advertising strategies based not just on the richness of the demographic data but also on providing new ad formats that appeal to advertisers.

Malaysiakini charges premium rates for premium placement on their site. “It is usually the top spot, and it has very high engagement and is very creative,” Chia says. Malaysiakini does not put ad network slots on the top of their pages because it would undermine their efforts to charge higher rates for those slots.

Premium buy advertising is sold by their own in-house sales team, and the premium pricing is for advanced campaigns. Companies allocate a lot of money to premium campaigns, she said. This is where the demographic data of their audience is key in convincing advertisers to pay more, not just for premium placement but also to reach specific audiences.

Chia says that you also need to have flexible site designs to make sure that audiences don’t suffer from “ad blindness”. Ad blindness occurs when publishers have fixed spots and formats for their advertising. After a while, audiences simply learn to ignore these areas of the site.

Be nimble

News publishers need more than just flexible designs. They also need to be nimble to keep pace with the rapid changes in digital advertising. Real-timeReal-timeEvents that happen “live” at a particular moment. When one chats in a chat…

“RTB is one type of ad network,” Chia said, adding, “your ad will only appear to your target audienceTarget audienceThe intended audience for an ad, usually defined in terms of specific…

She gave the example of two computer companies, Acer and Toshiba, trying to sell their laptops. They will enter their bid price, and Malaysiakini will enter their floor price, the minimum price they will sell their advertising for. If the companies bid over the floor price, and if the target demographic visits the site, their ad will appear.

There are concerns that RTB will affect their premium ad strategy, but in this industry, when everyone launches a new technology, “we cannot escape from the new landscape,” she said. “We need to be part of it.”

Article by Kevin Anderson

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