Knowledge Bridge

Global Intelligence for the Digital Transition

Publishers need to leverage their audience knowledge to increase revenue

Data recovery by Sean MacEntee, from Flickr

The main digital challenge facing many news organisations isn’t attracting an audience but monetizing that audience. With dropping digital advertising rates due to an excess of digital advertising returns, and a hostHostAny computer on a network that offers services or connectivity to other…

To compete effectively, news organisations need to improve their use of data and engage with other digital advertising innovations, says  Rodney Mayers, the chief revenue officer of data and analytics company Proximic.

“Advertisers know more about your audience than publishers do,” Mayers told the independent publishers Association of Alternative Newsmedia digital conference in the United States. Publishers need to respond with their own data to earn better returns on their ads.

Use the data tools that advertisers use

The advertising industry is becoming increasingly sophisticated in their use of data to assist buying decisions. Proximic provides pagePageA document having a specific URL and comprised of a set of associated files. A…

In an interview with Knowledge Bridge, Mayers challenged publishers to use these data tools to get to know their audience better. Editors and publishers used to rely on their gut instincts to deliver stories that their audience wanted to read and an audience that advertisers wanted to reachReach1) unique users that visited the site over the course of the reporting period,…

Back in the day, that was the what the editors knew. They had a feel for their audiences. You couldn’t put it into data, but they had a feel for their audiences. That helped shape the voice of the paper. It helped attract the audience, and then the audience was able to be sold.

But where once gut feeling was enough, Mayers says there’s now an opportunity for publishers to exploit the data revolution and refine their understanding of their audiences. Data allows publishers and editors to test the “feel for their audiences” against measurable outcomes to drive more traffic and more engagement with their journalism. Higher audience numbers, higher engagement and better audience data can help publishers make the case for higher ad rates than the industry average.

For advertisers, Mayers said: “…if they have high confidence that they are reaching their target audienceTarget audienceThe intended audience for an ad, usually defined in terms of specific…

However, Mayers was frank in discussing the differences in the way that journalists and advertisers define premium content and, therefore, premium ad rates.

“The journalistic side (of the media business) says, ‘I did good work. This is journalistically sound. This is excellent. We are the major newspaper, and we are worth $35 (CPMCPM (Cost per mille)Online advertising can be purchased on the basis of what it costs to show the…

However, it’s clear that the premium probably isn’t $35 CPM. Mayers said:

Gone are the days of ‘I declare my CPMs and you just pay it’ because as with the competition of news and information, broadly speaking, you have a general competition for attention. If you prove, in your case, as a publisher, that you have won or are competitive in the attention game, that your folks disproportionately spend more time with you versus someone else, that supports a higher CPM. Just declaring, I am who I am and I’m worth it. That doesn’t work out here.

With the glut of digital ad inventory, media buyers are turning to data to improve the effectiveness of the ad buys for their clients. Proximic is just one of a number of companies that have launched to feed this need for data and analysis in the media, advertising and marketing industries. comScore provides audience data, while bluekai and Lotome provide data management platforms and other data services for marketers, publishers, ad agencies and data providers.

Mayers recommends that publishers consider using these data services to help improve their advertising returns.

The tools that are available to advertisers, publishers need to take them and flip them around and say, “…How do I use it to better describe my audiences so that I can sell that to my advertisers?”

For instance, he said that advertisers practice “impressionImpression(Also called a View) A single display of online content to a user’s web-enabled…

However, local publishers also have an advantage over most big advertisers. The advertisers might have national data, but local news organisations often have much more granular local data, including offline data that can help them pitch to advertisers. He said:

You have to be the expert (on your market). (Advertisers) will have big national numbers and distributed trends and beautiful graphs, but at the end of the day, you have to say that I know more about this because I did 14 events in the last 13 days. I have connections with the X,Y,Z (name the local organisation) and I’ve been in this market for the last 25 years.

Offline market data is hugely important even in the digital age, Mayers said:

Why? Because no one else is going to bring them that. No cookie in the world is going to describe that. That is where you get the premium side of the buy. Audience analytics. Knowing your audience better than anyone else will set you apart.

Do you have a product worth selling?

To win advertisers and get premium rates, publishers also need to be prepared to demonstrate how engaged their audience is with their content. Advertisers want to know not just how many people came to your site, but also that they stayed on your site long enough to engage with your content and their ads. Advertisers also realise that, just like journalists, they are in a battle for attention and they don’t want to be on a page where they are one of eight ads. They want to be on a page where they are one of three ads, or possibly just the only ad, Mayers said.

While he urged publishers to adopt data and analytics to improve their commercial performance, he also said that data tools are important in improving editorial performance. He said, “Publishers need to embrace that side of what they do right down to how many people read this article. Was this article important?”

If an article attracts zero readers, you don’t have anything to sell to advertisers. He added bluntly, “if your audience doesn’t think this is a product that they want to spend time with, nothing is going to help your CPMs.”

That is not something that most journalists and editors will want to hear, but if you know which stories no one reads online, that can help you allocate editorial resources, which are for many newsrooms becoming increasingly scarce. That doesn’t mean that you have to stop covering those stories, but it should make you rethink, at the very least, how you cover those stories.

Mayers’ advice for journalists, editors and publishers can appear direct, possibly even blunt, but all journalists want to have an impact and reach the widest audience possible. Data and analytics insights from companies such as Mayers’ could help your journalism compete for your audience’s precious time and attention, and to help you compete for revenue to support your journalism.

Article by Kevin Anderson

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