Does your advertising revenue model include content that delights and informs users, while similarly rewarding your advertisers?
As the digital publishing market has grown and changed, selling ad space has only become more difficult. The market is saturated. Sponsors aren’t happy with websites crowded with ads as publishers try to grow revenue (and users aren’t happy with them, either). And even with the ads placed, sponsors have a difficult time measuring the effectiveness of banners, rectangles, and other flashy graphics that don’t always get measurable clicks. Advertising revenue models for publishers need to be adjusted.
As a result, advertisers are looking for an opportunity to be “part of” rather than separate from the content of a website and platforms. This is not necessarily a new desire. Publishers have run “advertorials” for a long time. Publishers would be wise to remember why this desire for affiliation with their brand is so valuable for sponsors. Your readers already trust you, and because they trust you, they also may trust the brands you associate yourself with.
Multiplatform publishers are in a great position to sell sponsorship packages that combine traditional print ad placements, digital ad placements, and better opportunities for the sponsor to be part of the story.
This is a much different mindset than selling a set of ad placements on your homepage. Philosophically, we believe publishers are best served shifting the conversation away from things like impressions and more toward brand scarcity, exclusivity and alignment.
Multiplatform publishers can get the best sponsorship yield by selling multiplatform advertising packages that are built on the principles of scarcity, exclusivity, and alignment and take advantage of the publisher’s multiplatform content program.
Here are the elements:
- Sponsored content distribution
- Portal and email extras
- Email newsletter sponsorship – banners and text ads
- Audited magazine display ads
- Native magazine sponsored articles
- Social media campaigns
- Lead generation opportunities
- Enhanced directory listings
When your advertising revenue model includes selling sponsored content, a superior ad sponsorship package begins with the piece your sponsors crave the most and is also the part publishers have the expertise to provide – content. Sponsored content, or what some call native or custom content, presents a unique opportunity for publishers. Advertisers crave an audience to showcase their expertise, or thought leadership, and multiplatform publishers, especially those using a Mequoda portal and HTML magazine in addition to print and tablet versions, have the capacity to deliver a large, high-value audience.
Sponsored content strikes fear into the hearts of many. It’s no wonder after some of the high-profile mistakes that other publishers made. Indeed, when done incorrectly, sponsored content can damage your brand and cost you the trust of your audience and your sponsors.
But it really is not difficult to do correctly. Sponsored content that offers fantastic editorial that doesn’t turn off the reader as being too promotional or non-contextual can be a natural part of your editorial program.
At Mequoda, we believe the best sponsored content takes the same form and qualities as your original premium content. The content should provide value for the reader at the same time as it creates a positive perception of the sponsor. We live with one simple watch phrase that can help keep you out of trouble: sponsored content should be something your publication would have published regardless of whether there was a sponsor. If it doesn’t pass that simple test, you shouldn’t publish it.
The good news for publishers is that creating this kind of content isn’t easy for a sponsor. Most sponsors can’t resist the opportunity to write promotional ad copy, instead of content that will really engage readers. That’s why we recommend that the content be generated by someone you trust, who also knows your audience – you! And even though you will be the ones generating the content, it will still be labeled as “Sponsored Content.” Most readers won’t care if the content is sponsored or not – as long as it’s good!
Mequoda recommends using your own editorial resources – for a price – to create copy you know works for your audience and meets the needs of the sponsor. The best examples of these partnerships begin with a conversation where the publisher asks questions about what the sponsor wants to accomplish – and listens more than talks. After taking the sponsor’s needs into consideration, the publisher can come back with a specific content proposal that satisfies the sponsor and meets the publisher’s need for quality content.
The importance of this agreement can’t be overstated. If it doesn’t help your audience, or if the content doesn’t meet the sponsor’s needs, no one will be happy. Make sure you communicate early and often with the sponsor to ensure everyone is informed of what the other is doing, and get buy-in from the sponsor for the content plan.
Portal and Email Extras
After the sponsored content is developed, publishers can charge a separate fee for where and how it is distributed. Mequoda recommends a distribution program that begins with an exclusive email to your list with an excerpt of the sponsored content.
A portal post and an email spotlight are the perfect channels for sponsored content (properly labeled as sponsored content). The sponsor will value a dedicated email to your list, that contains their logo and associates their brand with thought leadership in the field. The portal post also exposes the article to customers who find you through organic search, in addition to the email.
Time Inc. and the New York Times have only just discovered this, but at Interweave when we first started selling advertorial slots, it was like selling candy to a rich first grader. I remember John Bolton dropping me an email a matter of weeks after we started sending them once a week and him telling me that they had sold out for 45 weeks, approximately 10 months in advance!
This same piece of content will appear in full in the online versions of your publication. The sponsored email extra can push readers back to the online versions of your content which also exposes the user to the other great content you publish.
An excerpt in the daily email you send to portal subscribers will serve the same purpose: If someone has opted out of the sponsored content emails, or simply didn’t click on it, you provide a second bite at the apple by allowing them to access the content a different way.
The next key element in a successful advertising revenue model is web channel sponsorship. This refers to advertising space on your website – exclusive to one of the major topics covered by your portal and magazine. For example, in our Green Gardens case study, we would offer an exclusive on the ads appearing in the “rose” channel. Whenever someone looks at rose content on the site, only the web channel sponsor’s ads will appear.
This offers your sponsor the kind of content alignment they value. This isn’t just an ad in a magazine someone flips through – maybe. This is an ad placing your sponsor directly adjacent to the content most aligned with their target audience.
How are these sponsorships exclusive? You only have a finite amount of primary categories you cover. For example, at Mequoda we have four topics that we cover – multiplatform publishing strategy, audience development strategy, digital magazine publishing and subscription website publishing. Once you’ve sold a channel’s ads all to one sponsor for the year, you can’t sell it again. On the other hand, when the time for renewal comes along, you can play sponsors off of each other. If sponsor X doesn’t want the ads exclusive to the content that best aligns with their products, I’m sure their competitor will!
Because you send email every day to your subscribers, you have many opportunities to sell ads in the emails. In a Mequoda sponsorship package, sponsors of packaged programs also get opportunities to have the lead spots on these daily and weekly emails. Sponsors will get the first rectangle in the email, along with the first text ad associated with an email stack. These efforts can be aligned with web channel content, so the sponsor’s ads are, again, adjacent to the content most popular with their target audience.
This exclusivity on the web also comes with a print component for our magazine clients. At Mequoda we are big believers in print. Many consumers and business professionals still prefer print to any other edition, which is why it is still the most widely read edition of multiplatform magazines. And many publishers still generate more money from print than any other platform, either through ads or through a subscription.
That’s why a true multiplatform package will always contain a print ad component. In addition to the sponsored content and web channel exclusive ads, our sponsorship packages include a full-page print ad in the magazine. Sponsors who have spent time supporting your publication through print will continue to get the positive effects of print ads, and you’ll use this type of offer to leverage the online parts of the package.
More sponsors have put increased emphasis on their social media presence and platforms like Facebook and Twitter can act as additional channels for your content and its promotion. Custom content can be supported through a social media campaign that leverages the platforms where you perform best. Mequoda’s 12x12x12 social media strategy is a great way to distribute content.
Lead generation opportunities
Another aspect of the program is the ability to generate qualified leads for your sponsors. One way to generate these leads is to offer free research or white papers to email subscribers and readers who find your portal through organic search.
The content can be labeled with the sponsor’s logo, and the offer must transparently state that downloading the content will provide the sponsor with the user’s email address. If the content is high quality, many users will make this exchange thankfully, and the sponsor will get the email addresses of leads for their products or services.
Enhanced directory listings
Multiplatform publishers include a framework and reference content in their niche. These directories are paid listings, like the job board on MediaBistro. Advertisers who pay to be part of the directory do so in order to be found by prospective buyers, job seekers or someone else of value.
As part of a multiplatform package, sponsors get an “enhanced” listing. Enhanced listings appear at the top of the list of providers, and often contain video, or other elements of a micro-site that make them stand out from the rest.
Each of these items has a value associated with it on your rate card. Bought separately they would add up and be quite expensive, but packages of the complete bundle (for 12 months, 6 months, or 3 months), allows the publisher to assign a steep multiplatform discount that brings the price down considerably.
This total package meets the needs of sponsors who want to be part of the story, while preserving the best parts of the display advertising game they already know. For the publisher, selling packages allows for a more efficient sale (as opposed to selling many remnants), and helps make your best sponsors your true partners in your digital and print offerings.