Ad-Supported Businesses Need to Keep Ads Engaging

    May 1, 2009
    Chris Crum

Forrester research has an interesting blog post up looking at the question, "What happens when online CPMs get so close to zero that they make ad-supported businesses unsustainable?" Online publishers might not like some of the answers that can be given in response.

David Card"It’s true that online media has been nearly overwhelmed by an onslaught of inventory — there’s something like 80% more online ad space, a lot of it from social media, than there was a couple years ago," says Forrester Analyst David Card.

This makes targeting all the more important. Luckily there are still channels that can accomplish some very niche targeting, and other channels that have not had this as a strong point in the past are starting to cater to it on a higher level.

"But for all the macroeconomic forces of ‘infinite inventory,’ some ad space — and some audiences — are worth way more than others," says Card.

Research recently shared by comScore shows that vertical ad networks – those that target ads to specific online audiences based on demographic or category content (not unlike our own iEntry Network) – are increasing their reach.

Of those networks tracked by the research firm, the collective reach has increased from 21.5% of the total US Internet audience to 57.1% in a year’s time from March ’08 to March ’09.

Vertical Ad Networks Data from comScore

Audiences for these vertical ad networks are becoming increasingly more engaged according to comScore. "As more vertical ad networks prove their ability to effectively reach specific target audiences by aggregating mid-tail publisher sites, the industry will likely give greater consideration to these emerging ad delivery channels," says the firm’s VP Media, Lesle Litton. More on comScore’s findings can be viewed here.

Card offers some advice for publishers who are looking to keep advertisers coming. "Cut clutter, experiment with new formats, and know your audience really, really well, is the easy advice for online publishers," he says. "Build out a marketing platform that’s flexible in terms of targeting and in incorporating data from many sources. Encourage comparison. Add other sites’ inventory to your own. Pit your salesforce against multiple ad networks to see who can best monetize some sections of your site (but hold back the best stuff.)," he says.

It’s worth giving heavy consideration to how valuable your home page is as well. While AOL-like numbers are certainly not going to be incredibly common, Compete looked at just how much traffic a home page banner ad displayed on AOL’s home page gave to the advertiser in comparison with other sources. Long story short, that advertiser was probably quite pleased.