By Michael Cascio
“Innovate relentlessly.” That’s the message that successful media brands have absorbed over the past 10 years as digital media has grown and flourished. Traditional outlets like newspapers and magazines have struggled to preserve readership, while new, digitally-native companies unencumbered by entrenched business models have rapidly emerged and grown to incredible scale…and they’re all chasing the same ad dollars.
The social networking era has only further complicated the situation. That sought-after, high-share-of-voice placement called the “homepage roadblock” isn’t worth what it once was, with media brands’ most passionate followers now cherry-picking content from social feeds. Fewer dedicated readers hit the New York Times home page and branch out; now, they spend the bulk of their time in social, clicking in to what is interesting and relevant to them, and they bypass everything else.
But there are also opportunities created by social. Brands have an insatiable appetite for social advertising, and the top publishers have amassed HUGE followings… the trick will be figuring out how to monetize those social eyeballs beyond having fans click through to a story.
To stay competitive with other publishers and apps for the best brand campaigns, top publishers need to add a new, social arrow to their quiver.
Unfortunately, premium publishers can’t just put a new, socially-enhanced ad on each page of their sites, because demand for placement on their pages already outstrips the supply. Premium publishers, by virtue of commanding a high-value audience, are inventory-constrained. They can split up stories into only so many pages, and they can put only so many ads on a page.
If premium publishers can’t add more ads to the page, what can they do?
One option would be to cannibalize existing ad space to make room for new, share-enabled ad units. This option would help publishers compete for innovative brand campaigns, but it would only marginally grow revenue.
Another option would be to monetize readers off-site. For example, those millions of social followers, the media brand’s most loyal readers — would there be a new way to advertise to them without using the publisher’s own site? New advances in targeting technology based in social data may hold the key.
Targeting based on the public interest graph can aggregate social followers of premium publishers into audiences. The twist is that publishers, not social platforms, could sell advertising to those audiences, the audience that publishers have spent so much time building. Amassing millions of readers offsite, through social targeting, could be an ideal scenario for premium publishing’s advertisers to stake their bold new social campaigns.
This article originally appeared in the MediaPost Future of Media blog on September 28, 2012.
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