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Page Volume 17, Number 7

Aug 26, 2014

Publishers Choose Quality over Quantity for Online Advertising

While it might seem like a crazy idea, publishers are paring back the number of ads on their websites in favour of higher-priced, higher-impact advertisements. The result is a more streamlined appearance with more creative, eye-catching ads.

Major publications are making the move to downsize the number of ads on their websites. The Chicago Tribune dropped from around ten ads on article pages down to five; USA Today cut their number of ads in half when they re-launched two years ago; and Hearst's magazine sites have pared down their number of standard units in exchange for high-impact and native ads that run in the editorial stream. USA Today has experienced quite a bit of success with this tactic: it is responsible for much of their growth in digital advertising revenue.

Since there are fewer ads on a page, advertisers are given a larger voice (at premium prices) and more exclusivity. There aren't tons of other ads fighting to be seen and heard surrounding them. These units have a higher impact on the visitor and the advertisers have more of a chance to create appealing creative.

Publishers are able to more seamlessly integrate the advertisements around their content, often using their usual editorial tools to create a better, cleaner visual experience. The less clutter on the page, the more the visitors are able to experience what is there.

Steve Goldberg, managing director at Empirical Media Advisors, says that his typical client receives around 60% of its revenue for high impact units, up from 35%. Any remaining standard units are usually bonused or sold at a very low rate, giving the brand the ability to be seen on the rest of the site.

Publishers are able to recover any lost revenue from this strategy as standard units typically cost ten times less than larger, higher-impact ads.

However, publishers need to ensure that if they want to charge advertisers premium prices, their website needs to have the right balance of a great user experience and the ability to back up costs with metrics from a brand lift or engagement study. Bill Adee, EVP of digital for Tribune Publishing, reasons that "it's hard to make the argument if your page looks like a Nascar paint job to ask for digital subscriptions."

Source: "Publishers try crazy idea: fewer ads, higher pricing," Digiday, August 8, 2014.


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