Publishers Should Embrace Small Ball

It hasn’t exactly been easy street in the world of publishing this year. Digital spending is slow. Exchanges and agency trading desks are putting pressure on prices. And every new device/channel/platform wreaks a new round of havoc on the industry.

Even if the digital-ad pie does grow to $51 billion this year, it’s likely to keep shrinking for every publisher whose name isn’t Facebook, Google, Yahoo, Microsoft or AOL. The “Big Five” pulled in a stunning 83 percent of U.S. online ad revenue last year, and their reach just keeps growing.

What’s a conscientious publisher to do? You need to compete with the top players and maximize revenue. You’ve put in all manner of roadblock and banner. Go too much farther and you risk driving traffic away from a too-cluttered site, and it seems there’s nothing left to monetize anyway.

Publishers can’t increase revenue by simply replacing content with advertising. They can, however, add advertising to currently ad-free content, without diminishing either the quality of that content or the experience offered to users.

That’s where new and untapped inventory enters the picture: images. New products are making it possible to apply the same types of keyword targeting to images that we bring to matching ads with page content. The targeting technology is tried and true. The user experience is seamless. The results for advertisers are excellent. And, this works well with an incremental strategy that could include such products as advertising.com’s sponsored listings, a Google search box, or other affiliate/e-commerce deals.

After all, there are billions of images on the Web. Images are a huge driver of search traffic and increasingly engage consumers on all platforms. We’ve seen that approximately 30 percent of publisher content, on average, consists of images: in the form of slideshows, photos, and infographics. The number of images per page varies widely by vertical – entertainment pages often have as many as five images – and each one offers a new chance to create revenue.

So the opportunity for publishers is obviously significant, but benefits accrue for advertisers too. In-image ads are cost-efficient – CPMs usually hover around a dollar – and integrate easily with existing campaigns. In-image ads give brands a chance to extend ownership of keywords from editorial content to pictures. By bringing ads to a more dynamic forum, in-image ads animate the brand, and beat the bane of banner blindness.

Saving the most important for last, what about site visitors? For them, the experience delivered by in-image advertising is unobtrusive – small ads are simply layered onto images in slideshows or alongside articles – and doesn’t add to already ample clutter on the page. In a world where takeovers and banners are struggling to deliver results, in-image ads offer a promising alternative.

Publishers, we know you face a plethora of challenges. Maybe it’s time to take another look at all of the terrific content you already have just sitting on your site waiting to be monetized.

Brian White is svp of publisher solutions at Vibrant Media, a contextual advertising company.