Publishers Branch Out

Publishers are getting smarter about data. They’re using their own to find their audience elsewhere.

With banner click through rates hovering around .09 percent, it’s not surprising that publishers from Time Inc. to  AOL to Forbes and the New York Times have decided the best way to find scale is to stitch together a network of sites to find their audiences. In the world of programmatic ad buying, where finding specific audiences is easy, the moves are a necessity.

AOL uses first-party data from its site and ad network, as well as third-party data providers to find audiences on other sites. Forbes uses Google’s Dart for Publishers and data manager Krux to marry first-party data with third-party data to find audiences throughout the Web. The New York Times will extend its Ricochet ad unit to Conde Nast, People and Ad Age.

“We primarily focus on audiences coming through Forbes but are using data to add greater value in identifying who they are and using technology to target off-site, creating more scale for ourselves,” said Mark Howard, Forbes’ svp of digital advertising.

Like most publishers, Time Inc. wants to find the “premium” ad unit. The biggest problem is what’s interesting isn’t often scalable. That’s why Time linked up with Apple to build a mobile ad unit that matches a brand with relevant content from Time brands. The twist is the unit is deployed across Apple’s iAd network and targeted to Time subscribers.

Time tells Apple to look into the iTunes database for those who have downloaded a Time app, like People or Entertainment Weekly. It then uses Acxiom to tell Apple to pull a segment of its print subscription base of a particular outlet and copy that segment over to the iAd network.

“Part of what we’re doing is not just putting an ad in the unit, the custom segment we create,” Adam Solomon, vp of digital ad products at Time Inc. “We’re not just looking for attributes the advertiser favors, but are also looking for users who have strong affinities to Time Inc. brands in the units.”

For a recent mobile campaign with a cable company — Time Inc. declined to mention which one — it ran two separate campaigns, one on the iAd network, the other with basic targeting. The campaign launched leading up to Academy Awards, focusing on the “road to the red carpet” with content from People and Entertainment Weekly. In the iAd execution, users spent more than one minute in that ad. Cozying up with Apple means that Time can deliver its unit across Apple’s iAd network of 120 million users.

“We think using data to help inform content decisions and use content to help drive engagement with advertisers is an area we need to keep exploring,” Solomon said.

When it comes to scaled audience products, Solomon believes an audience is more than cookies. It’s about individuals having shared content experiences, just as a bunch of people sitting in a movie theater sharing the laughs and tears while watching a film is an audience.

“It’s more than just users or attributes,” Solomon said. “When we put together our scaled solution, we looked at how to make content a part of the experience that marketers can leverage. In our ad experience, on Web or mobile, our content is key part of experience.”

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