By Eric Berry
For publishers looking to monetize their websites, the options are basically banner advertising, affiliate links, or – more recently – platforms like outbrain and taboola. If the publisher achieves a certain scale, or works with an ad network like Federated Media, there may some alternative “bespoke”, or native opportunities available.
The advent of programmatic media buying has increased the efficiency of banner advertising, but doesn’t fundamentally solve the basic problems that banner ads are either deeply disruptive, and thus irritate the user, or are largely ignored as irrelevant. It may be the case that disruptive ads (e.g. pre-rolls, flashing and strobing etc.) drive higher engagement or awareness. But the tradeoff in user experience is pronounced and can slow page loading or interfere with core functionality. As page load time increases from 2 to 4 seconds, for example, bounce rate doubles to over 25% . Websites laden with rich media ad units often take over 10 seconds to completely render on anything below a state of the art machine, risking bounce rates as high as 50% .
This presents a publisher without the scale to implement a true native ad program with an age-old problem – how to monetize without irritating your customers. Focusing first on conventional display ads, brands have pursued a strategy of an isolated unit of brand messaging. From the perspective of creating on-brand messaging, this strategy is the obvious choice. To engage users, however, brands might benefit from a different strategy. Simply put, brands should focus on creating ads that perform more like content, and whose content they know resonates with their customers. By identifying their best performing, most-engaged content, and by putting it in an ad unit that displays this content in a less advertising-focused manner, brands will drive higher quality and more consumer engagement.
The goal of any publisher, however, should be developing a format that enables in-stream consumption of relevant sponsored content. This is the strategy that has revolutionized advertising on Facebook, Twitter, StumbleUpon and more. With such native advertising strategies, publishers either require a critical mass or a common strategy that can build to a critical mass. As we’ve previously discussed, the future of the web is highly visual layouts. So it may be inevitable that the future of online advertising for medium tail publishers is in in-stream sponsored images integrated with their content.
1. How Loading Affects Your Bottom Line, undated [http://blog.kissmetrics.com/loading-time/]2. Ibid