Use Your Audience Data for Targeted Ad Sales

If your trade publication is associated with a companion website, the stream of data that website collects can play a critical role in helping you boost both ad revenue and audience share. So says Mather Economics President Matt Lindsay in an article for the Newspaper Association of America (NAA). Let’s look at some of the major talking points of this piece, and how they apply to your own revenue-generating efforts.

Yield Management

One approach Lindsay endorses for both print and digital publication platforms is yield management, the science of creating, tacking and implementing dynamic pricing strategies for advertising. Your publication has certain pages and sections that are especially coveted by specific populations of advertisers — which means that you can (and should) be charging higher premiums for these “hot” positions. Lindsay cites an A/B test his own company ran in which two different premiums were charged for two different test groups; both groups ended up buying the same volume of ads.

Here’s where the “dynamic” part comes in. If you’re using your client and inventory data to its full potential, you can actually charge rates that fluctuate constantly. The rates can be adjusted based on the percentage of ad inventory sold by a particular date, or in accordance with X number of digital impressions delivered. This technique has long been embraced by the hotel and airline industries, as anyone who has ever tried to reserve a plane ticket on Christmas Eve can attest.

Using Audience Data for Targeted Ad Sales

Lindsay goes on to point out that big data can translate to big money for publishers who can consolidate their online and offline audience data into lucrative, desirable segments for targeted advertising campaigns. That enormous pool of first-party data culled from your CRM, subscriber, non-subscriber, and loyalty-program databases is worth a great deal of money — and not just to you.

Advertisers love precision; the more precisely they can hit their prospective customers right in their key motivators, the more they stand to gain from their placement in your trade publication. that’s why it’s so important that you develop the tools and teams to collect and analyze every scrap of audience behavioral data that comes to your site. This enables you to get really granular with your audience segmentation — which in turn allows you to offer premium prices for targeted ad sales.

Balancing Ad Revenue and Audience Revenue

Lindsay concludes by mentioning a delicate balancing act publishers inevitably have to face in this digital age. On the one hand, there’s money to be made from charging premium advertising rates; on the other, there’s the revenue stream from your subscriber base. Like pulling on a rubber band, make an adjustment in favor one stream and you typically lose something from the other. Maximizing your ad revenues by offering more free content (thus boosting your raw viewer numbers) may cause subscriptions to shrink. Lowering your ad rates may boost subscription sales at the loss of premium ad inventory.

This balance is a highly dynamic one, changing constantly in response to various factors. How do you cope with such a moving target? Again, the answers lie in your customer and advertising data, and what you decide to do with them. It’s up to you to find ways of tracking and interpreting these streams of data as thoroughly as possible so you can get a grip on just how much of the total revenue picture each side provides, day after day and year after year. Only then can you decide whether to accept that ratio or take the necessary steps to alter it.

Today’s trade publishers can use data as a precious commodity, a tool for leverage, and an oracle for continually reshaping their relationships with subscribers and advertisers. Use yours wisely, use it frequently, use it profitably — but use it!

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