A New Way to Reach Canadians Online

The newspaper industry has been struggling to stay afloat as consumers increasingly get news content online. One way publishers have managed to survive is by prioritizing online advertising, both classifieds and display ads. Newspaper groups are even joining forces with their competitors to sell ads across their online properties. It’s sink-or-swim time, and nobody intends to go down without a fight.

The scene in Canada is no different, nor is the reaction to defecting readers and dwindling print ad revenue. Last summer, Canadian newspaper group Torstar Corp., which owns Canada’s largest daily newspaper, “The Toronto Star,” among others, made a proactive move toward boosting its Web ad revenue.

Torstar launched Olive Canada Network, a new ad network offering access to premium content sites. Much of its inventory comes from online properties belonging to its Torstar Digital division. Sites include Toronto.com, top job property Workopolis.com, and free classifieds site LiveDeal Canada.

Olive General Manager Simon Jennings says Torstar Digital launched the network to secure a position in the online ad world. Then, it took things a step further. In an announcement that echoes those recently made in the U.S., Torstar revealed last week it had partnered with competing newspaper publisher Gesca Limitée to add the group’s French language sites, including Montreal’s French daily “La Presse,” to its roster. The deal gives Olive a reach of over 13 million unique Canadian monthly visitors, or 60 percent of all online Canadians.

Olive’s launch makes me wonder who benefits more, the publishers or the advertisers. The payout on both sides is apparent. Torstar and Gesca are afforded another avenue through which to discharge premium inventory and increase online ad revenues. Planners and buyers whose target audience includes Canadian consumers, meanwhile, are presented with a streamlined solution to ad spending that promises to expand reach and simplify buys on content-rich properties.

We’re now able to more easily align ourselves with premium Canadian content. If you ever launched a campaign in Canada, you’ll know such an opportunity is long overdue.

To sweeten the pot, Olive has also arranged partnerships with a handful of top-tier U.S. properties, including Billboard.com, Maxim Online, NHL.com, and CNET. Olive will sell their Canadian inventory alongside Torstar’s and Gesca’s homegrown placements, further expanding advertisers’ reach and targeting options.

There’s also Olive Brand Response — performance-based advertising for direct marketers whose primary interest is ROI (define). Although the offering doesn’t include impressions on premium brand sites, it does draw from a second tier of properties and includes CPC (define) and CPA (define) pricing.

The next generation of newspaper advertising will be consolidated inventory that’s enriched with additional content and sold through a single media vendor. If this is what we’ll see from newspaper groups moving forward, they may still stand a chance. I’d warn against inviting too many players to partake, and keep buy-ins to a minimum (you know what they say about too many cooks).

Still, I’m thrilled to see publishers thinking creatively about leveraging their greatest asset — and not just because we buyers are winning in the process.

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