Four Dimensions of Online Media

Unlike print, television, outdoor, and any other form of media, online is hopeless, complicated, and ever growing in its complexity. Every day it brings a new list of ad units, serving options, compensation models, targeting options, and, of course, KPIs (define). To try and enter the industry now, without the benefit of gradually building up a knowledge base to get you up to speed, is difficult for many people. For clients who aren’t seasoned online marketers but find their advertising increasingly channeled into the digital space, the task can be daunting.

To help agencies help their clients make sense of all the dimensions and options that can go into an online media plan, I have outlined the four dimensions of online media in this column. They include targeting, compensation, ad units, and metrics.

Even with all the options and opportunities we have to maximize value and customer impact, I still see agencies planning buys based on pre-determined ad units or creative concepts. The best plans take elements from all over the spectrum to create all-encompassing campaigns that deliver branding (impressions, reach, and frequency) as well as good old fashioned measurable return on investment (conversion, leads, sales, etc.). Also, any seasoned media planner should be able to give examples of each one of the items listed under the four dimensions.

So here’s the list, with some of the elements that make up each dimension. I’m sure some things are missing, so please feel free to add them to the comments section. If you’re a client and are presented a two-dimensional campaign plan (i.e., just CPM based banners), the first thing you should do is look at this list and ask if this thinking was applied to the planning approach.


  • Registered users
  • Keyword targeting
  • Profile/behavioral targeting
  • Geo-targeting
  • Reverse IP lookup
  • Content targeting
  • Network channels
  • Networks


  • Sponsorships
  • Home page blocks
  • CPM (cost per thousand)
  • PPC (pay per click)
  • PPL (pay per lead)
  • PPA (pay per action)
  • Affiliate (commission)

Ad Units

  • Banners
  • Text ads
  • Search listings
  • Advertorials
  • Content integration
  • Video
  • Rich media
  • Branded games/entertainment
  • E-mail rental
  • E-mail newsletter sponsorships
  • White paper syndications
  • Product listing syndication


  • Click rate
  • Cost per click
  • Page views
  • Cost per page view
  • Engagement
  • Value of engagement
  • Video views
  • Video view time
  • Engagement time
  • Conversions/actions
  • Cost per conversion/action
  • Leads
  • Download
  • Cost per download
  • Cost per lead
  • Revenue
  • ROI (define)
  • Awareness
  • Brand impact points

Online marketers that don’t take the time to test the right combinations of these dimensions are much less likely to discover viable online marketing channels for their clients. This especially holds true if there is any element of direct marketing in your goals.

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