Polling for Dollars

Online polls are nothing new. In the early days of Web sites, they were one of the first interactive tools a Webmaster could build into a site to make it stickier. Nowadays, two companies are using polls in different ways, but both ultimately help advertisers.

Ad network Burst Media uses polls to collect demographic data from sites in its network so it can better target its ads. Vizu, a company offering rich polling applications, recently launched Vizu Answers, a research network. It enables advertisers to run on-the-fly polls and conduct small-scale market research for a fraction of the cost of full-scale market research while generating revenue for the publisher sites within its network.

Burst Media’s Polling System

The problem with a lot of ad networks is their small publishers barely have a handle on their unique visitors and page views, let alone those visitors’ demographic breakdown. Niche and topic-focused sites more clearly attract certain visitors, but general sites may have no idea whom they’re attracting. Burst Media’s solution has been to require all publishers who join their network to run a survey banner in their default ad rotation. The survey data allow Burst to better understand its overall network traffic as well as an individual site’s traffic. What’s more, since Burst shares the data collected on a site with that particular site, the site can better understand its traffic.

Burst’s standard surveys run about five questions, but publishers can add two to three customized questions per month, making the data collected even more valuable to them. In addition to the questions, the surveys also contain required fields for collecting demographic information. Surveys run for about a month across about 4,200 sites. Publishers can select a Burst survey banner design or create one of their own:

Survey Graphic 1

Burst collects several hundred thousand usable survey results a month. That’s a lot of statistical data! On occasion, it uses its bonus questions for advertiser questions. To date, it hasn’t charged for this service, using it primarily as a means to secure or retain advertiser buy-in. Maybe Burst will have to start monetizing its surveys when it hears what Vizu’s doing.

Vizu Answers

Vizu wants to “democratize the research business,” turning it from “an expensive, elitist” tool to one any market researcher can take advantage of. Vizu’s value proposition is to get questions in front of consumers faster, more efficiently, and at a much lower cost. Compared to the thousands of dollars and weeks to run a traditional market research survey, Vizu’s solutions typically cost $200-$500 and can generate results in days.

The process is fairly easy. A market researcher has a topic and comes to the Vizu site to generate a poll using Vizu’s poll wizard (for the less experienced researcher, there are tips to creating good research questions). The researcher then inputs how many survey responses he wants, and the Vizu wizard tells him approximately how many page views he’ll need. From this, the researcher selects the sites and number of page views on which he wants his poll served and the CPM (define) he’s willing to pay for the poll.

Survey Graphic 2

Vizu’s network primarily consists of blogs and opinion sites. The company says its participating publishers like serving these polls for a number of reasons:

  • Visitors see them as content because poll results are displayed immediately.

  • Publishers can customize the poll template to their own preferences.
  • Publishers set their own CPM to run the poll and can decline running a poll they don’t want.
  • Implementation is a relatively low-tech, one-time process that’s then automated.
  • Unlike with ads, visitors aren’t taken away from the site.
  • It’s an alternative way for publishers to monetize traffic. Vizu shares 50 percent of the revenue generated by a site with that site.

Poll Research Application

Burst Media and Vizu have similar suggested uses for this kind of research:

  • Testing ad creative

  • Gauging brand perception
  • Collecting data for sales pitches
  • Testing hunches
  • Gathering quick consumer insights
  • Identifying issues/concerns

Just how long visitors will participate in these online polls before they suffer from burnout, as they’ve done with traditional banner ads, remains the question. Maybe someone should take a poll about it?

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