The Economist Sells Attention Instead of Clicks With New Ad Guarantees

The Economist is looking to outstrip competitors’ ad sales by launching two guarantee-backed ad measures promising increased audience engagement.

The TimeGuarantee ensures that mobile audiences will spend at least 250 cumulative hours with an ad over the course of a campaign, which usually runs two to three weeks.

The second measure, called the ViewGuarantee, provides that 75 percent of impressions across an entire campaign will be viewed for at least one second, a 25 percent higher standard for viewable impressions than the International Advertising Bureau’s (IAB’s) recommendation of 50 percent.

According to Economist senior vice president and chief revenue officer David Kaye, existing industry metrics for measuring audience attention, such as impressions and clicks, are giving Economist advertisers an incomplete picture of reader engagement.

“We sit here and measure clicks as an industry, and you hear people talk about 0.07 percent clicks or 0.09, and with most rational industries, zero point anything is zero.” Kaye believes that time-based ad sales will do more to guarantee ads reach their intended audience than cost per thousand views (or CPM) models.

CPM ad sales are falling out of favor among other publishers as well. Teal Newland, vice president of global revenue and marketing at StumbleUpon, thinks that cost-per-impression advertising has become less important as video and display have improved. “I think moving away from the click has been a long time coming,” Newland says, “because it’s hard to get people to click on things. I really like that The Economist is making an investment in creating great content that keeps people within the experience of that content.”

But CPM sales may not be dead quite yet. According to Kaye, CPM sales could still well serve some competitors like BuzzFeed, who are “very good about discoverability, scale, short engagement times, and clicks,” but he says that The Economist readers, by virtue of having paid to read the publication, are more engaged.

“I think the average amount of time spent on any news or finance-related website is less than two minutes, and we know The Economist time spent is well north of that,” says Kaye, “so any way that we can go out and show real engagement is important for us. We’re a paid website. It’s expensive, and there’s real reader engagement there, so a model like this really works for us.”

The Economist is confident that its new ad measure will be a more accurate method of judging reader interaction, but if the new ads fall short of their guaranteed goals, the journal is offering “make goods” in the form of additional time or space for ads that don’t meet goals.

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