The Promise of Dayparts

Advertisers trying to reach consumers during the morning hours should turn to online news sites as a vehicle, according to research done for the Newspaper Association of America (NAA).

The Minnesota Opinion Research Inc. (MORI) found that news sites were a dominant force throughout the day, but mostly in the morning, between 8 a.m. and 11 a.m. During that time, workers tend to be focused on news sites more than any other medium, including television and radio. MORI found that the Internet was five times more effective than TV at reaching consumers during those morning hours.

“With online connectivity rapidly approaching a state of plateau — 67 percent of all U.S. adults are online — growth in frequency and in new dayparts will play the biggest role in future online growth in general and especially for online news sites,” according to Rusty Coats, MORI’s director of new media.

The MORI study, Online Dayparts 2002, was based on surveys of 14,000 users conducted last October and November. The full report will be presented at next week’s NAA Connections 2003 conference in Orlando.

The findings square with the position of the Online Publishers Association (OPA), which has argued that daytime hours are the Internet’s primetime, with news sites leading the way.

Some news sites, notably NYTimes.com, have dabbled in selling ads tied to the time of day. CBS Marketwatch first experimented with dayparting in 2001, running Anheuser-Busch ads on Friday afternoons. Last June, the paper’s online unit debuted “site sessions,” which give a sponsor prominent placement throughout the site at a set time.

“The feedback from advertisers has been this is a successful way to pinpoint network audience and get efficient return,” said Alyson Racer, director of sales at NYTimes.com.

Racer said New York Times Digital was able to charge a 25 percent premium for ads during the morning hours, while retailers have bought early-afternoon slots to reach workers browsing the Web during their lunch hour. The site has run branding and promotional daypart campaigns for a variety of advertisers, including American Airlines, Buick and Oracle.

Dayparting at news sites, however, is not simple. During the morning hours, MORI found Internet users interests turn to breaking news, local stories, business and sports. In the afternoon, entertainment news gets more attention, while interest in information like movie times and local calendars grows between 1 p.m. and 6 p.m. Sports, however, performs well across all dayparts. MORI found online weather and business news readership peaks in the morning and mid-afternoon, but interest in business news falls sharply in the late afternoon.

Coats concludes that Web news sites should begin to treat the morning and early-afternoon dayparts as primetime hours, charging a premium to advertisers to reach consumers who are much less likely to use media like TV and radio during these times.

“It’s been something marketers are really in tune with,” Racer said. “But we’ve yet to see the power of what it can do.”

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