The Web Publisher’s Point of View

Walk a mile in someone else’s shoes, and you’ll presumably better understand her point of view. You might be more compassionate toward her situation and even learn a little something.

Without venturing too much into the maudlin territory of Dr. Phil, I bring this up because to do this as an online marketer, especially a media buyer, can be very rewarding. The “someone else” in this case, of course, is the Web site publisher.

My view of online publishers has always come from the advertising side of the fence. For me, sites were purely functional — vehicles for the banners I needed to place. I expect a lot of planners fall into this routine: analyze a site based on a narrow list of criteria, accept or reject it, and move on.

It took actually becoming a site publisher to change my perspective. I was involved in launching an automotive resource for consumers and have since begun working with an ad network to get some banners up on the site. In the process, I was reminded a site’s value isn’t defined by traffic and ad rates alone. Knowing what makes a promising buy, and understanding what happens to make it such, can give marketers a real edge.

The Team’s Effort

Think about how much time and effort goes into building and maintaining a comprehensive consumer site, and you’re bound to get a new appreciation for the staff behind it. Somewhere, someone is poring through every page and word, ensuring it’s up to snuff for its readers and advertisers. Meanwhile, somebody else faces the painstaking task of developing an editorial calendar that’s relevant, original, and superior to the competition.

Without content there can be no site at all, so why shouldn’t a buyer take those who create it into consideration? Dedicate a few minutes to researching not just the quality of the articles but the editorial staff as well. Do chief staffers have extensive expertise in the subject matter? Find out who masterminded the site. Is the project consistent with their background? The experience of a site’s staff can be a real indication of the publisher’s devotion to its quality.

Solid Partnerships

Most people would be surprised to discover how many sites work with ad networks these days. Some put all their ad sales in the hands of these media resellers, while others turn over their remnant inventory and choose to peddle the premium stuff themselves.

Because sites have to go through an approval process to be accepted into a network (under scrutiny are such factors as traffic volume and, yes, content quality), a site’s caliber can often be authenticated by the caliber of the network it has partnered with. Not all networks are created equal in terms of sales staff or the resources they provide advertisers.

When analyzing future sites, one aspect of their ad partners I’ll consider now is the importance that’s placed on gathering audience data. The network I’m working with dedicates a good number of its impressions to house banners linking to demographic surveys. Publishers can insert up to three of their own customized questions. The responses can offer greater insight into their audience, allowing them to develop more valuable content. The more valuable the site is deemed by consumers, the better their perception of it — and its advertisers.

Variety

As much as we’d like it to be so, no one form of online media has yet been deemed a magic bullet. There are benefits to advertising in portals, on social networks, and in blogs, but none has proven far superior than the rest. One workaround is to find a property or network of sites that offers a little of each. A site that features useful articles complemented by a blog or community discussion board allows media buyers to spread their impressions across a variety of very different media, with the convenience and exposure afforded by a single site buy.

Publishers, do you have any inside tips that could help media buyers assess the value of your sites? Contact me with your advice.

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