Fully Monetizing Audiences May Mean Letting Others Do The Selling

Content publishers invest large amounts of time and money defining and honing their media brands.  As a result, a publisher’s internal sales team is well-versed and well-trained in directly selling the unique value propositions associated with that property.  In truth, a publisher’s sales force lives and breathes the brand every day, and they are likely second-to-none in selling their content to the marketplace.  Homepage takeovers, content sponsorships and other packages that promote a site’s prime real estate still comprise the bulk of revenue for premier publishers.

Of course, we all know the saying: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.  That’s why when it comes to audience-based selling, it’s tempting to try to do it in-house as well.  After all, if your sales team can broker million dollar deal roadblocks with some of the most savvy media agency minds in the business, they’ll be able to pitch specific audience profiles like new moms to diaper advertisers, right? Maybe, maybe not.

It’s true that a growing arsenal of publisher-side tools and technologies are allowing publishers more in-depth knowledge of their audiences than ever before. In fact, this technology may well be able to identify the diaper-buying parents within an audience.

This audience data is invaluable and can feed a number of important initiatives, from programming and content development, to marketing strategies, pricing and inventory management. However, while it’s important for a publisher to understand and tap into the value of its audience segments, it’s often very difficult to try to actually sell that audience with an in-house sales team for several reasons:

  • Audience-selling tends to be highly targeted selling -- after all, that’s the point.  And a highly targeted audience means a smaller audience. Few publishers have the scale required to deliver an advertiser’s specific target audience at material volumes.  While some portals and larger publishers have been successful in selling audience, the majority of publishers are not able to deliver targeted campaigns on their own at a scale that is attractive to advertisers.
  • Audience-based selling is very different than brand selling, and it’s often economically impractical to invest the time and training to develop the expertise to excel at both.  In addition, when recruiting new sellers, the skills, experience and established relationships that make someone a great candidate for a content-based sales position are quite different than those required for data-intense, digitally-driven audience-based selling positions.
  • Furthermore, audience-based buying often resides with a different set of decision makers within an agency, and few sellers have the access to hone relationships with both brand and audience buyers. 

For these reasons, we see an increasing need for third- party audience-sales experts that not only specialize in data-driven targeting strategies, but also work with enough quality publishing partners to meet a national advertiser’s scale requirements.  Every day we see examples of publishers winning audience-targeted budgets that they wouldn’t have access to without an audience-sales specialist working on their behalf.

But let’s be clear: Working with a third party does not mean giving away the “leftovers” at bargain prices.   These particular specialists fill the growing space between content sales and exchange-type bidding for remnant inventory.  Highly targeted audience-based selling at scale is driving incredibly high, measurable ROI for advertisers and, therefore, commanding strong CPMs for publishers.   

The ability to effectively aggregate, segment and sell audiences across sites  -- often best achieved by an outside sales team working across multiple partners -- offers an increasingly important source of revenue growth for media brands. Audience-based selling, when executed correctly and at scale, can help publishers fully monetize the value of the brand that they have worked so hard to create.  But unlike content-based selling, pulling in the greatest reward may mean letting go.

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