A media sales rep, whose site sits firmly on a media plan for one of the top-spending brands in advertising, shared what his client said regarding premium sites that buy traffic. This client asked this sales rep “Is your site buying traffic?” -- and then answered his own question with a plea of “Please, don’t.”
The client explained that when he learns a premium site he buys directly is buying traffic, he moves from a comfortable to an uncomfortable understanding of that site’s audience. When this happens, the client said, he has to shift strategies from buying the whole site to buying targeted audience segments on that site instead.
If you’re a publisher or a media sales rep, sit with that for a second. You just went from selling season tickets to selling individual games to your biggest fan.
This client is saying that premium branded sites should maintain a natural size. I believe a natural size is achieved from bookmark and direct url traffic, through relevant organic search, and from social media links. Growing site traffic through content distribution deals is like melting ice into a glass of fine wine. Buying traffic through Outbrain turns a black-tie event into a keg party.
Last November, Time Inc. announced a $100 million keg-party deal with Outbrain. So now its sites will have more traffic, and hence more inventory, while lowering the quality of its audience through the lens of common sense.
Food & Wine magazine (part of Time Inc.) has a rate base of 925,000. Advertisers see that number and it makes sense. Foodandwine.com reports 8.5 million monthly unique visitors. That number makes far less sense for this affluent brand. How can its prestigious audience demographics not get watered down at this unnatural size?
Here are more examples of premium sites listed as Outbrain customers, who appear to have outgrown their brand’s natural size:
New York magazine has a rate base of 400,000. It reports 14.5 million monthly uniques. Only 8.4 million people live in New York City.
INC. magazine reaches a clearly defined audience of “owners of growing businesses.” The magazine’s rate base is 700,000. The Web site reports 7 million monthly uniques, which makes the site audience less clearly defined.
GQ magazine has a rate base of 925,000 readers who set the pace of men’s fashion. The Web site delivers a pack-like number of 6.7 million monthly uniques.
Finally, there is The Daily News -- an iconic brand and one of the most well-read papers in the New York metro area. It delivers a monthly circulation of roughly 1.1 million readers. NYDailynews.com reports a head-scratching 45.9 million monthly uniques.
The idea that buying a click to your site for 10 cents through Outbrain is going to then convert into a more dedicated site visitor is just an excuse. The real reason sites do this: to have more impressions for their lower quality advertisers buying the site via RTB, and to help fulfill orders sold to advertisers who bought that site directly. Neither outcome helps premium publishers increase the value of what they sell.
Outbrain is just another short-term fix that creates a long-term problem. You don’t have to take my word for it. Take it from one of the biggest-spending clients in the business, who clearly explained why this idea of buying traffic is sending premium publishers in the wrong direction.