WSJ's BT Is 'Icing on the Cake'

Back in 2003, was among the first major publishers to embrace the still-mysterious behavioral targeting. Nearly five years later, and now with a reach of 10 million uniques across MarketWatch, Barron's and many other verticals, the company has more experience than just about anyone online with the art of selling BT within a larger product mix. We thought it was time they shared. Brian Quinn, vice president, advertising, Dow Jones Online, tells us that BT buys now represent up to a quarter of his sales. And yet, he remains careful not to let clients lose sight of the classic value of a media brand, to sell against important content and a valuable audience demo. BT is sweet "icing on the cake" but it isn't the core value proposition for a publisher.

BI: What are the most popular BT segments you sell?

Quinn: It's interesting. If you look at how the Journal started, they had about twelve preset segments with pithy names like "tire kickers" and "gadget geeks." The functionality of the BT has increased so we have created upwards of 200 different segments. Now you can actually go to the keyword level. The most popular ones are really [related to] the content areas that sell out most frequently. The paid side in the Journal has more limited inventory in personal finance, mutual funds, anything do with autos or technology.



BI: For a financial vertical like WSJ, one of the original promises of BT was that it could expand your limited inventory in lucrative lifestyle extensions like food and cars. Has that proven to be the case?

Quinn: Absolutely. One of the challenges is that content in the Journal, especially in the new weekend edition, can be about wines or travel, but the traffic is somewhat limited just because it's not that core reason people pay their $700 a year. But we're looking at different ways to expand that traffic, and until that point we do use BT a lot for that. If someone is consuming a lot of Walt Mossberg, that is very limited inventory, but we can track them across all of our sites.

BI: Do you run into inventory clash? ROS and BT campaigns vying for the same spots?

Quinn: That's one of the issues. We try to have our salespeople be very disciplined. Just because you can offer the target doesn't mean that you do. Delivery can be an issue. Inventory management is a challenge for anybody, so when you have 200 possible segments in play, it can get pretty hellish. On any page there could be eight different campaigns fighting to get on, so it's based on how you set up the ad server. But the BT ones that have higher CPMs have higher priority.

BI: What share of your ad sales are for BT campaigns?

Quinn: Probably 25 percent. It probably grows 20 percent year over year. The big thing that we've tried to be disciplined about is that we refer to it as the frosting on the cake.... We didn't want to be known as the place to reach $110k-plus income earners who like gadgets. When you are engaging with us, it's already pretty vertical. If you are trying to reach affluent males, just run-of-site is a great way to buy us for investors or business decision makes. So we try to make it only a small piece of any proposal because we think it is the smartest way to buy us. We would never let anyone just buy us [for BT]. First, it's a huge premium, so you get a proposal that shows an $80 CPM, and most people would have a problem with that. Also, we just don't want to sell that way. There is only so much inventory you can apply to that. We're really lessening our revenue potential and probably leaving money on the table

BI: what are the lessons and caveats learned in four years of selling BT?

Quinn: Just because you can target a certain way doesn't mean that you should. We're already an affluent audience. It's not just us managing inventory. It is being smart marketing partners with advertiser and using it where it makes sense. Don't just do it because you can.

BI: Some marketers believe that ultimately, all digital inventory will be sold via BT. I gather you don't agree.

Quinn: No. Maybe because we're in a unique place. AT&T has our home page for the whole day, and that's sold out for the rest of the year. They just want to be there. The conventional wisdom was that it's a terrible way to buy a Web site--the same banner over and over--you won't get the click-throughs. They aren't thinking of it that way. They are thinking that they have a big ad in the paper today and want to be on that site today. There's not an obsession with how many people click on it. They are making an important statement today. The same can be said to the MarketWatch intro message. You sell one-a-day; people see it once. Marketers really value it. We think that just as content and quality of audience stand on their own, we will look at [BT] as frosting on the cake. It won't be the core any time soon.

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