Round and BT In The Candy Store

With 31 million domestic monthly uniques (45 million worldwide) browsing across 600 nano-niches of special interest, would seem like a veritable candy store for behavioral targeting. Users declare their interests in a highly granular way when they go to, for example, the "Intellectual Property Law" or "Parenting Special Needs" sections, and a healthy share of's ad sales go to tagging, tracking, and targeting such visitors as they browse around the rest of the site. But as we also discovered when we spoke with another veteran of the platform,, does not want BT to erode the value of its contextual offerings. Ben Reid, vice president of sales and operations, tell us that two and a half years after initiating the platform, BT has evolved into a "judicious" but persistent choice for his clients.

Behavioral Insider: What is the current state of BT in your product mix?



Reid: It's a healthy slice of business. I wouldn't say it's a standalone focus, but it is a constant companion with proposals we send out. It is for us a no-brainer. I'm not sure it would find a happy home in every publisher. We're a network comprised of a little shy of 600 subject-specific sites run by individuals, all very, very niche. When advertisers come to us for a specific demographic or psychographic, we may or may not have a lot of inventory for a particular subject, so being able to extend those users out across our network is absolutely a win-win for both of us.

BI: How is BT being used in your broader product? What role does it serve for a client?

Reid: We use it judiciously. There has been a lot of learning along the way about what is the right fit along our network specifically, and setting the expectations of our clients. When [BT] first came out, it was a hot new thing. [Some clients] were looking for BT and just wanted BT.

Eventually, they got savvy about how it works. We got savvy about how it works with us. We found that when you are looking for really small audiences that are really valuable, being able to extend that out makes a lot of sense. Especially, when you apply a couple of more controls around them--crank that recency up a bit. We like to do two weeks as a sort of target. We like to wrap frequency caps around it, so if we do find a soccer mom in Milwaukee who wears Nike on Saturdays, we don't burn her out. Most specifically, we look for the small targets we want to extend out. For the medium to large targets, it doesn't seem like it's going to be beneficial for either party

BI: Why is that?

Reid: In part because we are a large network, and we do have a pretty good critical mass of traffic of the larger targets. And we do have a charge that ends up being part of the overall CPM. If you are looking for a larger target, that means you are already a bit budget-conscious, and I don't need to do it to make the volume for your buy.

BI: Some vendors are wary of selling short the value of their contextual.

Reid: I would agree. BT is just that; it's targeting based on behavior. It's not an entirely new animal. You're still looking for users that have a point of origin, and that's what we've attracted on our site and what we want to sell against.

BI: How many segment do you offer?

Reid: A lot of people have really clamped down and only offer 20 or 30. We're still offering custom segments. It is a little bit more work for us, but we try to be service-oriented. It never dinged us in terms of the amount of time it took to set up. We've got a really good handle on avails, so we think the extra work and flexibility is worth it to offer.

BI: Are any segments lagging in catching on to BT

Reid: Direct response hasn't, and probably is not, going to make sense. You have to have a certain level of brand around it. Early on people had a lot of performance expectations around it. In my option, the jury is a little out on whether it is higher performing [than contextual]. I have difficulty looking at it as a performance vehicle. 

BI: Where does it move in the next year?

Reid: There are still many definitions of behavioral out there. If the industry can come to a consensus on what that means, that is a step forward. Some merging of these definitions is where it should go. [Different vendors are going to have] different definitions of BT, and arguably they are [all] valid. I think moving towards some middle point on [all] offerings is added value for the industry as a whole. 

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