In-Text Advertising’s Three Challenges


tarzan_smallADOTAS – Although there are some really exciting innovations in the targeting and dynamic optimization of display and text ads, the online audience is blind to banner ads due to years of ignoring those prized positions above the fold. Audiences go to sites to engage with content, particularly regular browsers.

Advertisers continue to pay high CPMs for campaigns, yet there is minimal linkage to sales and performance — so are they paying to largely be unseen by audiences who only care about content?

When AOL’s Tim Armstrong declared that “content is king” he was right on man levels. Content is why people come to a site — the masses don’t visit to see that fabulous banner ad. They come to engage with the content, and get frustrated if anyone interferes with this desire too much.

Content is also the most valuable part to monetize, if done right, because content is fundamentally what creates intent. Content creates a desire to do something: be it buy a product, read something new, discover more, etc. The key to monetization of content is to find a way to gently harness that created intent and a way to reward the content creator for the role they played in it — if it benefits another party materially.

Even more key, is to do this in a way that doesn’t corrupt the editorial integrity of the site, or interferes or compromises the user experience.

In-text advertising has been a valuable evolution in the space as it overcomes ad blindness, affecting brands using traditional display ads. In-text advertising using pop-ups is certainly effective at commanding users’ attention, and as a result, brands pay top dollar for it.

However, there are three challenges to the dominant form of in-text advertising as led by Vibrant Media and Kontera:

Impact on user experience. The fact that the in-text pop-up interrupts the user experience can be seen as a positive — it certainly ensures the user sees the ad. However, animosity simmers away towards this type of interference, and although users probably don’t defect from a publisher purely because they use this form of monetization, they would certainly prefer something less intrusive. Users generally understand that publishers need to earn an income if they are to continue creating quality content for free consumption, but the ideal would be that this is performed with minimal interference.

Relevance. To earn solid revenues from in-text advertising, there needs to be significant user interactions with the ad. The most efficient way to ensure broad base coverage across their publisher network is to leverage common generic words that have a high propensity to be mentioned on many sites. The down side is a frequent dissonance between the keyword being used and the resultant ad shown in-text.

We can probably all relate to finding a strange combination between keyword and in-text pop-up ad. To be fair, this strategy does achieve the quickest and broadest distribution of an advertisers’ ad, but does it result in acceptable non-accidental click-throughs and sale conversions?

Value to advertisers. Accidental click-throughs are the biggest concern for advertisers interested in monitoring a relationship between ad spend and sales conversion. Advertisers purely interested in brand awareness may care less as long as their logo and message is being viewed. But as we see performance marketing growing at 16% a year and the fastest form of online advertising, advertisers will become more demanding of their ad spend, and expect spend to be linked to sales or other engagement measures.

These three challenges inspired us to build SkimWords as an extension to our core SkimLinks offering. There will always be a market for in-text pop-up advertisers like Vibrant and Kontera, they have done a great job of building a lucrative form of monetization for many publishers. However, we think there is an opportunity to grow the market further, and offer publishers and advertisers an additional means of monetization that does not impact the user experience, is relevant and offers direct measurable value to advertisers.

The key is to be transparent using subtle but clear disclosure messages, to develop scalable ways to build out long-tail keywords lists that are granular and unambiguous, and to link ad spend tightly to performance metrics. This is where we see an exciting future in the in-text monetization space.


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