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Your audience is always willing to “pay” to read your publication. How much they are willing to pay is the unknown you must uncover. Let’s explore the possibilities and put an approach together for your publication. Before we begin, consider what your audience will tolerate:

Your reader will always pay by Accepting ads, Subscribing with hard dollars, or both

Advertising comes in many flavors and the right model for you depends on who your audience is. Hard $$ tend to come from rabid fans or solving a real need in a niche where the pain of paying is less than than the pain of not having easy access to your content.

Lets take a look at the first method of generating profit today…

#1 The Banner Ad – to automate or not to automate

Considered today to be the lowest income generator for publications, the banner ad ranges from Google Adwords (the won’t buy you a cup of coffee ads), the targeted ad network such as media.net or Conversant, to the carefully handpicked advertisers whose products or services perfectly matches your audience. Typically the tighter the niche the better fit handpicking ads has for income generation and audience clicks (and the more time it takes).

Let’s look at a golf example: If you publish about golf you will likely be casting a wide net for different advertisers. Advertisers know that your golf publication will be read by teens, young adults, adults, retirees, amateur, pro, and other golfers. Their ads will likely be one of many and your ad rates will likely be lower… why? There are lots of places golf vendors can advertise to reach the “golfer mass market”.

Now let go niche. Lets say you publish to handicapped golfers. Your advertisers will be fewer but you will know which handicap golf vendors would be a perfect fit for your publication. You can build a relationship with them directly and they will pay more per ad click because they know their target customer is reading your publication. A handicap golf chair manufacturer wants to show up in your publication.

Should you sell ads directly or automate them?

It depends. If you publish say a news site that reaches a broader audience you will need to

  1. Charge less since your target reader might not be the ideal target customer for your advertiser
  2. Display more ads to make up for the reduced ad revenue (and clutters the reader experience)
  3. Automate your ads: if you need to cycle ads in and out quickly you will likely use an automated service that can insert ads matching broader category choices. It’s not ideal but you can set it and forget it. This approach is what the digital publishing industry is struggling with to make a profit and if you cover a broad category it will be a challenge to rely solely on ad revenue.
  4. If you are mixing ad types then reserve your best ad zones (EG header zone, in app) for advertisers you will deal with directly, and automate the non-premium zones.

Bottom line: If you are a niche publisher, go after your advertisers directly. You know who they are and they are willing to pay a premium. In fact if you are doing a good job with your content they will come after you. If you are publishing to broader audience you will need to explore an ad network services. Mix the 2 approaches if it makes sense.

Related: The video ad. Video ads are generating more revenue for advertisers as they have proven to be more engaging. If you plan on inserting video ads, take a lesson from Facebook… set them up to silently auto-play when they become visible. The key is silent auto-play. This grabs visual attention, without sending readers running from blasting audio. The reader can opt to un-mute the video if it looks interesting. It works.