Rich opportunities in niche media

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Audience fragmentation has changed media buying — so when, why and how should mar­keters go after niche media buys instead of mass media? Four experts share their opinions.

Cree Lawson
Founder and CEO, Travel Ad Network

Due to the fact that search-driven content and audience fragmentation are expected to continue as powerful forces in the media landscape, tradition­al online “destination” sites and portals such as Yahoo and CNET will lose traf­fic to niche sites.

“Vertical businesses are harnessing the network effects of the Internet, much like Expedia and others did for travel in the late 1990s. We're seeing an acceler­ated effect from fragmentation, which will draw ad revenue from traditional media toward online vertically targeted solutions,” writes Kelsey Group pro­gram director Peter Krasilovsky in a recent report.

Vertical audiences are passionate, deeply knowledgeable and incred­ibly engaged with the content they are reading. By avoiding the overhead of content production, vertical networks operate more efficiently, delivering high-concentration audiences collected from “fragmented” niche sites.

There are several ways to get the most bang for your buck when buying on vertical ad networks. Because the best vertical ad networks — unlike horizontal networks — exclusively control all of the inventory they represent, you can do some exciting stuff, such as road block across hundreds of sites to help sup­port a new launch or “own” the home pages of desirable sites for days at a time.

Instead of focusing on demographic data, try telling the vertical that you want to reach “cell phone users” or “people planning to visit Mexico,” and let them place your ads next to the content that's attractive to those folks. Who cares if they are 20 or 40 — they are still buyers.

Also, consider the fact that research has shown that when folks are doing research on multiple sites they trust and see the same ad or marketing message, they are more inclined to click on those ads and convert as buyers.

THE TAKEAWAY
Vertical ad networks offer access to niche markets online


Dennis Erickson
VP of marketing, Paradysz Matera

With more consumer media choices than ever before, there has been a dramatic shift away from traditional offline media sources to the Internet. As eyeballs and attention shift, so does media spending. It is estimated that US companies will spend more than $32 billion for online media in 2009, double the amount in 2006. This increase has come at the expense of many offline media channels.

No longer will advertisers be able to effectively leverage the lower cost of offline channels and have success with a mass media approach. Moving forward, success will be dependent on generating relevance to the consumer.

There are a number of ways to ensure the relevance of insert and print media. One is to test different products to different market segments. Collectible marketers have used this strategy successfully for a long time to open up the program universe.

Another strategy is to test programs that represent lifestyle trigger events rel­evant to your product. Examples of trig­ger events would include college-bound, new parent, or newly married.

Also, try using offline media to open up the door to your online store. Merchandise offers no longer have to “close” the sale on the insert piece itself. Let your Web site close the sale.

Tailor the creative imaging and mes­saging to the appropriate market seg­ment. This strategy is very effective with magazine placements and can also be applied to insert media.

Although more limited than direct mail, segmentation and media refine­ment opportunities do exist with insert media. A home décor or home service offer may have limited success with broad reach free-standing inserts or co-ops, but do very well in a new mover-based program.

The most successful offline advertis­ers will be those who create well tar­geted, integrated campaigns, utilizing consistent messaging across all channels.

THE TAKEAWAY
Relevancy is key to insert programs in a fragmented media landscape


Nick Palazzo
Co-founder and co-CEO, Stack Media

In the current economic climate, there is a consensus among online media buyers that they must become more efficient against their target consumers. As advertisers examine the demograph­ics of their buying market, niche media most often offers the most efficient means of not only reaching these con­sumers, but engaging them through custom marketing programs.

In the online publishing arena, niche media works best when the media property has developed a leader­ship position in a given category and captured a well-defined target audience such as athletes, car enthusiasts or windsurfers. This leadership and tar­geted audience lends instant credibility to advertising campaigns and provides unique opportunities for marketers to leverage the media property's content into custom marketing programs.

The best programs happen when the media property can target ad campaigns to specific content verticals, leading to a high conversion rate. Mass media sites can generate a high volume of impres­sions against a broad audience, but the resulting traffic does not necessarily lead to conversions. By contrast, niche sites' value is in their ability to draw qualified traffic that leads to more conversions and enhanced engagement among the target audience.

It's also important that the media property work with the advertiser to create a custom program, closely tying together the site's content and the adver­tiser's message. This creates an exciting and relevant call to action for the site visitor, and is one of the biggest benefits of advertisers making a site-specific buy. They can reach their specific target audi­ence with exactly the right message – which results in greater engagement.

The niche media success formula breaks down to having significant reach and efficiency against a tar­geted group of consumers, providing custom content and marketing solutions and packaging it all together to create an engaging means of interacting with the target consumer for the advertiser.

THE TAKEAWAY
Online niche media buys can be both efficient and engaging


Shani Reardon
VP of media services, SendTec Inc.

In a world of media fragmentation and with the consumer now driving the advertising dialogue, it is essential for advertisers to identify niche media buys. With the advent of stations such as FitTV, Planet Green and others, television finally has a long tail — not as long as the Internet, but long enough to offer tremendous relevant opportunities. Identifying these opportunities, knowing whether you should take advantage of them and then executing them can make more than an incremental difference in your campaign.

There are a few quick steps to identi­fying whether this media should be part of your plan.

Is the niche buy relevant to your target audience? The key here is to not rely solely on your intuition, but to also use research tools such as Nielsen and ComScore to help you index the media against your target.

It is also critical that the pricing of the buy is in line with current or past media that has performed. This can be more difficult to figure out because all media is measured and responds differ­ently. It's important to understand your costs per thousand (CPMs) across all sta­tions and media channels and compare response, leads and conversions. You can usually make a pretty good case for or against a niche buy. Let me also take you back to point one. Do the relevancy and the potential for higher conversion outweigh the higher CPM?

Finally, niche buys can be valuable for identifying characteristics of your consumer you didn't understand before. Because of the relevant nature of niche buys, advertisers gain very precise learnings about their consumer, which can lead to media expansion as the learnings can be applied to other media channels for additional testing.

THE TAKEAWAY
Identifying the opportunities in TV's long tail can provide qualified leads

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