Weather.com Turns E-Mail Registrations Into Advertiser Leads

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The Weather Channel's weather.com has delivered nearly 1 million e-mail leads to its advertiser clients since its co-registration marketing program began last October.


Such leads come from registrants of weather.com products like Desktop Weather, InBox Weather and Severe Weather Alerts. The registration data provided allows the subscribed weather.com product to function, offering an ideal environment for advertisers.


"We treat our co-registration marketing offers much in the same way that a grocery store treats the products on their J-hooks outside the cash register -- you have your products, and here are some things that you can put in your cart that you probably also need, with no additional work," said Tammi Hoffer Ryley, director of database marketing development at weather.com, Atlanta.


Weather.com visitors do not go to the site simply to check the weather, she said. Many are making decisions -- where to travel, what to do and what to buy to prepare for their weekend. In that process, they also have a chance to opt in to receive relevant offers.


These registration requirements include mail and e-mail address, gender, date of birth and soon to be optional fields: education, job title, industry, marital status and presence of children.


Since the program's debut, weather.com has assiduously expanded its suite of advertising products beyond banners to offer clients an array of database marketing services. But it was also evident that proactive inventory management and optimization would become critical for profitability. So, the company developed a yardstick to help optimize inventory.


"Today, this approach allows us to have more effective sales conversations regarding the value of our site and the value of placement within our registration process," said Paul Iaffaldano, chief revenue officer for weather.com.


The yardstick led to a weather.com yield calculation formula: total net co-registrations (i.e., for offers accepted from advertisers) divided by the total site registrations (i.e., for weather.com features like Desktop Weather) multiplied by 1,000 multiplied by campaign cost per acquisition.


"We're trying to get as close as possible to a CPM-like number," Hoffer Ryley said. "If I know that my yield for an offer is $80, that tells me that for every 1,000 registrations that offer will generate $80 for me. Similarly, in the ad world, for every 1,000 impressions it would generate X amount."


The yield calculation is used to make inventory and optimization decisions. This way, weather.com can monitor the performance of offers and adjust them when necessary. Weather.com uses this metric daily. Offers that it thinks will receive the best acceptance usually get the most prominent position within its co-registration pages. Also, offers that continually generate positive results retain their prominent status.


Of course, weather.com ensures that any co-registration offer it endorses or displays on its site is aligned with its brand. It is supported in this respect by a recent Online Publishers Association study that said the affinity consumers have toward a Web site affects advertising performance in that location.


Weather.com advertisers include Lowe's, Dollar Rent a Car, AARP, American Express, Scott's Miracle-Gro and several travel bureaus. Participation in weather.com's co-registration program is one way for them to build their online database.


Like many online companies, weather.com has grappled with a key issue on quantity: How many offers make the number at which revenue is maximized before the law of diminishing returns kicks in? Iaffaldano is unsure whether a magical number exists, because there are multiple components to the equation such as site traffic and the mix of offers.


"While isolating a perfect quantity seemed somewhat impossible, we did learn that exposing one user to between eight and 10 offers is ideal," he said. "We've found that at a point much higher than that, users tend to become less productive and sign up for fewer offers.


"We determined that a smaller group of relevant offers makes the most sense to our user base and therefore performs quite well."


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