Will advertisers pay a premium for a specialised web audience?

By Ashwini Gangal , afaqs!, Mumbai | In Digital | October 13, 2017
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A panel of experts discussed the challenge and promise of specialised websites, at Digipub World.

Specialised websites bring a very fine-tuned audience to the table. But will advertisers pay a premium for this niche audience? A panel of experts discussed the challenge and promise of specialised websites, at Digipub World.

Edited excerpts of their points of view.

Gautam Shelar, business head, Moneycontrol

Gautam Shelar Gautam Shelar

There is a certain premium that comes, but one cannot say it's a multiple of a generic news site. The challenge is - 'plain jane' advertising is not working.

Digital media is about performance; publishers - large or niche - may talk about branding, but I've been here long enough to know that fundamentally it's about performance. We need to adapt and figure out what solutions we can bring to the mix in order to bring the user down to the conversion funnel. There is some money that's there for pure display or pure branding, but if your revenue aspiration is in the 100s of crores of rupees, then that approach doesn't work.

As publishers we need to market ourselves heavily. I don't think a lot of us do that well. We also don't get enough 'mindspace' with agencies... Google and Facebook get 90 per cent of the 'mindshare'.

Vikas Gupta,‎ founder and director, 9.9 Mediaworx

Vikas Gupta Vikas Gupta

On my sites I get 10 million unique visitors every month, I reach out to 40 million people through social media.

I'd be happy to get advertising money, forget premiums! That's where the struggle lies. Advertisers, media agencies and ad agencies are still owned or run by people from my generation or one generation older... they still park 90 per cent of their funds with traditional media. There the money just goes with good hope and guesstimates by agencies... Do they even ask for unique deliveries, CTRs, viewability, completed views, conversion rates? But we as digital publishers, who get the smallest fraction of their media budget, get scrutinised and bashed, but just we have the data and can be measured? Instead, empower me because I have the data... give me more funds.

I have an objection to saying 'performance equals sales'. 'Performance equals brand equity' is just as important.

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Gopa Kumar, vice president, Isobar India

Gopa Kumar Gopa Kumar

My question is - What do you constitute as 'premium'? If publishers can define premium for us (agencies) or brands, then brands will be more than willing to pump in premium monies...

It's important for niche sites to be able to define 'premium' and explain why an audience would come there and spend time there... and why a marketer should pay a premium for those audiences when they can reach those same audiences programmatically as well. That's a challenge.

Brand marketers are looking at the end goal only, rather than looking at the overall funnel.

Digital is not just a performance medium -yes it is- but I think we should be looking at brand building too. What traditional media can do, digital media can do better... with a layer of performance (measurement) and conversion as well.

'Performance' need not mean just sales; it can mean top-of-mind recall, brand lift... any metric that we agree on before undertaking a campaign. The conversation with CMOs has moved there (towards brand metrics).

Priyadarshi Banerjee, general manager, product strategy, Worldwide Media

Priyadarshi Banerjee Priyadarshi Banerjee

The ownership of innovation lies with media agencies and the ownership of creating good content lies with publishers. Can we marry them?

It's not just about specialised audiences; there are other interplaying factors. While we can harp on having curated sets of audiences that are ready on the table for you (advertisers), as opposed to you having to go to large scale publishers and getting sliced and diced data, which could be 'stumbled upon' data, command for premium pay comes from data (insights, engagement) and format (inventory, placement, content).

Between the starting point, that is, specialised audiences and the final point, that is, performance, there is a lot of value that specialised publishers bring to the table. We partner with marketers and media agencies to understand at what part of the funnel they want us to create value.

Publishers need to understand that they are also brands. We're obsessed with how our consumers are interacting with the advertising proposition; we're not spending enough time on how our consumers are interacting with us (publishers).

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