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Twitter TOS opens door to contextual, behavioral targeted advertising

Friday, September 11th, 2009

twitterI, along with millions of other Twitter users, received a friendly email from Twitter co-founder Biz Stone this morning sharing the popular service’s new terms of service (TOS). In the basic terms area, they add (italics mine):

The Services may include advertisements, which may be targeted to the Content or information on the Services, queries made through the Services, or other information. The types and extent of advertising by Twitter on the Services are subject to change. In consideration for Twitter granting you access to and use of the Services, you agree that Twitter and its third party providers and partners may place such advertising on the Services or in connection with the display of Content or information from the Services whether submitted by you or others.

Before you scramble to your Twitter page to see what these ads look like, they add:

We’re leaving the door open for exploration in this area but we don’t have anything to announce.

Not only are ads going to be a distinctly probable possibility, but contextual and behavioral targeting are also being hinted at, too. It’s been a few years since Google raised hackles by announcing they’d serve up contextual advertising on Gmail (the furor has died down), but behavioral targeting moves beyond simple content matching on the page/tweet and might additionally look at patterns of searching and browsing behavior over time and potentially across sites and services. Since it’s been less than a year since Oprah gave Twitter a green light, it’s safe to say that Mr Stone and the rest of the management will move cautiously, especially since Congress is currently drafting a bill that would tackle behavioral targeting’s privacy issues.

YieldBuild optimization now FREE!

Thursday, September 3rd, 2009

yieldbuild-free1You read that right!

We’re excited to announce that we have cut our ad optimization fee to zero. If you’re a current publisher, you will see the current 3% fee reduced to 0%, and new publishers will not be assessed a fee. We have been very pleased with the performance gains that our publishers have been enjoying, and want YieldBuild’s ad revenue maximization solution to reach as many new publishers as possible. Spread the word!

Not a YieldBuild publisher? Sign up today—YieldBuild is free to try and use!

Current YieldBuild publisher? The fee drop from 3% to 0% is effective September 3, 2009. Thank you for continuing to use YieldBuild!

1/5 display ads in US served on social networks

Wednesday, September 2nd, 2009

myspace-facebookAnalytics firm ComScore has released a study that claims over 20% of all display ads in the US are being served onto social networks, the lion’s share on heavyweights MySpace and Facebook. Interestingly, those spending on socnets have names that are surprisingly familiar: AT&T, Sprint Nextel, and Microsoft.

What about the infamous advertiser skittishness with social networks?  Sanford C. Bernstein analyst Jeff Lindsay, when asked if advertisers are sensitive about what kind of content can be juxtaposed against their ads on social network sites, said:

“They are sensitive to some extent [to suggestive or offensive content], but nowhere near to the extent you might think.”

Seems to be the case for a certain type of advertiser. The top 10 advertisers fall into buckets that make sense if your target audience is younger people (i.e. those that won’t be put off by curse words, party shots and textese): cell phone companies (AT&T, Sprint and Verizon), online degree promoters (Apollo Group, Experian) and games and quizzes (Pangea, Zynga, GameVance). And Microsoft might be trying to raise its sexiness among younger people charmed by edgier Apple and Google.

As the general population becomes as comfortable with social network content as the Millennials, we might see a broader spectrum of advertisers penetrate the medium.

YieldBuild Publishers See Improved Revenue with Premium Text Ads Alongside AdSense

Tuesday, September 1st, 2009

For online publishers that rely on advertising revenue as a significant source of their sites’ earnings, identifying the best-performing ad networks is no easy task. Network selection and evaluation has typically been a matter of trial and error and arduous testing, but is worth the effort if it results in significantly improved revenue. Automating this testing and format optimization of each ad spot on a site is precisely the benefit that YieldBuild provides its customers.  However, the breadth of ad network choices has been limited to those networks with the scale and technology to deliver high-performance, relevant ads for a wide range of content types.

For these reasons, YieldBuild was excited to launch its Premium Text Ad Program to offer Web publishers an ad source that consistently delivers outstanding contextual relevance and high publisher value. Across sites dedicated to topics as varied as automobiles, wine and product reviews, both large and small, publishers have seen impressive improvements to their overall online ad revenue without compromising user experience nor fully cannibalizing their revenue from their other ad networks like AdSense.

Most publishers using the Premium Text Ad Program see an immediate improvement to their revenue by simply adding an additional ad spot to their page, giving YieldBuild the opportunity to serve up an additional Premium Text Ad unit alongside AdSense. Three publishers, PrimaryGames, RateMyTeachers and HubPages, have all added the YieldBuild Premium Text Ad Program to their ad network mix, and all have seen strong revenue enhancement through the addition of a superior ad source as an adjunct to other ad networks they work with.


primarygames-logoPrimaryGames

PrimaryGames.com, an educational gaming site popular with elementary-school children, came to YieldBuild with plenty of ad experience under their belt. Having tried a wide range of ad formats and networks, they knew what worked for their site’s traffic and what didn’t, but were open to working with YieldBuild to optimize their current ads and to try out the YieldBuild Premium Text Ad Program.

“It’s clear to us that no single ad network can fill all of our ad real estate, so we turned to YieldBuild to most effectively manage our inventory and identify those networks that perform best for each open ad spot,” says Susan Beasley, creator of PrimaryGames.com. “I’ve been pleased with the YieldBuild Premium Text Ad Program’s ability to deliver high-performance text and image ads which appeal to our younger viewer base. And, importantly, the ads are high quality, important since parents and teachers are frequent users of the site, as well.”

The Premium Text Ad Program now comprises slightly more than half of the text ad revenue PrimaryGames is generating through YieldBuild.


ratemyteachers-logoRateMyTeachers

RateMyTeachers.com is the premier online destination for students and parents to connect and share reviews and ratings of middle and high school teachers. Online since 2000, Ratemyteachers.com boasts over 11 million ratings of over 1 million teachers. The content-rich site is a perfect match for contextual ad networks like Google AdSense, and Aaron Altscher, Managing Director, was looking for an additional high-quality contextual ad source to complement them.

“YieldBuild’s Premium Text Ad Program has been a terrific complement to other text ad networks we’re running through YieldBuild on RateMyTeachers,” says Altscher. “The Program has allowed us to serve more highly-relevant ads alongside our content and boost our revenue significantly.”

With a fill rate higher than that of any other network they are optimizing through YieldBuild, the Premium Text Ad Program now comprises almost a fifth of the revenue generated for the site.


hubpages150HubPages

HubPages is a wildly popular social content network that allows anyone to create rich-media articles on a topic they know and love, and earn ongoing royalties through ads served up on what they’ve published. The site attracts more than 16 million unique monthly visitors, primarily from search engines, and enjoys almost 70 million monthly page views.  85,000 authors have published more than 430,000 articles since the site’s launch in August 2006.

HubPages’s content richness and heavy traffic from search engines has made text-based contextual advertising the ideal monetization vehicle for the site. “In a short time the YieldBuild Premium Text Ad Program has grown to comprise almost a third of our site’s total revenue.  YieldBuild’s ability to automatically allocate the best paying ads for each ad spot has been critical to the implementation,” says Paul Deeds, HubPages’s general manager. “The Premium Text Ad Program serves up highly-relevant text and display ads that complement other ad networks’ ads across our wide range of topical content. We’re also impressed with the Program’s fill rate and revenue per click (CPC), even better than AdSense’s. The YieldBuild Premium Text Ad Program’s ability to deliver great contextual ads beyond the three ad-units of running AdSense alone has really helped us increase our revenue per page.”

Optimizing Premium Text Ads alongside AdSense has allowed HubPages to continue impressive month-over-month revenue gains despite a general softening of the online advertising market. YieldBuild has placed Premium Text Ads alongside the other ads on HubPages, increasing revenue 44% over the revenue generated by all other networks HubPages works with combined.

Particularly as an adjunct to other networks like AdSense, with which publishers have trusted relationships, YieldBuild’s Premium Text Ad Program delivers a reliable additional revenue stream and highly relevant ads that complement page content. The Premium Text Ad Program draws from a variety of high-quality text ad sources.

Semantic ad targeting

Tuesday, August 18th, 2009

paris-hilton-ad-mismatch-smLast week, at SES San Jose (a popular convention for the SEO crowd), I participated on a panel called, “Don’t Call It a Comeback: Semantic Technology and Search.” Three of us gave presentations: Nova Spivack from Twine, Lane Soelberg representing Wolfram Alpha, and I spoke about some tests in semantic SEO that we ran on HubPages. Rounding out the panel were Othar Hansson from Google, Hope Hackett from Ask, Kevin Haas from Yahoo, and Mark Johnson from Bing, who also wrote a terrific recap of the panel on his blog. Dana Todd from Newsforce and SEMPO was the moderator.

Most of the discussion revolved around the impact of semantic knowledge aggregation would have on search engine results and the balance of search traffic. During Q&A at the end, though, Dana asked about the impact of semantic technology on advertising.

I offered my opinion that semantic ad targeting has been and will continue to evolve as a refinement of contextual advertising. Semantic technology’s strength is identifying what something really means, what the real meaning behind symbols and words. For example, a simple contextual match on a page about how to clear your browser cookies might serve up ads for Mrs Field’s. Semantic technology would notice the preponderance of tangentially-related terms on the page, such as browser, Web, program and the like, and probably result in an ad for Google Chrome instead.

Semantic technology should also sense the mood of a page, and know, for example, if serving up ads for Microsoft is appropriate on a site that could be potentially bashing them (not a good idea when most savvy Web users know contextual ads are often priced by click!).

Beyond text, the big opportunity is with display ads that, without proper and extensive tagging, usually are clumsy or impossible to contextually target. Making sense of metadata, tags and even copy and design elements within the creative grants ad networks the ability to make the most of their display inventory.

What technologies exist in this space? I already wrote about Peer39 and adpepper’s iSense last year. Here are a few companies that have developed semantic matching technologies in the online advertising space:

The field is being rapidly littered with failures, like Clikkit’s SemSense, Aduna, and Dapper’s MashupAds, so the technology is still in development and its full potential not yet achieved.

UPDATE:  We are glad to hear that Dapper’s MashupAds is alive and kicking … and has been renamed to Dapper Ads.

YieldBuild at upcoming conferences

Thursday, August 6th, 2009

YieldBuild will be exhibiting at, sponsoring, and attending a number of upcoming events. Please contact us if you’d like to set up an appointment to meet.

affsummitAffiliate Summit – New York City

August 10-11

Exhibiting: Merchant Mart Table T119

Paul Edmondson (CEO) – Fawntia Fowler (HubPages)

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sesSearch Engine Strategies (SES) – San Jose

August 11-12

Exhibiting: Booth 516

Jason Menayan (YieldBuild) – Ryan Hupfer (HubPages)

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admonstersAdMonsters Publisher Forum US XXI – Portland

August 17-18

Sponsoring

Paul Edmondson (CEO)

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blogworldBlogWorld and New Media Expo – Las Vegas

October 15-17

Exhibiting: Booth 415

Jason Menayan (YieldBuild) – Ryan Hupfer (HubPages)

Online advertising flat in Q2 – that’s a good sign

Friday, July 31st, 2009

tc-ad-revenues-2009q2Q2 estimates are in from the big four online advertisers (AOL/Platform-A, Google, Yahoo and Microsoft) and the big news is that the ad market is no longer dropping. Holding steady at about $7.9 billion among the four, the stasis in the growth trend is being heralded on TechCrunch as the new trough in the market, from which we can likely expect growth.

Is there cause for optimism? Although the data from the past decade isn’t granular at the quarter level, the last retraction saw its nadir in 2002, from which a new growth trend was reset. The IAB reported $1.46 billion in Internet ad revenue in Q2 2002, and $1.47 billion in Q3, a similarly flat Q/Q change, and then grew from that point on ($1.5 billion in Q4, $1.63 billion in Q1 2003, and so on).

The unabating focus on performance, ever-increasing publisher inventory, combined with improved efficiency, will probably continue to exert downward pressures on overall spend, but if you’re as “guardedly optimistic” as Obama is about the overall economy, then maybe this would be a good time to call Dave Winer out on his doomsaying.

Advertisers increasingly spending online, but not necessarily on advertising

Wednesday, July 22nd, 2009

Online research and advisory outfit Outsell estimates that advertisers will have moved $65 billion in 2009 to online marketing, but we’re not talking about advertising. That enormous figure, about equal to total US spend on television and cable advertising, includes spending on SEO and their own destination sites. So, in addition to buying traffic, advertisers are investing in their own mousetraps, hoping the growing online audience will beat a path to their door.

Is this bad news for the online advertising ecosystem? No. It is a reflection of advertisers’ growing sophistication and understanding of the online marketing universe, which we all know extends beyond advertising. Online traffic isn’t necessarily always bought–online properties can be groomed to receive traffic through search or through cross-channel investments (which can be surprisingly effective). However, advertisers needing scale or granular targeting will always have to reach outside their zone of control and buy. Unless they get too aggressive, budgets dedicated to online advertising will probably continue to be  well spent as long as the gap between time spent online and online advertising spend continues to yawn.

Online ad market recovering…except for display

Tuesday, July 7th, 2009

nyt-leading-indicatorsHave we turned a corner? The ability to accurately predict the nadir of a recession is not something anyone has been able to do consistently, but analysts and advertisers are nevertheless sussing out signals that a recovery is imminent. This interactive infographic on the NYT says leading economic indicators (final slide) are suggesting the worst is behind us. A report by Publicis Groupe’s ZenithOptimedia contends the bottom of the worldwide advertising market is in Q3 2009.

Does a general economic recovery portend a rebound for online advertising? According to a recent forecast by Pricewaterhouse Coopers (highlights), yes, but when you dig a bit deeper, the answer is yes-and-no. First, the bad news. Display is expected to drop: from $4.8 billion (2008) to $4.4 billion (2013) in the US, and from $5.1 billion to $4.8 billion in EMEA. The final couple of years of the forecast period will see a modest recovery for display, but not enough to offset the drop from the previous years.

Overall spend is expected to grow through the forecast period (through 2013), so where is that expected to come from? Search. Performance-based advertising will earn a growing share of online ad spend as advertisers look to maximize ROI through search’s greater accountability, as well as take advantage of the search terms they’re targeting elsewhere (read: contextual advertising, widget/microsites, apps, etc.).

Assuming PwC’s projections are accurate, the question is what it will take for display to stop falling and resume the growth other formats will continue to enjoy. Accountability and targeting will probably be the two buzzwords on most inventory sellers’ lips, as advertisers’ expectations to understand what their spend is giving them begins to be heard.

What online advertising needs to win

Thursday, July 2nd, 2009

An interesting opinion piece on Minsiders, authored by Accord Media president Marta Wohrle, dovetails off a panel discussion whether behavioral targeting and bigger ads—two buzzwords that have captivated online advertising punditry ever since the market drifted into the doldrums—were the answer to lift online advertising growth. I thought this was an interesting insight:

When I think about old media, it strikes me that it has been very good at relationships with advertisers and rather poor at cultivating relationships with its consumers. The thing about digital media is that it has gone way too far the other way. Audiences are center and front of successful Web sites and, of course, the whole kit and caboodle when it comes to social media. Advertising, on the other hand, has been commoditized.

While it’s true that technology has created some failures in the way it’s been implemented, I don’t think a focus on targeting and exploiting technology is the root of the problem, although I fully agree that publishers’ focus on them at the exclusion of what makes successful advertising work presents an interesting opportunity. But publishers differ.
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Large publishers with direct traffic

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innovidThe large portal sites, the ESPNs, Dictionary.coms and Hulus of the online world, stitch together large, agglomerated audiences. Browsing behavior can be aggregated and analyzed to paint a picture of broad interests, but since these sites rely much more on casual browsing than active searching, granular information on what purchasing decisions lie within the realm of possibility of their viewers is generally impossible to come by.

Television’s advertising model has proven broad interests and large audiences rely on novelty, creativity and humor to make the message penetrate viewers’ skulls. With the Web you have the possibility of interactivity, although without exceptional novelty, there usually isn’t the incentive to engage. Non-interactive ads need to inject the interactivity of gaming (like Innovid does) to make it compelling. And any novelty that becomes a hit will not last that way for long–today’s hot is tomorrow’s boring. Effective advertising for large publishers will always be a moving target. In this case, IAB’s call for the unleashing of the creative spirit and the OPA’s new large-format ads, are attempts by these bodies for their large publisher members to stay a step ahead of the game.
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Medium- and Small-Publishers with Search Traffic

proximic-targeted-ad.
Although not strictly exclusive of the largest publishers (think About.com and the well-SEOed New York Times) the SMEs of the online world are often less equipped at amassing large audiences as they are at delivering content to a large number of individual searchers. Instead of a huge audience of people you know share a love of football but you don’t know much else about them, search publishers identify 1,000 microaudiences with niche interests and deliver each of them a piece of content that provides advertisers with precise information about what they want to buy and maybe even when.

With the lack of scale at delivering jaw-dropping creative for people interested in hummingbird feeders, publishers have relied on contextual advertising’s ability to mate niche advertisers with niche content. What’s been missing here is not necessarily more engaging advertising (although that can’t hurt), but better targeting. When niche publishers identify visitors with an intense interest in gas masks, then serving up ads for Halloween masks represents a huge missed opportunity. Likewise, it’s a failure of behavioral targeting to not know that someone looking at an article on interest rates after spending several months reading about cars online is probably a pretty good candidate to close a deal with.

So where does that leave the agencies and ad networks? What do they have to focus on: targeting technology or creativity? Depending on the breadth of publishers they’re hoping to work with, advertisers are going to learn quickly that they shouldn’t be picking one.