Those are some of the questions we explore in the second half of our conversation about trends in book advertising with Verso Advertising President, Denise Berthiaume, and Group Director Tom Thompson, which picks up where we left off Monday’s interview.
And tomorrow, Berthiaume and Thompson join us for a live chat, in our weekly #FollowReader conversation on Twitter (Friday, December 4, 2009, from 4-5pm ET). To follow to our discussion in real time and contribute your own comments, go to TweetChat and type in #followreader.
Q&A with Denise Berthiaume and Tom Thompson
What are the biggest mistakes that publishers and authors make when trying to engage with online audiences?
Denise: The biggest mistake I see is authors and companies spending a lot of money on very cool site design, but leaving no part of the budget (and that includes money, employee time and enthusiasm for the project!) for the marketing required to drive people to the site.
Tom: Because budgets are so tight, publishers often use the “silver bullet approach” – hoping a single marketing or promotion piece will make all the difference. Instead, we really need to think about all the factors, the whole ecosystem that leads to a book being discovered and purchased.
What’s the smartest thing publishers and authors can do in their online ad strategy?
Tom: Think of your online strategy hand-in-hand with, and really no different from, your “offline” strategy. Authors should use the web to drive foot traffic into physical stores and use their in-person appearances to build audience for their site/blog/etc. Authors need to think about their brand long term.
Denise: Focus first on your audience wherever they are: on- and offline. Usually both, and usually at the same time.
In determining the effect of online ads, how useful are metrics like click-through rates, site traffic and Bookscan book sales – and how effectively can you map one variable to another?
Denise: Obviously, our job is to sell books. So our primary goal with each campaign is to drive sales. To that end we recently worked with Nielsen BookScan to study book sales during Verso Reader Channel ad campaigns and found a significant correlation – meaning a bump in sales – when campaigns served 1.5 million + ad impressions. We go into that in a bit more detail about that in a post on our blog.
Tom: Click Through Rate (CTR) tends to be the first and only number people want to know. But it’s misleading. With the FSG and Vanguard campaigns mentioned above, for example, neither performed astonishingly well in terms of CTR. But both spectacularly accomplished their goals.
Denise: CTR is a big topic in advertising right now. Everyone’s looking for guidance on measuring performance, but no one knows what that measure should be. CTR has been declining and worrying people for a long time (if you Google it, the first thing that comes up is a blog from January 2001 about declining CTR).
Tom: The general CTR average is .08% — which matches up with what I’m seeing with our clients everywhere except the NYTimes.com, which is generally higher. That .08% figure comes from a DoubleClick report cited by ComScore.
Denise: There have been lots of CTR-boosting remedies proposed over the years, most prominently the Cost Per Engagement model of rich media. But in the end, click-throughs of any variety have to be considered in the context of content, impression level, and campaign goal. What I mean by that is:
- Content: Are you offering something of value that is targeted either by context or behavior to the audience that’s seeing the ad?
- Impression level: Are you serving enough impressions to make a difference?
- Campaign goal: What do you want out of the campaign? Awareness? Clicks? Newsletter sign-ups? Sales?
Tell us about the online network of 5,000 sites you have put together for book publisher ads. What subject categories have the most sites and are the most popular with advertisers?
Denise: The Verso Reader Channels were created after we saw the need for marketing plans that truly took advantage of the unique ways different interest-groups are now clustering online. Now that there are sites for every interest group – from cooking to pop culture, fitness to parenting – we can target hundreds of relevant sites at a time, thanks to our partnership with Burst Media. Burst is a leading network that’s been around since the early days of the commercial web, has relationships with over 4,500 sites that provide over 110 million unique users a month, and reaches over 60% of the web population. Our partnership leverages Burst’s strengths in aggregating content into verticals along with our knowledge of publishing categories and creative expertise to give our clients extremely cost-efficient online media buys.
Tom: The other advantage of the network model is that we don’t have to confront the minimum spends that we face with buying ads for a single site. The standard $10-25k minimum spends for ad buys on single sites that we’re seeing now are well down from the $30-50k minimums of 2007, but still too high for most campaigns. There is no minimum with a Reader Channel buy – although you do face diminishing returns if you spend less than $5k. The standard cost per thousand impressions (CPM) for ads on the Reader Channels is $6.
If bloggers or bookstores want to apply to join your network, how do they go about it? How much do the sites get paid to run your ads?
Denise: While we’re big fans of bloggers and do buy ads on blogs for most of our clients separately, blogs are not part of the Reader Channels because Burst has strict rules about member-site content, audience level and comment field moderation that most blogs cannot meet, according to the eligibility requirements of the network.
What have you learned about what readers respond to from observing the activity in this network of 5,000 sites?
Denise: We surveyed thousands of respondents about their book buying habits and preferences, with early data showing some surprising behavior by heavy readers and ebook enthusiasts. We will reveal more about that at the Digital Book World Conference on January 26 and 27.
Join us for tomorrow’s live chat with Berthiaume and Thompson (Friday, December 4, 2009, from 4-5pm ET), in our weekly #FollowReader conversation on Twitter.
To follow to our discussion in real time and contribute your own comments, go to TweetChat and type in #followreader.