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FAQs | Marketing

Ad Sales Channels

Q1: What are the best channels for selling ad space? -- Banner networks, Sales networks, Rep firms, Affiliate-type deals/promotions, or In-house sales?

  • We have tried all kinds of channels to generate value from our page views: AOL networks sales force, partner/internal reps, an individual publishers rep, and barter and commission deals. We are now participating in newcomer's third monthly auction with some excess inventory. They offer an interesting model for selling "expiring inventory" - unsold page views that would likely go unused or carry low value "click-through" deals. We sold the majority of the inventory we put up for sale at a reasonable CPM. The price we got was better than what we have seen as the effective CPM for click through or other cost-per-action deals and comparable with the "run of network" CPMs that ad networks claim they will get.

    We are also talking to Narrowline NMX, which provides a different type of market for ads along with demographic surveying support as part of the package. [Francis Costello,]

  • We have two sites, one niche and one general. For our niche site, we use in-house sales. Our general site hasn't had any problem in getting brand-name advertisers, so we don't have any dedicated sales reps for it. Advertisers seem to be more open to advertising to a general market and not a tight niche. We've found that once the large agencies who handle the big advertising accounts like your site, they start recommending it to many of their clients. [Raj Khera,]

Rep Firms:

  • Rep firms can be very good, but it boils down to how knowledgeable they are of your product (meaning that you have to manage them and keep them up-to-date with information and the needed tools to sell your product). You also need to be the "squeaky wheel" since they have other sites that they represent. Their objective is to make sales and typically it doesn't matter to them which sites sell as long as they hit their numbers.

    When interviewing a rep firm, try to get them to nail down a figure which they feel they can attain, and hold them to it. Put a clause in your agreement that you can go elsewhere if they don't achieve those numbers. It's helpful to offer them exclusivity. Also, give them incentives to make quota and exceed just as you would with an in-house sales staff. [Mark Dorf,]

  • We spoke with two rep firms (Cybereps and Webrep) and both said they aren't taking on additional clients. I'm sure the exception is if you're already a household brand name.[Raj Khera,]

Sales Networks:

  • We haven't had great success with ad networks (we tried Flycast). They tend to sell ad inventory at very low prices. While industry average CPM rates are mid-$30s, theirs tend to be in the low teens (at the highest). But if you're not selling any ads currently, they're great. [Raj Khera,]
  • Our experience with DoubleClick was that their model is predicated firmly on numbers of "eyeballs" or raw impressions with some recognition for distinctive demographics. While this is arguably the "traditional" Web ad model, and it probably works for many sites on the Web, we found they could not get the same CPM we could when we sold directly. They also sold to ad agencies, who have more limited budgets and flexibility to pay premiums for niche sites. We, on the other hand, speak directly to marketing departments who have corporate directives to penetrate our niche market, which allows for more flexibility on terms, pricing, etc. While we really liked the very professional people at DoubleClick, their model was not consistent with ours. If your site is not so tightly focused, you should definitely give them a try. They typically prefer sites with at least 1M impressions/month. [Gary LaFever,]

Banner Networks:

  • In a former position, I tried to use a network for site banner rotation. The network did not have the deep, one-to-one relationships with the community, or knowledge of our brand, which was necessary for selling six figure plus programs. But, they did have the tonnage to sell "inventory" across demographic segments. For any site trying to generate revenue, it is to your advantage to tap into as many resources as possible. But it's paramount that these voices know your site. [Renee S. Clepper,]
  • Banner networks are more for bringing new traffic to your site which is certainly very important since you're selling off of numbers of visitors and usage. If you don't have a promotion department or person, using a banner network could be attractive. [Mark Dorf,]

In-house Sales:

  • In-house sales are the best way to go if you can afford the staff because they are focused on your product only. [Mark Dorf,]

See also: Selling Ad Inventory  

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