Thursday, August 21, 2008

Performance Insider: Breathing New Life -- And Revenue -- Into Online Content

Breathing New Life -- And Revenue -- Into Online Content

EVERY TIME A LIBRARY ADDS new books to its collection, the old books aren't thrown away or forgotten. It's the volume of books within a library's collection that help the library maintain the repeat traffic in and out of its doors -- not just the newest titles added to its collection this week. Sure, maybe the new books get prominent placement at the front desk as "recent additions," but it's the vast nature of a library's holdings that makes people come back.

Just as a library drives foot traffic, online publishers should be looking to apply the same principles to drive Web traffic. However, as publications have moved online over the past 10 to 15 years, they've naturally adopted the same mindset and business model that had worked for hundreds of years before. As one issue was completed, they retired it and moved on to the next. As such, most publishers are making one major mistake by not using their most valuable asset -- their content -- to its fullest potential.

It's true that publishers must continuously refresh content to remain competitive. But with new content coming online so quickly, the "old" content is retired way too soon, and as a result, content that is still valuable to readers - and, thus, advertisers - is never to be seen again.

Publishers are doing their best to extend the lifecycle of their content by adding search functions and re-organizing their sites to provide the ability for users to "drill-down" and find a broader array of information on germane topics. This has worked to some extent, but it's still not exposing otherwise valuable content to the readers it deserves.

One way to extend the content lifecycle is by distributing it - and not just through a publishing group that has more than one site - but by using a network that distributes across publishers and can reach different types of people at their local level.

Online advertising networks have been structured like this for years, and it's time for content publishers to catch-up. In fact, they can do better than just catching-up, by joining forces to create a comprehensive network that contains ads and relevant content.

For example, someone visiting the Web page of their local newspaper might be looking for information to purchase a new car, but their needs extend far beyond "who can sell it to me, and at what price?" Consumers want to be educated in order to make an informed purchasing decision. With a comprehensive network that contains both ads and relevant content, they'll browse local dealerships, while being presented with relevant articles and reviews from leading automotive publications. Likewise, someone might visit the Web page of their local TV or radio station looking for an electronics store to buy security software for a laptop. They'll browse ads from local merchants while being presented with relevant articles from leading technology publications on the difference between antivirus software and firewall software.

The articles may no longer be front and center on their publisher's sites, but they're still useful for a consumer. And by making this valuable content easily accessible for consumers, and combining it with contextual advertisements, everyone wins. Publishers continue to drive traffic to (and gain revenue from) their "older" content, and consumers looking to make purchasing decisions are empowered with easy to find information at their fingertips.

Making content easier to find maintains its usefulness. And by matching the right ads with the right content - not simply the most recent content - provides incremental revenue opportunities for both publishers and advertisers. While publishers should continue to capitalize on their archived content by restructuring their sites and adding new functionality, content distribution should be a key component of a comprehensive strategy to breath new life into their most valuable asset.

Jean-Eric Penicaud is COO of DirectoryM.

Performance Insider for Thursday, August 21, 2008:

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