Could online News sites out-Google Google Ads?

In a very quick scan of three of the bigger news domains in South Africa (Mail & Guardian, IOL and News24), only one was displaying Google Ads, as far as I could see. But it occurred to me over the last day or so that News sites might have the potential to out-Google Google when it comes to providing advertising that is relevant to their readers – especially in our local context in South Africa.

At the risk of creating a cost for what I have been trying to achieve for free (by issuing press releases with links to supporting materials on our website and/or providing those links in the comments on stories, where allowed), but in the interests of collaboration, sharing and the already somewhat symbiotic relationship that exists between us as a political party and the media, here is my idea as it evolved. (hopefully it will be rewarded with some free link love for the DA 🙂 )

As an online news reader, I hate banner advertising – especially the animated ads that go out of their way to distract you. Like a buzzing fly that won’t leave you alone, they constantly draw your eyes away from what you’re trying to read. I make an in-principle point of not clicking on them.

Which is one of the reasons I’m not partial to spending any money on them either. Another is that, in the age of exponentially increasing information and diminishing attention, they’re a pretty blunt instrument – inflexible, old-school (just a fancy print ad published online, really) and, quite frankly, not worth the money, in my humble opinion.

Google Ads have revolutionised online advertising. I can now pay per click, instead of per 1000 impressions; I can determine how much I’m prepared to pay per click; I don’t have to sign a long term contract to advertise on a site; I decide how long I want to run a campaign; and my ad is not limited to one website. But most importantly, it’s displayed to people for whom it is likely to be relevant, so I get a greater conversion rate.

However, an advantage of Google Ads – the fact that there are still relatively few companies targetting specifically the South African market place – also presents a challenge. Just having ‘South Africa’ in the story can provide enough relevance for a whole range of ads to appear that have nothing to do with the story you’re reading – which means, as a non-profit organisation with a very tight marketing budget, we can easily be outbid by wealthy corporate advertisers.

The other problem is that (besides the fact that only a handful of news sites are Google affiliates) the DA homepage isn’t actually what the reader is looking for when they’re reading a story about the DA. If they do want to find out more, they would like to link directly to the relevant page of the DA site – quite a challenge using Google Ads.

Now imagine if, as a marketer, one could bid on a spot that was unique to a particular story on a news site and specifically relevant to that story? Between my department and the media department in the DA, we monitor our coverage quite closely. I’d like to be able to monitor my reader after a DA press conference and, as soon as a story is published, bid on a spot that’s displayed only with that story, and use it to link back to the supporting documentation/visuals/etc. on our website. (Yesterday’s document and slide show on the state of police stations is a good case in point.)

In analysing traffic on our sites, the greatest spike in link love we’ve ever experienced was when we launched – a site for people to share their experiences and feelings; to vent; essentially, to be more than just a statistic. News24 covered the launch and included a link to the site in their story. The point is that the link wasn’t just relevant in a general sort of way; it actually added value to the news story too.

It’s not that the current model isn’t profitable – Vincent Maher was very chuffed to announce in March that the M&G’s News in Photos and Wap sites turned a profit after only 45 days. But perhaps news sites could be selling more ads, charging less while making more, and providing added value to their readers.

The Long Tail is an internet phenomenon, but it’s also an online news phenomenon. Since I last logged on to my Reader about six hours ago, 80 new stories have been published by the above-mentioned three news sites (and I only subscribe to partial feeds in the case of two of them). I can’t possibly read all those stories, let alone be interested in them all. But, while some stories are more popular than others, all stories are interesting to some of the sites’ readers. As a marketer of ideas and ideals, that kind of self-selection is valuable to me. It’s probably pretty valuable to a lot of other people too.

What do you think?


3 Responses to “Could online News sites out-Google Google Ads?”

  1. 1 Eric Edelstein 27 November 2007 at 8:21 pm

    There have been so many company’s in the international arena trying innovative advertising methods, such as the other contextual guys (the scumware crew where the man in the street gets a pop up when they search a word in the search engines or type in a URL into their browser, and the software they didn’t know they had downloaded displays a relevant advert)…or the inline guys, who allow you to bid on keywords within content.

    But it all comes down to the marketplace – do you have enough advertisers and visitors. (either on your own site or from your affiliates sites driving traffic to the advertisers). If the answer is yes, then you have a chance of succeeding.

    24 is launching their own contextual ads system in Q1 08 and with Google recently creating an office in SA, the space is starting to heat up. But it’s a growing market as well – more Internet users, more advertisers, more Internet Marketers…

    The winners will be the ones that create the best market place…

    If you’re comparing a search site such as google with a content portal like 24, both can do well provided their software is good, they get the RIGHT visitors to their sites (or their affiliates sites), and they sign up enough advertisers. And that is the challenge – getting all the variables functioning at optimal capacity.

    We had a similar challenge a few years back with our affiliate network – we created a market place allowing those wanting traffic (the advertisers) and the ones providing the traffic (the Marketers – using PPC, SEO, email, portal and other methods) to get together. Now that we have a large number of advertisers and affiliate marketers, the marketplace works well.

    Although South Africa is spoken about as a small Internet Market, a few million Internet users still allows for Google, news portals such as 24 with PPC and contextual advertising, and Affiliate Networks such as to all co-exist and prosper.

  2. 2 ahazell 28 November 2007 at 9:37 am

    My original thought was to have link subscribers – i.e. the DA is a subscriber, so every time a story about the DA is posted, it’s posted with a link to the relevant page on our website. The problem with that is it has the potential to influence editorial decisions – i.e. let’s include more stories from our subscribers because it means more revenue.

    I think 24 adding their own contextual ad system is a great development. Since it’s focussing only on our market, it should mean you can target more precisely.

    The one thing I know I don’t want is a DA logo popping up randomly on 10,000 page views per month. That person could be reading the sports section and be completely uninterested in politics.

    But I’d like to achieve a link that’s relevant to my story without trying through trial and error to manipulate keyword selection – especially since a story probably gets its peak readership in the first few hours after its posted.

  3. 3 ahazell 3 December 2007 at 3:21 pm

    Quite a nice post relevant to this post by Henre here

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