Rich Media, Specifics, Part 3

By: Neil Greer

Thank you to all the publishers who took the time to write in and comment on last month’s column and the success stories. I’m glad the examples were of value to your operations.


Rich Media Specifics, Part 3 focuses on serving publishers who a) want to leverage their own sales force to increase revenue and profits, and b) who are able to make some investment in the infrastructure necessary to manage the essential technologies for a digital operation.


Whether you are managing a large or modest budget, there are ways to take control of your destiny.


Here are the key technologies you will need from a core operational perspective (techy term would be “The Stack”). For the sake of this column, the term “core” refers to what your operational team needs to manage the business. We will not discuss CRM or sales tools in this column, but will leave those subjects for another discussion.



Ad Server

Some of my colleagues who are highly experienced in digital would, as I do, see the discussion of the ad server as a basic technology element. No one was more excited in the mid- 1990s to watch providers such as Net Gravity demo how to use an ad server to make multiple jpeg ads to run in the same ad position on Yahoo!. Cool stuff and, interestingly, not much has changed in terms of the core functions of the ad server itself.


The ad server is still your central element of technology, and all the platforms that matter can serve both physical files (gif, png, jpeg, swf) as well as ads hosted on another server (third-party rich media or ad tags). Leading ad servers in today’s market are focusing on targeting and multi-channel distribution. Each solution is evolution based on market demand, but each is putting out some interesting features.


You can get up and running with a server that only serves files, but to attract the real ad dollars, you need a server that supports all formats that advertisers find appealing, such as video and rich media ads. If your monthly impression volumes are 5 million-10 million per month, you can do without targeting today. Larger sites leave money on the table if they do not have ad targeting that is correctly implemented from a trusted provider.

Leading providers of ad servers for media include Yahoo! APT, Google, 24/7, and Open X. Well-known CMS providers such as Atex also offer ad serving as part of their solution, which is an interesting development pointing toward convergence.



CMS (Content Management System)

While once the domain of the IT side of the house, it is interesting to observe CMS providers extending their capabilities to represent more than just news-specific website publishing and content management.


It is fair to say that from 2005 to 2010, media companies were OK with CMS firms providing a traditional set of capabilities due to budget constraints. That comment was made to me and other colleagues in digital management many times during that difficult period.


Of more interest are the investments made by key industry firms to innovate while the market was not necessarily rewarding the investment in terms of immediate revenue increase for the CMS provider. Firms such as Atex and Saxotech come to mind. Divisions of media firms such as Tribune Media Services and TownNews have also stayed focused on delivering value to their clients.


The bottom line with CMS is that it is an anchor element for your operations team on both the news and digital ad operations side; especially if those two functions are performed by the same personnel.


Buy the product within your means that best matches your needs. There is a CMS product for every size of media organization.



RMM (Rich Media Management), aka Third-Party Rich Media

As Rich Media Specifics Parts 1 and 2 have highlighted, there is ample growth in online display advertising, with many publishers pursuing it as a key strategy for success.


My company’s platform data across thousands of advertiser campaigns shows, on aggregate, that the most popular rich media ad formats are:

• Pencil expanders

• Video (pre-roll and user-initiated video)

• Floating ads


There are other emerging formats but, by and large, the above units are the most popular with advertisers and publishers.


The emergence of RMM as a key element to your success has to do with the complexities involved in scaling the volume and type of ad choices you offer your advertisers.


Simply stated, if your organization wants to take full advantage of the opportunities in online display advertising, you must take a platform approach. If you only have one ad to produce every six months, a better option is to hire freelance talent to manually create and manage the ad. Even then, there will be issues with ad updates and maximizing response. There are other companies that emphasize self-service advertising or an ad network solution that also have some components of RMM as part of the solution.


It is also important that your RMM vendor work with a broad set of ad servers and CMS systems and does not constrain your ability to scale your business with odd, outdated business rules such as file size limits or per-file charges.


The path to growth in your online display advertising business is to focus on excellence in leadership in your market segments via differentiated products, leading-edge operational technologies from non-conflicting companies that are vested in your long-term success and focus on client service.


This three-part series is designed to act as a launching pad for the next phase of your growth and a pragmatic look at what works and what solutions exist today. There are other evolving trends that will help your business in the years to come. I look forward to discussing them with you in the next edition of Go Digital.


Neil Greer has been in the media industry since 1994. His column, Go Digital, focuses on sharing experiences that aid in solving key strategic and operational issues facing publishers as they invest in the growth of their digital operations.

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