Saturday, April 23, 2011

Start-Up Watch COD: Perfect Market helps pubs monetize their content vaults

How long does a piece of content remain engaging to consumers? It depends, of course. How long is it valuable to a pub? Well, under ordinary circumstances, only as long as a news story is in the fiery eye of the storm of nearly universal consumer interest. By which I mean great content that would have evergreen relevance to passionate audiences often drifts off the SEO and content widget radar quite fast. The pubs that produce the good stuff often fail to get all of the value from it they can. And passionate consumers are by default less aware of information and ideas that might be very interesting to them.

But wait, there’s more. Given the billions spent each year on Search optimization, the best content doesn’t always make it to the top of results. Why? Because the core competency of media companies is in content development, not SEO.

Meanwhile, content farms pump out tons of drivel, but search optimize it to the hilt, so their stuff often appears at the top of results. While Google and Bing are always improving their methodologies, so too are the farms constantly innovating to maintain their edge. Quality pubs get the short end of the stick over and over.

So how can producers of quality content make more for their efforts? A company called Perfect Market believes it has the answer. Perfect Market helps media companies, including leading newspapers like the LA Times, Hearst newspapers, Chicago Tribune, Baltimore Sun, and the OC Register, better monetize their content through its technology platform. Essentially the service breaks down into four key buckets:

• Content Analysis:The platform examines context for KWs and semantic meaning. This can be combined with monetization info to help pubs better understand what type of content is most profitable, so the pub can focus more resources on those areas.

• Audience Segmentation: It analyzes site traffic and separates the audience into distinct buckets like Search users and visitors from social media, and surfaces insights about what key groups are looking for.

• Optimized Content Pages:The service helps implement segmented content pages that better meet the needs of different types of visitors, and pairs CPA and CPC ads to them to improve monetization. The offering is particularly adept in serving up existing content in a way that makes it more attractive to search engines, so it appears higher up in more results. Further, the optimized content pages that drive the most revenue get continued attention to optimization.

• Cost Per Action Ads: The company identifies pay for performance ads likely to appeal to readers of the optimized content, and pairs them with pub content, driving dramatic increases in revenue. It’s a rev share play, so no risk to the pub.

While Perfect Market provides value for both new and archived stories, it really drives the greatest results for the archive – stories that often fade to obscurity quickly.

Here’s something interesting. Lots of pubs do search baiting in order to boost their traffic and (theoretically) their revenue. But an important study commissioned by Perfect Market shows that while celeb cellulite photos may drive eyeballs, they don’t necessarily bring in the dough. The reason is that context drives revenue, and often the most popular content isn’t desired by brands.

Here’s an excerpt from a NY Times post about their research:

Perfect Market measured revenue per page view and found that articles about Social Security were the most valuable, generating an average of $129 for 1,000 page views. Articles about mortgage rates made $93 for every 1,000 page views. On other topics, values for every 1,000 page views were $28 for items about unemployment, $33 for articles on jobs, $20 for articles on the egg recall and $26 for pieces on immigration reform. By contrast, articles on Lindsay Lohan generated $2.50 for every 1,000 page views. “There are not a lot of contextual ads on Lindsay Lohan stories,” said Robertson Barrett, the chief strategy officer at Perfect Market.

The key to this conceptually is the drive by visitor. Perhaps someone who doesn’t read the OC Register every day, but would be interested in their coverage of a key topic or issue. By attracting these enthusiastic eyeballs, the pub can better monetize the great content they write.

If there is any controversy here, it’s that the editorial team can see what sorts of topics and stories make the most money, so that they can respond with more such content. For some, this is a violation of the Chinese Wall between ad and edit. I guess I see it a little differently. While I understand the concern, I also see far too many good pubs closing because of a lack of revenue.

I would suspect that most editors take their responsibility very seriously, and that they can draw an appropriate balance. But in my view the dirty little secret of the content business is that it was always designed around advertisers, or at least at the intersection of consumer and advertiser wants. There is car edit because most papers have an abundance of car advertisers, and people are more likely to peruse all those ads if they are interspersed with content. This simply takes that concept online and makes the analysis more granular.

And the other thing is, it's actually hard news that wins the monetization battle, not photos of pantyless actresses and addict actors who love chain smoking on webcams in the company of their goddesses.

Thanks to ad:tech for publishing this first.

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