So after I wrote my post about advertising in a down economy I had a conversation with @moreglen, who writes the Halifax Web Development blog.
We tried to work out just how websites with strong communities can be successful by offering sponsorships and co-branding opportunities without a) annoying their user-base, and b) providing enough ROI for their sponsors.
Sponsorships and co-branding can mean a few things, like "presenting sponsor" banners throughout the site, permanent ad space, logo placement throughout, wallpapers/skins, and more opportunities that aren't just regular banner ads placed among other advertiser's banners. With a sponsorship or co-branding, you own a space, you're attaching your brand to the website and vice-versa.
We outlined a few potential issues that would need to be addressed:
- If you're an advertiser relying more on sponsorships over huge, high-reach display ad campaigns, you're going to lose reach overall, and you'll end up spending more money on fewer eyeballs.
- You'll potentially be increasing the amount of work you'll have to do to manage your sponsorship campaigns.
- If you run a community website with a passionate user-base, they'll see the appearance of a sponsor as an intrusion, and worry about whether they'll be affecting the day-to-day operation of the site and its editorial content.
This series will be written from the viewpoint of an advertiser, because I am one. But if you're a publisher or run a community, this should help you assess where your site might present opportunities to people like me. See the issues we're trying to work out and prepare to partner with us to provide increased value for our customer's and your audience.
Okay, what can we do about that first problem?
Well, my immediate thought is that, yes, you'll likely decrease reach. But if you're owning a co-branding opportunity or permanent sponsorship position on a website, you're hugely increasing your frequency and engagement. So yes, reach overall goes down, but attachment goes up.
So instead of engaging a large audience only slightly, you're engaging a smaller audience heavily.
As well, if you're going after community websites, you're getting an already engaged and passionate group of people. These impressions are worth more than others.
Added to that, if you handle your sponsorship cleverly (offering contesting, prizes, increased value to the user-base) they'll talk about you and what you've done. If you screw it up they'll talk about that, too. So be smart, be nice, and see the site's users as people, not eyeballs you're trying to throw your message in front of.
My second thought is that this complaint sounds a little lazy. If you find enough great websites and communities, you should be able to hit a huge number of people. It's just going to take some more work on your behalf.
But isn't this going to cost more, too? Well, sponsorships and co-branding opportunities can cost you a decent amount right now, sure. But that's because websites haven't quite figured out how to handle them yet. This will change.
This naturally leads into the next question, though: Isn't this all just more work?
Check back on Monday for a few answers to that question.