By Tim Wolff, VP, TV & Digital Publishing Innovation, Futuri Media
More page views are better, right?
It’s been about a quarter-century now that local media outlets have had websites, but most content managers don’t know what those page views are worth. And in the last few years, the perceived value has definitely changed.
First, the ad money
Ad unit costs are measured in CPM, which stands for “Cost Per Mille.” It’s also known as cost-per-thousand. If an ad campaign has a $10 CPM, it means that it costs $10 for every 1,000 ad impressions.
The costs vary by available inventory, ad size, placement, whether the ad animates and the perceived quality of the local media brand. Local advertisers pay more to have their ads next to the top weather team in town, for example.
An animating banner ad at the top of a local news website might get a $20 CPM. Square or rectangle ads off to the side might get $10-15. As you move further down the traditional, computer-based web page, the costs gets lower. The lowest cost ads are “programmatic” ads that fill in after all locally-sold ads run. These can be as low as a $2 CPM, and sometimes even lower.
Video ads go for higher dollars. A 15-second locally sold pre-roll can range from $20-$40 CPM, and programmatic pre-roll can be from $5-$10 CPM. Most brands have a mix, so an average of a $10 CPM may be safe for general estimating. Of course, it’s important to point out again that there can be wide variations.
If you look at a typical local news website on a computer, you’re likely to see about a half dozen display ads and maybe an auto-play video preroll. Assuming a mix of locally sold premium ads and some programmatic ads, a computer-based page could see $50 to $100 per thousand page views — up to 10 cents a page view, on the high end.
That same page on mobile might have two to three display ads which are smaller and cost a little less, though video preroll is likely the same. You could estimate a page that gets $70 CPM on a computer gets $30 CPM on a phone browser. Of course, this varies with many factors, including time spent on page and whether there is infinite scrolling or a finite page.
However, story pages have fewer ads than home pages, and photo galleries might be page views with hardly any ads; also, users may flip through the photos so quickly that the ads don’t fully render, and therefore don’t generate revenue.
Depending on a website’s mix of pages, you’ll probably be closer to $30 CPM on computer and $15 CPM on mobile web.
That number gets smaller for local media apps, which often only have one or two non-invasive ads, and even though they may be a premium price, it’s still far less revenue per page than the website.
So why do local media push to their apps when they make less ad money? More on that in a moment. First…
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Before we talk about apps, let’s talk about those “content recommendation engines,” which are full of stories designed for you to click on irresistible headlines and then be taken through articles, listicles and photo galleries that might have hundreds of ads. The largest of these, Taboola, is ubiquitous on local media sites. It usually works on a revenue share based on clicks. These stories can add hundreds of thousands of dollars for large local sites.
Results vary based on placement, branding, etc, but it would not be uncommon for a website doing 500 million page views a year to make up to a half-million dollars annually.
Add that to the advertising revenue and the money really starts to add up. A small media website, one doing say 2 million page views a month, might make $600,000 annually. A medium market site with 20 million page views monthly could see $6 million. A large market with 60 million page views a month could see $18 million a year. Of course, these are all part of a wide range of factors coming together, not the least of which is the local market’s ability to sell premium local advertising. If there aren’t premium local advertisers, the dollar amounts could be much smaller.
And those ad numbers drop off when apps become a bigger part of the mix. So why is every local market pushing its apps?
Value does not equal dollars
Stations and publishers recognize that app users are their most loyal customers. And media outlets make significantly more money on traditional platforms (TV, radio and newspapers) than they do in digital. Over the past few years, more media companies have done the math that shows digital’s biggest value is in driving users to be more loyal to the traditional platforms.
That’s one reason news apps are typically a much more pleasant experience than news websites. And at most TV stations, for example, the news apps now drive more than half of the overall digital traffic, with most of the rest coming from search and social (only about 10% is typically direct traffic to traditional websites).
App users took the step of downloading your app, and use it more frequently than those who only go to websites. App users are, in essence, your “regulars.” Website users coming from search and social are your “tourists.” So app users get the regular customer nice experience, while tourists get the website tourist trap.
That’s why you’ll see media outlets create special pages just for social traffic; come in from Facebook, and you get an experience full of slow-loading ads as they try to pack every dollar into your visit. Come in from the app, and you’ll get a fast-loading page with one ad, and a nice experience that hopefully makes you want to subscribe to the paper, or go to the broadcast more often.
Can you make tourists regulars?
This analogy — of local media brands as having a loyal base of customers and another set of tourists — can also be used to play into strategies for digital and traditional growth.
If you’re giving people who come in from search and social a worse experience, they are less likely to become loyalists. And that’s ok … if you don’t need growth. The opposite philosophy would be to roll out the red carpet for tourists and try to make them regulars … while trying to make more money on your regulars (which of course could make them less loyal).
So that’s the delicate mix media outlets find themselves in today. How much do I try to maximize every page view for more dollars vs. how much do I make it a great experience so I can make them loyal to my traditional platform?
How your brand approaches this mix will determine what a page view is truly worth for you. If you’re a content leader who doesn’t know how to answer this question, it’s time to sit down with your digital and sales leaders to make sure you all have the same plan.
To truly build loyalists in every platform, make sure you understand what your audience is engaging with. Futuri’s TopicPulse is a great place to start.
Tim Wolff is the VP of TV & Digital Publishing Innovation at Futuri Media. You can see his live presentation “What News Managers Need Now” at the upcoming NAB conference. To learn more or continue the conversation, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or message him on Linkedin at https://www.linkedin.com/in/timwolff1/.