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Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Own, Don't Rent Your Audience

Do you own or rent your audience? What do I mean own vs. rent? you own a 1:1 relationship with your subscribers or are you dependent on a 3rd party distribution channel to reach your audience?

The reason I ask is because over the last few weeks I've come across a large number of online publishers who have chosen to simply ignore email. Choosing to instead promote social channels as a way to connect with their audience...some not even including the option to subscribe via email. These aren't some mom & pop sites with a 1MM page views either. These are large, well funded digital media companies with tons of site traffic. To be honest, I'm baffled as to why...just can't wrap my head around it. Over the past two years I've seen companies that have built their entire audience strategies on 3rd parties, severely impacted when their distribution "partner" decides to make a change. We've seen this with Facebook and the absolute collapse of social readers. As well as with Google and its series of algorithm updates, which have caused sites to lose as much as 40% of their traffic, almost overnight. I

If you don't own your own distribution, the question is...why not? It's never been easier & cheaper to setup an effective email marketing program. It's crazy to me that publishers out there completely ignore email to focus on channels where the rules can be changed at any time. It's not as if email is only used within certain audience's the preferred communication channel with every single age group!

Go ask any retailer what their most valuable asset is and the answer will be 100 times out of 100, their email database. Why should this be any different for publishers? It's gotten to the point where Publishers are putting Facebook & Twitter stats on their media kit. Really...come on! As someone who was on the media buying side, I can tell you that Facebook & Twitter stats mean next to nothing. Great, so you've got 1MM Facebook likes, how many can you actually reach? 100K, maybe??? I've been let down more times that I can count hoping social promotions would help me hit my goals...never did. Guess what always delivered? Email....always.

So why this lack of attention to the most powerful tool in your media kit? I can venture a few guesses. Most view email as nothing but cost center. It costs to send and it's difficult to sell and monetize. If that's been your take...I've got some GREAT news for you!

LiveIntent has completely changed this entire dynamic. Publishers can now sell email inventory the EXACT same way they sell display, with the same features and functionality they are used to in web display. Which means you can bundle email inventory together with display to immediately increase your sell through rates. Additionally anything that you don't sell, can be monetized via the LiveIntent exchange (LFX). So now publishers with high traffic websites can begin to make email collection a priority as they can finally monetize it like they do the web.

Pretty great huh? That's not even the best part. Your email database will be your single MOST valuable asset. Not web traffic, not Facebook Likes or Twitter Followers. At LiveIntent we've seen this first give you a point of reference: across the entire LiveIntent Exchange (700MM Impressions/Month), email display inventory has a CTR of nearly .3%. That's not a decimal point error either...Click through rates are 5-10x higher than web display. So it should be valued 5-10x higher....making it easily your most valuable source of inventory.

So the time is now to start aggressively building your email file. Not only can you monetize it directly you're also going to get the ancillary benefit of clicks & page views to your site. Perhaps the greatest benefit however is ownership of a 1:1 relationship with your audience. That alone is worth the cost.

And there's much much more! However I'll have to save that for my next post.