Thursday, April 02, 2009

Attention Or Impressions? Which Would You Rather Be Selling?

I read Dave Morgan's column today, Attention For Sale.

In it, Mr. Morgan mentions that audience fragmentation will not only continue, but accelerate. No argument there. Dave then goes on to suggest a few ways in which we can attempt to deal with the situation, including audience re-aggregation.

Audience re-aggregation has been a solution that has been out there for some time. And, who's to say, perhaps it's the right one.

But it's always helpful to put one solution up against another. If for no other reason than to have a basis of comparison. So, let me go ahead and try to do that.

What if instead of aggregating audience — to be sold as so much an eyeball — publishers aggregated viewer time spent with the commercial, and sold it at so much a second?

Traditionally, audience is sold as demographic data - age, income, gender, etc. Basically, it's data used to plan the media buy.

Time spent, on the other hand, can be sold as behavioral data. It does, after all, measure the behavior of the viewer. One could argue that time spent also serves as "intent" data. Everyone wants to get their hands on intent to purchase data. It seems to me that viewer time spent with the commercial offers more "intent to purchase" data than say, age, income and gender.

But where it becomes really interesting is on the revenue side. Obviously, publishers need to expand and diversify their revenue streams as CPMs keep heading south. If audience is all they're selling and audience is fragmenting, well, that's not lucrative long-term business model.

Let's keep it simple. Let's compare a $20 CPM to, say, a $20 per second fee. At $20/second, an advertiser would pay the publisher $600 to get the second-by-second data for a thirty-second spot.

Doesn't seem like a lot, does it?

But to get that same $600 from a $20 CPM, the publisher will need to get 30,000 viewers. And, that can seem like a lot these days.

Impressions, as we all know, are becoming fewer. That said, there exists today, the opportunity to make a deeper impression. The depth of an impression, not it's breadth, is becoming a valued piece of information.

The amount of attention, or involvement, a commercial can garner from the viewer, has the chance to increase over time. Impressions, on the other hand, are going in the other direction.

If you were a publisher or program, which would you rather be selling?

Fortunately, it's not an either/or question. At least, not yet. Advertisers will need both the planning data and the behavioral data.

Both can be sold. And, will be.

It's only a matter of time.

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