Monthly Archives: March 2011

Niche Websites Boost Ad Efficiency

By Mark Hanzlik, Executive Director

The assertion in this eMarketer article is that “Placements on smaller, niche sites increase response” and therefore long-tail (niche) web sites are a must for digital ad buyers to include in their media plans.    I found it difficult to disprove the premise mostly because there really isn’t much of an argument against it.   Check it out, I did.

For most digital buyers, there’s no getting around advertising on top web sites and that’s often the first move for media buyers looking to maximize their time and efforts.    Taking the top-down approach is standard procedure and where a lot of web advertising strategies are grounded.   Most ad buyers will agree, it takes a lot more time and effort to root out smaller niche sites that in the end probably won’t deliver much more than a fraction of the audiences delivered by larger branded sites.

But there’s a number of points in favor of the theory of using long-tail sites posited in this article.    The fact that —according to comScore, most web viewers spent their time on long-tail sites, is a huge point.    Nearly all digital ad dollars are spent on the short tail sites, where ad buyers are seeking the greatest cost efficiencies.   The first reaction by ad buyers to long-tail sites higher ad pricing (CPM) is akin to  “sticker-shock” and often automatic exclusion from a media plan.  These sites; however, often because of the higher clickthrough results can turn into a more efficient ad buy despite the CPM.

eChartBy comparing clickthrough rate results via a research source CONTEXTWEB, certain content categories are shown to be higher performers and can add greatly to a major campaign like:  Education, Technology and computing, hobbies and games.  Even categories that don’t perform as well may result in a lift in ad delivery efficiency according to eMarketer.   It’s certainly a winning  proposition for ad buyers.  (here’s one of the eMarketer charts)

What is not addressed in this piece is the local v. national clickthrough rate comparison and the relative importance of long-tail sites that tap into the local visitors’ interests, and content relative to individuals’ communities whether they are personal or business-related.

The same comparison really can’t be made by examining traditional print or broadcast media too.  It’s hard to imagine ad performance based on this same premise of smaller, more precise niche media delivering more efficient sales results than more dominant lower-CPM media but an argument could be made in favor of that supposition, and I hear these kinds of sales pitches from niche media quite often.

If you thought the lines were blurred between national and local advertising in traditional media outlets, take a look at what the internet has done to that dissimilarity.  Good luck sorting that one out ad buyers.

AWN Board Approves Sales Incentives for Individual Sellers for the First Time

By Mark Hanzlik, Executive Director

Near the end of our recent sales webinar, Sarah Billingsley, AWN Communications Director introduced the idea of initiating a national ad seller incentive.  The AWN Board of Directors voted to approve this new sales incentive program effective immediately.

In Sarah’s words, the pitch for the program went something like this:

AWN recognizes the act of selling national advertising is a marathon, not a sprint, and sometimes it’s hard to see the finish line.   When one gets there, it’s natural to seek a return on the investment of time and effort.   Therefore, we are excited to offer AWN’s first sales incentive to be paid directly to the national advertising salespersons as a result of ad buys sold into AWN network publications.

golden salesThe sales incentive, in the form of a cash bonus, will be paid to AWN sellers based on new sales sold into the network based on several sales levels and corresponding cash bonuses.    A new sale qualifies if the advertiser has run in any AWN publication other than the salesperson’s publication.   Also, a new sales qualifies if the advertiser has not run during the past 9 months.   There’s a real incentive for bringing back previous advertisers who are familiar with alternative weekly advertising products.

More details of the program are available upon request.

Let’s be clear, this program would pay an individual directly a bonus, not the publication or publisher that he/she works for.?    We had not attempted to launch an incentive program like this previously because some publishers weren’t supportive of the idea for non-local ad sales, particularly because of employment sales objective conflicts.    I’m assuming the loss of national print ad revenue which has been substantial over the past few years has finally out-weighed the downsides of such a program.   Another idea on the table is to institute some sales incentive contests with exciting prizes and other rewards.    We’ll evaluate the progress of the new sales incentives and report back to the group regularly.

On a separate but somewhat related note, network sales for the first two months of the year have been very slow.  I’m not going to make any assumptions about the remainder of the year


yet, but clearly the first quarter is not going as well as expected.

After the first quarter has ended,  I’ll share with you the sales and revenue results from that period and the corresponding comparison periods that will allow us to get a better perspective on AWN’s financial picture.  ?In the meantime, we are moving forward with as much energy and enthusiasm as we can muster to get sales moving through the network, and we believe the best way to accomplish that is by re-energizing the cooperative sales force that seems to have vanished.

All hands on deck!

New Blood to Start/Keep it Going!

By Sarah Billingsley, AWN Communications Director

People perform better in a world they help create.   At least, that is what I was taught at the Leadership Training for Managers class I took at Dale Carnegie back in the day.

In that spirit, AWN’s cooperative network allows for a collaborative environment in which publications within the network are empowered to sell non-local advertising into world-class alt weekly publications all around the country.    This means that AWN has been successful and can continue to be the same because of the work members put into the process. AWN Central is here to support and facilitate non-local advertising sales by (and in) publications in our network, but you are the experts at selling your product(s).   No one can sell your publications better than each of you. We understand national sales are not always high on your priority list, and we want to make sure we are optimizing our relationship with you.


One idea-generating method is the “Start, Stop, Keep” exercise. The idea is – people who do the work are the ones who know how the work needs to be done.  So, early this year we asked AWN members to fill in the blanks.   “What do you think?  What should AWN start doing, stop doing, keep doing?”

The overwhelming answer was simple – AWN should continue to share information! ? ?With that in mind, we hosted our first AWN sales go-to-webinar on March 10.

We invited a small group of AWN leaders, veteran sellers, and new sellers with multiple ad claims to participate in the meeting (the number somehow grew to nearly 20 participants).

The objectives were two-fold:

1) Increase awareness through information sharing, training and marketing
2) Increase sales accountability for network advertising sales.


There were a number of initiatives and subjects discussed but one of the warmer items that got a number of positive responses was sales incentives for individual AWN sellers, something that has not been done in this network before.

If you would like to view the presentation deck and related documents from the webinar, please email me –


An interesting outcome form the sales meeting was the introduction of new players in the AWN selling game. Several new names have popped up on the claims list in the past few months, so we thought we would take a minute to introduce them, and give a little description of the kinds of claims they are working on behalf of the network.

Eileen Pursley, Advertising Director at the Philadelphia City Paper has had a long career in the newspaper industry, including a stint as the Executive Sales Director at Metro Newspaper and Advertising Sales Director at Broad Street publishing. She is pursuing ad accounts such as Gardasil, Comcast, and Tropicana Atlantic City.

Carla Holder is the new National Accounts Manager at the Sacramento News & Review. Carla has an alt weekly background and hails from the Nashville where she sold advertising at the Nashville Scene. Carla is working on accounts several accounts including Ruth’s Chris Steak House and Events & Adventures.

Kelly Christie from Buffalo Artvoice has worked in the business for several years and spends time throughout the year in Buffalo and Florida (guess where she spends winter!). Kelly is calling on a long list of accounts on behalf of the network, including Barnes and Nobles and Black and White (women’s clothes).

Another change in the AWN sales force is the recent departure of long-time AWN seller Mary Samson who left the San Francisco Bay Guardian this week.  New Director of Sales at SFBG Jim Tamietti indicated they are searching for a replacement which means we may have another new seller on our list.

We are excited by the prospect of what can be achieved this year. I believe with the powerful cocktail of veterans and new sellers engaged in the field, we can harness the power of our individual voices and join forces to create a stronger network. We are a like spider web, publications around the country connected by the fiber of our common missions. Individually we may not be able to take down a foe, but connect us, and we have a much better chance of survival. ? ?So, now that we’ve established that our AWN members are the best experts at selling alternative weeklies, tell us what you’re working on and how we can help you, help each other.