Monday, June 2, 2014

LIVE FROM BEA (BLOGGERS): Tech 201--All About Ad Networks

Please welcome Florinda from The 3 R's Blog: Reading, 'Riting, and Randomness as she gives a little peek into the panel that she sat on during the BEA Bloggers Conference this year.

For the first time, the annual BEA Bloggers Conference offered two programming tracks this year--"101" sessions for newer bloggers, and "201"-level topics for more experienced ones. I was honored to moderate the "Technology 201: Ad Networks" session featuring panelists Jason Chambers of the LitBreaker network, Henry Copeland from BlogAds, and Swapna Krishna of S. Krishna’s Books in a Q&A, and I'd like to share a few of the highlights of our discussion with Armchair BEA.

Tech201 Ad Networks panel BEA Bloggers ArmchairBEA
Panelists (l-r): Florinda Vasquez, Swapna Krishna, Jason Chambers, Henry Copeland
Photo by Amber/Shelf Notes.

  • Why wouldn’t a blogger want to monetize with advertising? What are the negatives/pitfalls?

Bloggers may worry that carrying ads means "selling out" or advocating something they may not stand behind, or be concerned about the aesthetic impact of ads on a blog's appearance. With most ad networks--and with a good understanding of the terms of the agreement between the network and the blogger--neither of these has to be a problem. 

  • Besides the money, what are the benefits to carrying advertising on a blog? 

The fact that your blog can attract advertisers may give it more credibility with publishers, and help attract better review offers. Also, ads that line up well with your (book-related) content can help your readers discover new books they want to read.  

  • When/how do you know if your blog is ready to carry advertising?

Consistency and regularity in posting is more important than traffic. and specialized, niche-oriented content may be appealing to advertisers even if a blog's overall numbers aren't as big.

  • Where do you get ads? What options do bloggers have?
Selling ads independently:

For most blogs, this won't generate much revenue on its own, and it's not particularly easy to manage. Try placing a statement on your blog inviting advertisers, and link that to contact information so they can approach you--but keep your response expectations low, and consider doing this as a supplement to another ad source. You'll have to negotiate your own pricing and terms, and you will probably want to charge a flat rate for a set amount of time; the CPM model (cost per 1000 impressions) used by ad networks doesn't really work on such a small scale. (You may be able to find a plugin for this if your blog is a self-hosted Wordpress one.) 

Ad networks:

Search for networks and find out how to apply; you may need to provide some blog stats. There are networks like Litbreaker, Blogads, and Riot New Media that specifically target book blogs. Networks may be able to work with bloggers who want more control over what ads appear on their blogs---for example, excluding certain advertisers or product classes, or showing geographically targeted ads.

  • How can bloggers be more appealing to advertisers and maximize their potential ad revenue?

A blog that consistently posts engaging, original content and has a clean, professional appearance will appeal to advertisers, and as previously mentioned, blogs with a well-developed speciality niche can do well.

moderator behind podium BEA Bloggers ArmchairBEA
Why didn't the moderator use the podium?
Photo by Sheila/Book Journey
Most ad networks have specific requirements about where ads need to be placed on a blog; usually, they must be at least partially "above the fold," or visible onscreen without scrolling. Some networks restrict or prohibit carrying ads from other sources, so it's very important to know the terms of your agreement with a network before you try to combine different types of ads. Then again, while it may seem counter-intuitive, exclusivity may be advantageous; your blog may be more attractive to advertisers if they know they won't be competing for views.

Mobile and social media are shifting the focus from traditional to "native" advertising, AKA sponsored posts. These generally pay a flat rate for a post that conforms to certain parameters; the specifics will depend on the subject and the sponsor. Sponsored posts that are consistent with your overall blog tone and topics can be effective as long as they retain your blog's voice (and include appropriate disclosures). There are several networks that offer sponsored-post opportunities for bloggers, including BlogHer Publishing NetworkClever Girls CollectiveCollective BiasMassive Sway/The SITS Girls, and TapInfluence. However, as yet, there are none that particularly cultivate book blogs. 

Thanks to Amber of Shelf Notes (and the Armchair BEA on-site team) and Kim from Sophisticated Dorkiness for letting me use their session notes in preparing this post--I had the questions in hand, but no opportunity to take notes on the answers!

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