Go Digital: Rich Media Specifics, Part 2
Posted: 5/20/2011  |  By: Neil Greer

In last month's column, "Rich Media Specifics:Part 1," we saw how macro-level data show a broad growth trend in rich media spending that transcended the recession, and then some.

In Part 2, I am pleased to share success stories from across the United States from online newspapers delivering advertiser success through rich media. The stories come in from major metros, community news, and mid markets. These players are earning more revenue per sale, keeping existing advertisers, and attracting new ones - even in the face of competition from larger players.

From reading these stories, it is hard not to be fired up about the present success and future possibilities for us as an industry. That being said, and before you read on, I would ask you to forever dispel the notion that the success measure for online newspapers should be their size relative to the print operation.

Colleagues, what we have going on in the online side of the business is legions of start-ups under your roof that are beginning to win the battle for their marketplace amidst headwinds. The papers referenced in this article seem to be casting their vote for the attitude "if we are going to play, let's play to win."


Site: SignOnSanDiego.com, San Diego
Advertiser: Honda Dealers Association
The San Diego ad agency MeadsDurket asked the San Diego Union-Tribune to create an advertising campaign to target Honda owners in the San Diego area. The local Honda Dealers Association provided $2,000 makeovers to selected winners of a "Honda Makeover" online contest.

The campaign consisted of a variety of elements, including rich media banners, contest microsite, and mobile.

The highest-performing ad units were the sliding billboards, which got the following engagement:

Impressions 286,660
a. 141,265 793 Clicks .56%CTR
b. 145,395 510 Clicks .35%CTR

When the SignOn team visited with MeadsDurket after the campaign, they were very happy with the results. The client decided to purchase more online advertising.


Site: RepublicanHerald.com, Pottsville, Pa.
Advertiser: Schaeffer's Harley-Davidson
The Pottsville (Pa.) Republican-Herald has great success selling pencil pushdown ads, which they call roadblocks. They sell these premium positions on the homepage of RepublicanHerald.com for one day, or at a discount for Saturday and Sunday. The exclusive position gives the advertiser 100 percent share-of-voice and more space to share a compelling message.

"The roadblocks are a big hit in our market," said Aimee Eckley, Internet director for RepublicanHerald.com. "We offer the positions to our best advertisers and often use them to support a big sale they are promoting in print or elsewhere on our website."

One success is Schaeffer's Harley-Davidson in Orwigsburg, Pa. Schaeffer's uses the RepublicanHerald.com's audience to drive traffic to its regular events and sales in the dealership. One campaign in March of last year resulted in 276 clicks in one day, for a 1.16 click-through rate.

It helped that the creative was vibrant and the event was a bikini bike wash, but Schaeffer's other roadblocks consistently drive double the national average in click-through rates. In fact, the 16 roadblock campaigns that this advertiser has run in the past year yielded an overall .32 percent click-through rate.

Site: Amarillo.com, Amarillo, Texas
Advertiser: Greg Lair GMC
Greg Lair GMC had tried many online products but was never satisfied with results until it signed up for sliding billboards with Amarillo.com, the online portal of the Amarillo Globe-News. The auto dealership committed to 12 sliding billboards to run in January and February to give rich media a try. They saw huge spikes in website traffic on the days the sliding billboards ran on Amarillo.com. As a result, they have committed to 26 additional sliding billboards throughout the year. That is a total of 38 rich media campaigns committed based on the success of the initial campaign.

Niki Lentz, director of digital advertising operations at Morris Communications, owner of the Globe-News, said, "Rich media is one of the strongest online advertising mechanisms of our time. Unlike the static ad of yesterday, corner peels, floating sticky notes, wallpapers, and sliding billboards can bring an ad to life and compel the viewer into action. While the cost of rich media ads is more than that of a simple banner, it can be one of the best investments our customers can make to achieve an effective ROI."


Site: LowellSun.com, Lowell, Mass.
Advertiser: Peters Automotive
During meetings with the client, the team at the Lowell Sun learned Peters Automotive needed a more effective way to market its used cars online. Traditional banner ads were not having the desired impact for Peters, so rich media was proposed. The team at Lowell developed a rich media strategy for Peters that utilized a "drop-down" rich media ad. The high-impact ad featured one car with a photo along with five or six other deals.

Through rich media, Peters' click-through rate jumped from percentages in the .1s with traditional large rectangle banner ads to .4s across the board with rich media drop-downs - a 400 percent increase in response.

Andrea Mendes, digital media sales manager at the Lowell Sun, said, "We have recently renewed their contracts and look forward to continued success with the client."


Site: HeraldNet.com, Everett, Wash.
Advertiser: Local Casino
In the annual planning meeting with one of Everett's largest advertisers, a local casino, it became clear that a variety of rich media was needed in order to meet the client's needs.

In addition to homepage content pushers, the client was interested in being able to get its cable commercial out to the Everett Herald's audience.

The Herald was able to effectively achieve the advertiser's goals by using 300 x 600 video rich media ads. The advertiser appreciates the flexibility, as HeraldNet.com is now able to quickly drive multimedia advertising through its publication as well as change the advertiser creative each month to coincide with its promotional calendar.


Thanks, and a Conclusion
I and Editor & Publisher appreciate the participation of SignOnSanDiego.com, RepublicanHerald.com, Amarillo.com, LowellSun.com, and HeraldNet.com and thank them for their willingness to share some of their results with us. Thank you also to everyone else who submitted examples for this article. I wish I could include them all.

The examples shown within this article provide evidence that business is out there to be won and that online newspapers focused on succeeding online are winning the business.

Having just returned from the NAA show in Dallas, I am pleased to say that the peer-to-peer networking conducted at the show was fantastic. It was evident to me that executives in attendance were keen to catch up with one another across media groups and share experiences. This type of networking is exactly what we need, to come up with strategies and tactics to produce the next wave of growth.

Coming up with innovative ways to attract and keep advertisers? Share your experiences with me at ngreer@impactengine.com.


Neil Greer has been in the media industry since 1994. His column, Go Digital, focuses on sharing experiences that aid in solving key strategic and operational issues facing publishers as they invest in the growth of their digital operations.