Creative commercial partnerships for media owners

Advertisers are beginning to return to media owners, but in these uncertain times they are increasingly looking to share risk with the media owner, and seeking deals that link payment to response rates or even business generated from their campaigns. Is this the end of the fixed ratecard, where the advertiser places a bet on the efficiency of the media brand to meet their objectives and the response rate is the client’s problem? Should media owners’ revenues be dependent on the quality of the client’s creative or their ability to convert enquiries to sales? Are there ways to meet advertiser demands part-way? I don’t pretend to have all the answers, but here are some approaches that have worked for media brands I have been involved with, and could help you build a creative ad deal without undermining your commercial revenue:

1. Barter

Does your advertiser provide services that are valuable to your business?  Or do they have access to products that you have to buy?  By switching your own purchases to an ad client you can perhaps defray the capital investment in a marketing campaign for your client and improve their ROI.

2. Risk-sharing on audience size or quality

Where the prospective audience for a media brand is unknown, perhaps for a launch or around a specific time period, advertisers may be reluctant to pay a fixed sum for their campaign.  Consider a sliding scale that reduces their costs if the volume or quality of the audience delivered misses expectations.  Take care to ensure that the lowest level agreed doesn’t fall below your minimum yield.

3. Revenue share on business delivered

This feels like the riskiest option – you need confidence in the advertiser’s creative, and also their ability to convert enquiries to new business.  But if they will collaborate on the creative content of the campaign, then this may be worth considering.  At one extreme, this is the old reader offer model, with editorial control over how the product is presented.  As a media owner, you need to feel confident that the product or service offered is perfectly targeted for your audience.

4. Content provision

Some clients may have access to experts, celebrities or other relevant content that is of value to your readers.  As with the barter option, this is a way to defray the upfront cost of the campaign for your advertiser.   If the content has real marketing value then this could mean wins on both sides.

5. Referrals and cross-marketing

By definition, your advertisers are chasing a similar audience to your media brand.  They often communicate with their customers through print or electronic means.  Including a print or online subscription promotion or a ticket offer to your event could be highly valuable to you, at minimal cost to your ad client.  Alternatively, you could offer to promote an advertiser’s services to your other advertisers or commercial contacts in return for a commission or a committed marketing campaign in your media brand.

I’d be interested to hear about innovative commercial partnerships struck by other media owners.  Please comment below, or join the discussion on the Specialist Media Network to swap tips with other specialist media owners.  This topic will be on the agenda for the conference at the Specialist Media Show – find out more and book your place online.

Carolyn Morgan’s consultancy, Penmaen Media, creates practical digital media and marketing strategies, and has particular expertise with media owners.  If you’d like to discuss how to develop creative commercial partnerships for your media brand, please contact us for an initial chat.


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