Sell ads on engaged time metrics? Publishers still weighing promise and risk

Advertisers are concerned by an opaque supply chain, low viewability and high levels of fraud. Publishers are stuck competing with Facebook and Google in an ad economy based on selling impressions, which by definition rewards scale over quality. Professionals on both sides of the equation are looking for better ways to buy and sell ads….

One intriguing alternative to the status quo is selling display ads based on time. In this approach, publishers use attention currencies such as cost-per-hour to sell big blocks of users’ time (measured by active engaged time metrics), instead of selling bundles of impressions.

The appeal for higher-end publishers is clear. Selling ads based on impressions rewards a high volume of visitors (even if they’re bots), but selling based on time assigns higher value to a more engaged audience. By extension, this rewards higher-quality content, and it provides a foothold to compete for ad dollars on the basis of content quality and audience engagement rather than fighting a losing battle for massive scale.

From the advertiser perspective, purchasing based on time can help address concerns about the efficacy of ad buys. The attention currencies used for time-based sales guarantee greater viewability than the Media Rating Council’s viewable impression standard, and because they’re based on real-time monitoring of user actions, they can help reduce fraud. And while more empirical research is needed, reports from the FT indicate that more time in view does increase a display ad’s impact.

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