We average a steady 25,000 - 30,000 page views per month, and every single one of those views are from people who have a genuine connection to this region. These are the people that are going to buy your product or use your service.
This entire website was redesigned around making advertising as effective as possible, without annoying our users. To achieve this, we stripped all superfluous content from the site and focused on giving users exactly what they came here for: the news, and nothing else.
What that means for you is that your ads don’t have to compete with sidebars full of links, weather forecasts, search bars, and so on. If the user allows their eye to wander, it’s your ad they’ll see.
The world of online advertising was not designed for small, regional content creators like the Frontenac News. We're different from most of the Internet, and because of that we need a different advertising model.
Try reading a few blogs without your adblock on. The first thing you'll notice is that your computer fan starts spinning at full speed, trying to cool down your CPU as scripts the length of novels are run, harvesting data about you. Video ads will start auto-playing, using up your bandwidth. A pair of shoes that you looked at on Amazon a week ago will stalk you from website to website. There will be young singles in your area.
Many publications are folding, unable to survive as more and more users install ad-blockers. But can you blame them? This data-driven approach to advertising has made the web almost unbearable.
It's important to understand users' attitudes toward online advertising, because the more we can earn back their trust and set ourselves apart from the rest of the Internet, the more valuable your ads become.
How do we set ourselves apart?
The best thing an ad can be is relevant.
As a newspaper our audience is regional, so our ads should be too. Because of this, we only allow local businesses to advertise on our platform.
Additionally, we break our ad sales into geographic categories. Users reading stories based in Central Frontenac will see ads for businesses in that area.
Users will not click your ads if they don't seem safe, so we have a few restrictions:
- All ads are hosted on our website. We will not embed content hosted elsewhere.
- Banners directly link to your website. This means that when a user hovers their mouse over your ad, the link preview shows them where they're going.
- Ads cannot run scripts.
Essentially, your ad is an image and a link. Nothing more, nothing less.
The final ingredient in making your ads appear safe is quality.
The reality is that a flashing ad with all text in exclamation marks is going to feel scammy whether it is or not. Low quality ads like this lower the credibility of all ads on our site, so we have some quality standards that must be met. They're better for you and our users.
Can't I just advertise on Facebook?
Facebook is the biggest competitor to small regional newspapers like ours. If you can reach people for free, why buy advertisements? We'd like to take this opportunity to answer that question.
First of all, an acknowledgement: social media is a valuable tool for engaging the community. We're not going to tell you it isn't.
That said, as an advertising platform, it leaves a lot to be desired.
It used to be better. Early on, facebook's feed was chronological, and showed a user everything that their friends posted, and everything that the pages they followed posted. If you made a post, everyone who followed you would see it! This was extremely valuable to businesses.
Eventually, to incentivise businesses to buy advertising, facebook introduced algorithmic feeds. Now, if you made a post, it would only be shown to a few of your followers. If you wanted all of your followers to see it, you now had to pay. Businesses that worked hard to build a following now found that their customers were being held hostage.
That's still the way it is today. If you're not paying, facebook is not an effective advertising platform.
So what if you are paying? Well it turns out that putting money into your Facebook account can actually drive user engagement down. This will hurt you in the long run.
We've just made a pretty big claim. To back up that claim, here’s a video that goes over the issue in detail:
To summarize the video:
- Click farms (i.e. fake accounts that are paid to like pages) are rampant on Facebook.
- These fake users like thousands of pages other than their paying targets, to make their accounts appear legitimate.
- When you pay to advertise your page on Facebook, many of the likes you will receive are from these fake accounts, mindlessly clicking whatever ends up in their feed.
- The way that Facebook calculates the quality of a post is to show it to a few of your followers, and if they engage with it, it’s shown to more. Fake accounts will not engage with your posts, so if you have a lot of them, you will receive less traffic.
The result is that after what might appear the be a successful advertising campaign, your posts will be seen less by your real followers. Unless, of course, you pay.
If your goal is to connect with genuine local residents, even enormous corporations like Facebook can't beat a small regional publication like ours. It may not be free, but you get what you pay for.