I’ve been noodling about ad-space inventory lately.
I know. It sounds boring. Stick with me, though. You might find yourself fascinated. We’re going to look at the topic from two perspectives.
At a traditional daily, the number of times a given ad is viewed is dictated by the press run. The press run (the count of papers printed) is typically the count of subscribers, plus a cushion for single-copy sales.
First perspective, the advertiser: Presume you’ve placed a display ad in the Thursday edition of a traditional daily to advertise a weekend sale at your store. The Thursday press run is 40,000 copies, so, in effect, you’ve bought 40,000 ad views.
The paper is delivered to your 40,000 potential customers on Thursday morning; you’re all set for your sale.
Now, presume there is no print daily in your community, so you’ve placed your campaign with the local online newspaper. You’ve asked that your ad be delivered from midnight Wednesday through midnight Thursday to 40,000 unique viewers. You presume that most of the newspaper’s online viewers are local, because the website’s content is about local events and issues (and besides, the paper told you so).
Here’s the thing. An online paper doesn’t have a press run. Instead, the count of papers printed (as it were) is dynamically dictated by demand, and that can vary — wildly — from day to day.
If Thursday’s edition is a dog and traffic is down, your 40,000 ad views won’t be delivered.
If Thursday’s edition goes viral, your 40,000 ad views may go out in an hour. And then it gets interesting.
If your campaign has been properly set up, it will be stopped by the ad-serving software when it’s dished up your creative 40,000 times. (Of course, since the edition has attracted attention from around the world, your ad has been seen by many who don’t live anywhere near your store.)
What if you put your store’s url in the ad? And what if the campaign wasn’t set up properly and your ad goes out millions of times? Ooh, I hope your online retail operation is ready for uber demand. You could be sold out before the weekend arrives.
Let’s not go there. Let’s presume your campaign was set up properly and ends as it should. In fact, let’s presume the paper’s ad-serving software has to max out every campaign in its queue that’s scheduled to go. Then … what?
It’s time to switch perspectives, to that of the paper’s view. An online edition that’s gone viral is going out to new readers. The ad server has to send something out. Won’t it be a shame if the only creatives it has to deliver are stale house ads? What could/should an online newspaper do to be sure that, in the event of a viral outbreak, all that excess ad-space inventory is exploited in the most advantageous way? Hmmm.