It’s now been over nine years since the dotcom boom, when the bulk of today’s preferred ‘new economy’ revenue models were first proffered as an almost certain path to rapid riches.
Of course, it didn’t turn out that way, and most of us media companies (big and small) are still struggling to nail-down the ‘rules’ – the business models needed to monetise online media in a sustainable way.
This shouldn’t be surprising, simply because the online world is still in a state of flux (and this might never change).
This month, we’re opening two new advertising options to the public. The first you’ll probably find familiar. The second is unique to the business media in Australia (as far as we’re aware).
But importantly, we have built these options with one very sincere goal in mind.
While we understand that most of our readers view online advertising as a necessary evil (an acceptable trade-off for free content), we’ve always held the view that the online world shouldn’t need to operate this way.
We believe that advertisers who seek to educate, rather than hustle, will be more successful at the pointy end of customer acquisition.
‘Tell me. Don’t sell me‘ was the headline of a story by Troy Hazard we published in June 2007. This principle not only holds true today, it has become essential to a media landscape where the new currencies are ‘permission’ and ‘trust’ – permission to engage with me after you have won my trust through the provision of information and tools that I find valuable.
This concept of ‘permission marketing’ versus ‘interruption marketing’ is not new.
Whereas traditional media was built around the strategy of interrupting viewers with ad breaks and billboards (or, more recently, with banner advertising and pop-ups), the online model favours a less in-your-face approach through the offer of incentives to join a network, club or database and then, once trust has been acquired, be offered sales information to reflect genuine needs.
In the context of Anthill, our thinking is that if the advertising can be transformed into a ‘valuable’ part of the mix, both readers and advertisers will benefit.
And this naturally means that the only ‘rule’ that we intend to pursue (to the best of our abilities) is to try to make advertising and sponsorship on our site as helpful to the reader as it is to the advertiser, creating a far more appealing dynamic for all parties involved.
This is an ambitious goal and we’re still a long way off achieving it (note the banner above and right), but here’s our start:
1. Business Directory
Check it out. It’s not rocket science. The basic listing option is free. ‘Featured’ and ‘Premium’ options involve a small fee. It’s a long way off being complete but we intend to provide the opportunity for advertisers to upload articles, white-papers and other items of valuable content to compliment their contact details and company descriptions.
Readers: Imagine checking out the ‘knowledge capital’ of your next supplier before signing the dotted line.
Advertisers: Imagine gaining the ability to demonstrate your expertise, as a way to differentiate your organisation from the rest.
2. Topic Centre Sponsorship
Along the navigation bar (above), you’ll notice that AnthillOnline is ordered by drop-down topics. These are now available for sponsorship (sample here). Our goal is to help our sponsors build brand awareness and then acquire permission to engage with our readers by educating these prospective customers – by offering tools of value. It’s early days yet but we already know that our Topic Centres have proven highly effective for advertisers who understand the value of educating customers. How readers feel has yet to be observed (but no complaints, so far, only greater advertiser/reader engagement).
Readers: Imagine visiting a themed area of the site that contains, in addition to the usual rich Anthill editorial content, information and tools specifically relevant to your area of interest. A page where you are educated rather than sold to, provided with tools to help you grow and actually asked for your permission to hear from advertisers.
Advertisers: Imagine being able to position your organisation as an industry leader, educating potential customers – people who are clearly interested in the solutions you offer and your area of expertise – and then inviting these highly targeted prospects to engage with you.
To re-iterate, it’s early days yet. The perfect balance has not yet been struck, but we’re trying.
And don’t be afraid to quickly tell us if you think we’ve missed the mark.