Today a group of fifteen independent Chicago-area news sites launched the Chicago Independent Advertising Network. The ad network, set to start serving ads on November 1, will serve over one million pageviews to what we believe to be, Chicago’s most civic-minded and influential consumers.
The concept of the ad network is simple: Every participating publisher reserves a 300 x 250 pixel space with the network ad code on every page. The network then serves up the ads. We sell the ads in blocks. Currently, we’re offering five blocks of 200,000 guaranteed impressions a month. Each block is $2,400. The network then randomly rotates the five blocks a month throughout the entire ad network. So, for any specific page view, on any site, a reader will randomly see one of the five blocks.
Judging by the immediacy of the response since our launch this morning, there’s a great deal of interest from regional and national advertisers for our audience. It’s exactly what we hoped for: By bringing so many publishers together, we present a much more manageable group with a single point of purchase for advertisers.
A great deal of credit for the foundation of the ad network needs to go to the Chicago Community Trust, which not only suggested the idea, but gathered the initial participants together. With matching funds from the Knight Community Information Challenge, the Trust put up seed funds to pay for a full-time sales representative to start us up. CCT is taking a revolutionary step for a foundation that wants to support independent journalism: Rather than give a man a fish, teach him to fish.
So, should you be in an ad network? Should you start one?
If you are in a major media market, chances are there is a significant amount of ad spending – certainly the majority of digital ad spending – that is passing you by. Not because your outlet is too small to have an impact, but because the majority of digital advertisers want to spend much more money than you can take. However, for many smaller publishers, the complexity of negotiating with large advertisers, agencies and buyers is beyond our resources.
This is even the case with local and regional advertising in major markets.
For instance, in Chicago, we discovered through the group of hyperlocal sites I publish and manage, that most of the live theater advertising is purchased by agencies. Theater companies based in our sites’ coverage areas would refer us to their agencies, who in turn would ignore us because we aren’t big enough for their attention.
Now that we offer 1 million page views, we’re betting they will.