Banner advertising, in-text advertising, in-stream advertising. Business media companies face a number of options for how best to monetize their websites and boost their ad inventory without alienating readers. Now they can add another one to the list: in-image advertising.
In-image advertising, which allows publishers to serve contextual ad messages when users roll over a photo or other image on a website, can command higher CPMs and click-through rates than traditional online advertising because it is user-initiated. While in-image ads have been used in consumer advertising for about three years, they are now starting to creep into b-to-b media markets.
IDG TechNetwork, an online network of technology websites and blogs, in late February announced a partnership with Image Space Media, which provides in-image advertising programs, to offer in-image campaigns on its network.
So far, more than 30 sites in the IDG TechNetwork have started to offer in-image ads, said Peter Longo, CEO of IDG TechNetwork.
“We're getting a good price for those ads right now,” Longo said, adding that IDG TechNetwork will split the revenue with Image Space Media. “What's new for advertisers is that they never had the opportunity to place their messages inside of an image before, and what's new for our publishers is that they never had the opportunity to monetize the images on their sites before.”
Image Space Media, which debuted in 2008, has more than 8,000 sites in its advertising network with 70 million unique monthly visitors.
“We're opening up a new set of inventory, especially in the case of business publishers, many of which have a limited audience and a limited opportunity to hit them,” said Jesse Chenard, CEO of Image Space Media, who added that he was currently in talks with another b-to-b technology publisher. He would not name the company.
“The idea of being able to open up 10% more inventory on these sites—with people engaged, in context, looking at the photo itself and being able to put the message in front of where their eyeballs are—could span across the b-to-b industry,” Chenard said.
He said that the click-through rate across Image Space Media's ad network is 0.9%, compared with about 0.2% for a standard banner ad.
“The real "secret sauce' to what this space is doing is that it's very hard for a computer to read a photograph and tell you what it's a picture of,” Longo said. “They've figured out how to do that.”
Image Space Media is competing against GumGum Inc., an in-image ad network catering to consumer companies, and Pixazza Inc., among others.
Pixazza said recently that the number of publishers in its ad network grew 15 times from November through March, to more than 1,500 publishers.
The company, which started in 2008 and is funded, in part, by Google Ventures, attracts 79 million unique monthly visitors, according to Chas Edwards, chief revenue officer, who is also in charge of publisher development.
Publishers in Pixazza's ad network extend over several consumer and b-to-b markets, such as small business, technology and travel.
The company offers several different types of in-image ad products, including Information Cards, which upon roll-over display details about the objects inside the picture; and Pixazza Lite, display ads activated when a user rolls over an image that appear at the bottom of the image.
“All publishers are interested in the Information Cards because those both enhance product experience and drive higher engagement levels, so there's a benefit to the publisher beyond just the CPM,” Edwards said. “The card experience gives us an opportunity to provide content that's relevant to the image, that is useful for the business reader, the IT reader, the corporate reader, on the other end, as they are contemplating purchase decisions.”