This question concerning what is the best position for ads in an e-mail newsletter has led to quite a lot of discussion in the online publishing fraternity lately. A debate, that is important to both advertisers, and publishers
Everyone agrees, and for obvious reasons, that ads that appear together in a monotonous clump, one below the other, at the end, or in the middle of an issue, have the least value. But why these are commonly referred to as “classified ads” is something of a mystery, for they rarely ARE classified. if they would, indeed, be pre-sorted and printed under various subject headings as they are in newspapers, it’s just possible that they would command higher rates than they do at present.
But which ads take pride of place at the opposite end of the scale? In a standard e-mail publication, what is the prime spot that will bring the best returns? Where will an astute advertiser be willing to spend the most money?
Using conventional advertising and marketing wisdom, that should be a pretty easy one to answer. The most desirable ads are the “sponsorships.” They are called this because they stand on their own, isolated from any other adverts in a highly visible position, thus reinforcing the impression that the advertiser has “sponsored”, in whole or in part, the cost of publishing.
But where exactly is this prime spot, that should be worth the most to advertisers? Once again, according to conventional wisdom, this is right at the top, immediately below the masthead and all the headers, but above the table of contents or the introductory paragraphs. After all, this is one location that no reader will miss!
It’s precisely this long held assumption that has been called into question of late. A few leaders in the industry have been arguing that just because the position of the “top sponsorship” is the most prominent one, it doesn’t necessarily mean that these ads are the most likely to be read.
The fact is, they point out, that many readers have become so habituated to seeing a solo ad at the top of an e-mail newsletter, that their eyes automatically skip it and they start reading at the beginning of the editorial content.
Thus the idea was born of strategically placing solo ads somewhere or other in the middle of the issue. These “middle sponsorships”, their advocates claim, should command at least an equal rate to those traditionally placed at the top, if not substantially more!
Whether this argument is justified, is a moot point. Without doubt, much testing and in depth research still needs to be done before a definite conclusion can be reached on this matter. On the other hand, the case for middle sponsorships is certainly not without merit.
In print media, an ad buyer will often insist that his copy be placed “next to reading matter.” Put another way – if an advertiser orders a half-page ad, and is given a choice of either having her ad at the top of a page but with another ad beneath it, or else have it placed at the bottom of a page but with good editorial content above it, she will probably opt for the latter. But deciding on the precise location of a middle-spot ad can prove to be a little tricky in the case of an email newsletter of standard format.
A publisher who places a sponsorship at the end of a complete article or other distinct item, will probably be on safe ground. A reader who enjoys the publication enough, and has made a firm commitment in his mind to proceed to the next item, will probably be happy to first take a “breather” by looking at a cleverly written ad.
But other publishers purposefully insert such ads slap-bang in the middle of a lengthy editorial item. They will try to whip up a feeling of suspense, and precisely at that point where the anticipation for what is to come is most keen, will stick in a prize ad or two.
But readers could be so irritated at clumsy attempts to imitate the style of the radio or TV commercial, that they’ll stop reading and delete the email. On the other hand, if the publisher does succeed in heightening their curiosity, they’ll ignore the ad in their impatience to continue.
One final word. Another category of ad is still the most popular of all with some publishers, simply because, if everything goes well, it’s the most lucrative! We refer, of course, to the so-called solo mailings, which don’t appear as part of a regular issue, but are emailed separately to subscribers.
We won’t go into to the merits and demerits of this practice here, but will merely say one thing: BE CAREFUL! In the world of business transactions, we often talk of a “buyer’s market” or “seller’s market”. In the domain of email publishing, at least for the present, it’s very much a READER’S market!
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