By Reagan Fisher

When you think of the word “premium,” different thoughts may come to mind depending on your perspective. For some, this word denotes “expensive” or something that will cost more than other options. For others, it can mean quality, whether it is the quality of the manufacturing, the materials, or the service. Just as there are premium brands of sunglasses, scotch, or handbags, there are premium online publishers and websites where advertisers have the ability to reach a higher quality audience.

If advertising is about reaching the right audience, at the right time, with the right message, then we can assume that promoting a brand on a well-established and relevant website – one that may be considered “premium” – is a more valuable endeavor than advertising on a lower quality website or through just RTB/programmatic. But what makes a website “premium”?


Defining a Premium Publisher

According to Christopher Hansen of Digiday, “Premium is in the eye of the beholder.” If a website is a trusted source of information with a relevant audience to a brand’s target consumer, then that site is likely “premium” in the eyes of the advertiser. Getting ad space on that site directly from the publisher could be much more valuable than simply throwing ads up on hundreds of other sites. The ads and experience on a premium website are simply different for the user than on random sites across the web.

John Battelle, chairman and CEO of NewCo said it this way: “Premium is defined by how each party in the publishing ecosystem responds to the product, but at its core, it’s the product that is central. For the audience, ‘premium’ means a media experience that the audience pulls toward them — a premium publisher is one readers or viewers actively seek out, or are in a relationship with in some meaningful way. This is not purchased traffic or link bait; this is a deep and ongoing connection.”


Deeper Connections Yield Better Results

There is a deeper connection between a premium site’s audience and its source of information compared to a site that a viewer does not frequently visit and that does not have the same influence. While this may sound like just a way for “premium” publishers to charge more for their space, a 2016 Comscore study showed that brands buying inventory on premium publishers had a 67% higher brand lift than non-premium publishers. There was tangible proof that a premium inventory equaled premium results.


Casting a Wide Net versus The Honey Hole

As a digital strategist, I have the opportunity to talk with local businesses every day about their digital marketing efforts. It’s one of the things I love most about my job. What I’ve found is that local businesses are tempted to spread their marketing efforts out as far and wide as possible. They do this with the hope that by casting a wider net they’ll attract more potential customers. While this strategy may fit for some industries, many need a tailored approach to see the results they are looking for.

Let me use an analogy.

I’m an avid outdoorsman and jump at any opportunity to go camping, fishing, or hunting. In the fishing arena, the “cast a wide net” approach is a preferred strategy when you’re unsure of a new fishing spot. However, if you know where the fishing is good, you won’t go anywhere else other than the honey hole.

I recently went fishing in Wilmington, NC, in search of Sheepshead. After trying a few different spots, I found reefs, jetties, and ocean-side piers to be the most effective locations. I spent the entire afternoon in a small area and with great success.

See where I’m going with this?

Premium publishers are the honey hole when it comes to brand favorability and lift. In a sea of content, there is an increasing need to stand out. When people see brands on a trusted publisher’s website or app, an emotional spark is ignited. Not only does a positive perception of a higher-quality site extend to the ads on the page, but the reader is more engaged and trusting of ads they see on the premium site compared to less trustworthy sources of information. They spend more time in front of the ads, and they believe that it’s more exclusive to be on the premium site, increasing their perceived importance.

This article from Contobox explains how ESPN – one of the biggest premium publishers in the space – typically delivers brand lift four times higher than Nielsen’s averages. We see this type of performance on as well. Comparing results from our programmatic buying to our owned and operated platforms is no contest. Our audience is more engaged, they trust our content, they come back to our site more often, and they trust that if we put an advertiser on our page, that the company must be doing something right.

Ultimately there are many avenues down which an advertiser can go. If you are trying to figure out your audience and where they live, then it makes sense to cast a wide net. But, if you have a good idea of your target audience, then it could be the best bang for your buck to identify a premium publisher with a similar audience and keep going back to that honey hole.

WRAL Digital Solutions

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