Relevance to the power of seven

Richard Walters explains why it is important associations deliver adverts that enhance their members' experience – and suggests a range of ways to diversify the messaging and boost revenues.

In my previous blog post, I touched on ‘relevance’ and its key role in growing revenues from association publishing. In this article, I will expand on why is it so important to deliver only those commercial messages that enhance your members' experience.

Globally, the use of ad-blocking software is growing and, by 2020, the cost to industry is expected to be US$35bn.

A report by eMatters (September 2018) showed that 22% of UK internet users activate an ad blocker at least once a month. Use of the software on smartphones has also increased significantly, rising from 16% in 2014 to 38% last year, according to eMarketer.

However, many ad-blocker users are not opposed to ads per se – only annoying, data-hogging, invasive and non-relevant ones. The solution is not to try to outsmart the software, but to fix the advertising problems that encourage people to install it in the first place.

So what should you focus on in 2019 to achieve relevance and revenues?

Mobile advertising

Worldwide, more people own a mobile phone than a toothbrush* – and, last year, mobile internet traffic accounted for 48 per cent of global online traffic. With this in mind, ask yourself: do the desktop banner ads on your mobile website really work with its design and content? Do they simply look intrusive – or are they positioned so low down that they never get seen, and don't deliver any clicks or brand awareness.

Native advertising

This delivers paid ads that look as if they are part of the editorial content – so they don't stick out like a sore thumb. According to research by Outbrain, consumers look at native ads 53 per cent more than display ads, and the ads create an 18% increase in purchase intent. Native advertising should add value in its own right, however, and not detract from the reading experience.


Creating options and packages around your email communications can contribute substantially to your revenues, with little or no investment. Around 62 per cent of email opens in 2018 were on mobile, 9 per cent on desktop and 28 per cent in a webmail client** – so getting your ads showing appropriately is important. Emails can help grow revenues by:

  • Increasing web traffic, boosting page views, and driving people to other commercial areas, such as events, e-commerce and training
  • Featuring native advertising or sponsored content
  • Creating niche, tailored newsletters for your membership

Advert-serving tools

These give you a clear understanding of the available inventory on your sites, and allow you to manage the placement of commercial and house campaigns. Site-usage information helps you to sell ads by position, impressions, geographically or against keywords, so you can be smarter about pricing. The tools also allow you to manage the serving of adverts of different sizes and types across mobile and desktop sites, and give you detailed reporting to share with advertisers.


This has, historically, been seen as a way for advertisers to 'blanket reach' consumers and for publishers to sell unsold inventory, leading to low yields and rates. The big concern is that it delivers non-relevant ads and artwork, in an uncontrolled way. Header bidding has the potential to change this. It enables you to automate the selling of your advertising, but at a 'premium'. It uses JavaScript to obtain bids from competing partners in the header of each page as it loads, before it's passed to other bidders.


If you are not using webinars as part of your content or commercial strategy, you should be. They allow you to cover topics in detail as part of your roadmap and are attractive to advertisers. Companies can either sponsor your webinars or host one on a topic of their choice. This should not simply be a product sales pitch, but include original content. By charging non-members to access webinars, you can also generate revenues.

Knowledge content

How do you give non-members access to content that has value to audiences beyond your membership – for example, reports, standard documents, and policy and legislation advice? Webinars could be a way to trail this, but content on your website could also have free-to-access synopses, with the full article available on payment.

Know your value

So there you have it: seven ways to diversify and use your content to generate revenues in 2019.

But while you consider which may be most relevant to your organisation, remember – the value to potential advertisers is the audience you deliver, and that audience is there because you offer something of worth.

So ensure your content continues to reflect this and that you adapt to how members wish to consume and access this information.

Media and channels will change as technology develops, but you will always have a valuable, attractive proposition for advertisers and sponsors.


*Consumer Technology Association

**Adestra Top 10 email clients, December 18

Richard Walters
is director - commercial
at CPL

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