Press releases are rich in content — richer than most ads. Many local events, businesses and services routinely write them. But they often don’t get past the “about us” sections on their own Web sites. The releases aren’t easily found, unless people know enough to specifically Google them.
The search engine marketers behind Newsforce have a different idea. Founder Dana Todd, a prominent figure in the SEO community as SEMPO‘s chair, says the company is buying up AdSense-like space on major online sites, such as newspapers and news magazines, and placing the releases in context with appropriate articles.
Newsforce’s initial newspaper affiliates include Washingtonpost.com, SFGate.com, Dallasnews.com, BostonHerald.com and LAtimes.com. “They really want an alternative to Google AdSense and Yahoo Publisher Network, which don’t look as nice as our headline unit and are less appropriate for the medium,” says Todd.
The way it works is that Lucid Media, a Newsforce partner, scans all the content in the Newsforce database, including the releases, as well as articles and other types of content. It then matches it to the relevant news articles in Newsforce’s publisher network. “If you think about it, there’s really no limit to what we can promote: video, blogs, feeds, etc.,” says Todd. “It just has to be interesting to our readers and acceptable to our publishers.”
The clickthroughs sometimes rival the article itself, Todd adds — even though they are listed as sponsored content. “We’re meeting their guidelines for how to display long-form text advertising alongside editorial, so that it’s clearly interpreted by the readers as sponsored content. We’re happy to comply, as it doesn’t seem to alter our reader response rate much. People aren’t as dumb as marketers think they are – they pretty much know what’s sponsored and what’s not.”
In addition to placing the releases in its network, Newsforce optimizes them for search –local Christmas-oriented businesses, for instance, might have seasonal search terms. They also get them into news aggregators, such as Yahoo News, provide keyword research tools, full analytics and traditional distribution as an option via BusinessWire. “Detailed tracking helps you adjust your content based on real-time reader interaction,” says Todd.Currently, hot topics include Health/Beauty, General News and Business. Local/geotargeted ads aren’t currently available, but are expected to be launched as the site builds out. Verticals, demographic and behavioral targeting are also likely to get a big play, if not more so.
“We are launching with a small number of verticals first,” says Todd. “Verticals don’t typically offer high volume, but they do offer an opportunity for very targeted exposure for companies who want to influence that group. There are a lot of companies that want to have an always-on communication pipeline to a particular audience, such as Internet Mommies or High Tech Influencers. At that point, we’ll have expanded our publishers to include high traffic and influential blogs and Web sites outside the ‘masthead’ news.”