In just one of the features available in PerformanceIN’s free-to-download Content Marketing digital supplement, Mark Jones presents the advantages of placing content on sites which favour an engaged fanbase over reach.

When it comes to finding a home for a piece of content, it might seem counter-intuitive to deliberately put a cap on the breadth of its audience. Yet, there is certainly an argument for taking a much more targeted approach to publisher sourcing – one that could well pay off more than gunning for eyeballs on the Guardian, Telegraph or another online content behemoth. 

While traffic on a niche site is unlikely to be as fast-flowing as on the large publications, aiming at outlets which cater for specialist verticals can be the most effective of way of driving high-quality leads with an interest in specific areas: be it cars, computers or high-speed internet deals. 

For Mark Irwin, managing director at UK price comparison site broadbandchoices, building relationships with smaller publishers as part of the company’s wider marketing strategy is a ‘matter of necessity’ considering what both can offer. 

“We’ll go to a niche publisher because we’re a niche business. Our target is consigned to a fairly narrow age range; they’re fairly tech savvy. 

“They [small publishers] tend to provide the better quality consumer we want to reach – more targeted, more relevant, more in tune, more on brand, a stronger profile fit to our audience and our tone. So whilst the ‘cost’ of the traffic is more, the value it generates more than compensates for that.” 

Irwin argues that if broadbandchoices was to try and ‘go mass’ with the reach of its content, such as targeting through a national newspaper, it would be washed out by the sprawling variety of subjects covered by the publication and a more general demographic of readers. 

“It’s no different to asking why you would advertise on Dave rather than ITV,” Irwin adds. 

Given their specialist nature, however, identifying the right ‘niche’ publishers can prove half the challenge. They might not be on the first page of results on Google, for example, or any other search engine for that matter. 

It can often be a case of scouring social media, personal recommendations or existing connections to find sites that can cater for a specific need. 

“As an underdog brand in our own right, we quite like to champion the smaller publishers with higher quality content we come across in our own personal day-to-day media consumption and speak to them directly,” Irwin states. 

Setting objectives 

A good example of a big company taking notice of the demand for specialist publications is Haymarket Media, which runs a number of sites covering business and customer sectors. It has a particularly strong presence in the motoring industry, with in-house properties including ‘What Car?’, ‘Autocar’, ‘F1 Racing’ and ‘Pistonheads’. 

While these titles share a theme – motoring – they offer a variety of content from reviews, classified ads, features and forums – meaning each publication’s audience will have a different intent. 

Haymarket Media can therefore offer a range of platforms based on advertiser objectives, as long as these aren’t about achieving ‘x’ amount of visits, says the group’s director of digital revenues, Lee Williams. 

“We have always looked hard on what people actually want to achieve, be it a purchase process to a mindset consideration change,” he outlines, stressing the approach now being applied to many content marketing campaigns. 

“The major difference now is seriously leveraging data insight; we’ve invested heavily into our data management platform, content teams and campaign optimisation to target the right audience segments at the right time and then track their behaviour in near real time.” 

Measures of success 

It’s not just ‘niche’ brands that have realised the value of publishing their content to a smaller and targeted audience. Haymarket recently ran a video content campaign for Audi’s RS3, the success of which was proven by engagement metrics, conversation and behaviour driven among a specific audience segment. 

In a growing industry which has previously bore witness to content marketers throwing ‘cash at clicks’, Williams now expects to see the market open up to deep vertical publishers who have a passion for their market, a forensic ‘data understanding’ of their audience and a knowledge of how to engage with them. 

The right publisher can offer a channel to communicate with an engaged audience that’s suited to the product being marketed, but where the value really lies is in the insight they can give brands on that audience. 

After a whistle-stop tour across many digital channels, data now reigns high in content marketing: the ability to source and provide it in high quality will ultimately decide the success of vertical publishers as advertising platforms.