Forbes Sells More Intelligently By Mapping Content To Audiences

What kind of stories do people in market for a luxury SUV read?

Forbes is answering that question using data, not a gut feeling, so brands can buy sponsorships and branded content based on what resonates with an audience.

That question was once impossible to answer. Publishers would know, for instance, if readers indexed highly for luxury auto according to comScore data, but not that a subsection of readers preferred stories about innovation and leadership.

Forbes got new insight into its audience thanks to a Quantcast product called Q for Publishers that maps content to audiences. Forbes, a beta partner, has been using the audience tool for the past year.

Forbes uses Q to make sales packages data-driven. If a brand sends out an RFP, its team can analyze the kind of content a brand’s target audience prefers and customize a sales proposal according to those findings.

“In today’s world, you have to lead with data,” said Forbes CRO Mark Howard. “Being able to share an insight the advertiser would never be able to discover on their own, and smart packages to support these insights, makes a lot of sense.”

Forbes can let advertisers sponsor a section where its target users congregate or create branded content in line with the interests of certain audiences.

“If there are 10 articles that index well [against that audience], we can think about how to build an editorial feature for the brand focused on those topics,” Howard said.

Forbes is also analyzing the data to prospect potential customers.

When Forbes discovered that one section of its publication indexed highly against readers interested in luxury SUVs, it brought that data to automakers and offered them a content sponsorship. While that section always had strong reader traffic, it wasn’t sold very often and the new data helped the sales team find a sponsorship.

Forbes also tells brands what sort of audiences visited a sponsored article.

Howard thinks of Q for Publishers as meeting a need that neither comScore or DMPs address. ComScore lets publishers benchmark themselves against their competitive set but can’t offer the same insights within different content sections.

Like a DMP, Q for Publishers has audience segments built from Quantcast’s proprietary data as well as from providers like Datalogix and B2B data sources like Bombora and Dun & Bradstreet.

But many DMPs are complex, and Howard needed a simple look at audiences and behaviors and an easy-to-use interface.

Over 25 publishers have signed up for Q for Publishers, according to Quantcast, which formally unveiled the product this fall. The product’s strong data granularity – which allows audience mapping by author, article or section —  has been particularly helpful to publishers like Forbes, with strong direct sales teams focused on sponsored content and sponsorships, according to Bradon Rice, director of publisher and data partnerships at Quantcast.

Its ultimate goal? Using data to “shift the balance of power” back to publishers as audience-based buying becomes the predominant way to transact on the web, Rice said.

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