Purch, A Publisher Connecting With Consumers On Their Path To Purchase

Greg Mason PurchBecause advertisers are willing to spend the most at the last click before purchase, it’s where publishers can reap the highest rewards.

That’s the focus of publication family Purch – which rebranded from TechMediaNetwork in April and whose owned and operated sites include TopTenREVIEWS, Tom’s Hardware, Tom’s IT Pro, Laptop and Connectedly.

“We believe the web has very much been used by marketers as a performance medium,” said CEO Greg Mason, who has been at the helm for the past 18 months. “They’re interested in how they can target consumer intent. With product reviews, we attract in-market and intent consumers, and there is a high value associated with that.”

Collectively, Purch’s sites attract 78 million monthly uniques according to comScore, focusing on technology and science content, and drive $1 billion in sales a year. With an audience so close to the point of purchase, Purch benefits from higher-than-average CPMs and strong affiliate relationships. Next up is is strengthening its in-site commerce operations and strengthening its programmatic selling.

Purch And Programmatic

About half of Purch’s revenue comes from display ads, less than a quarter of which are direct-sold, according to Mason, leaving programmatic with a big piece of the pie. Since Purch’s ads are shown so close to the end of a buyer’s purchasing process, “they’re more likely to click on ads, so consequently we get higher CPMs for those ads than a publisher that doesn’t have intent,” Mason said.

Purch is “primarily a Google AdX shop,” but it’s also looking to get higher CPMs by plugging into other SSPs.

“We’ve already done some experimentation, pitting AdX with other SSPs, and found a tangible increase in CPM as a result of that,” Mason said. “We want to accommodate more demand for our inventory.” Consequently, Purch is building a meta-SSP that will aggregate bids from multiple platforms, driving up demand and CPMs.

Purch is also experimenting with private exchanges.

“It’s very nascent,” Mason said. “We probably have five to 10 deals up and running and pending. We spent a lot of time just getting connected into the workflow of the trading desks. A lot of the trading desks have been created in past six months, and their workflow and technology is not fully established. The whole industry is in the first or second inning maybe.”

Mason sees programmatic as a strong fit as marketers transition from campaigns to an always-on mentality.

“A lot of digital money for marketers, particularly in tech space, flows out of product launch. Those marketers will want to establish a couple of direct relationships to do more creative, native, custom kind of ideas,” Mason said. “Beyond that, there is a growing realization on the part of marketers that buyers are not always in the market when they do their product introductions. Programmatic gives continuity, a way to maintain presence in a marketplace in a more cost-effective way than a product launch or introduction.”

Purch and Commerce

Because so many people buy after visiting a Purch-owned site, Purch has invested in expanding opportunities to transact within its sites. With $1 billion in sales driven each year, Purch wants at least some of that for itself.

“It’s an extension of what CNET started many years ago. That was the first site that connected product reviews with pricing information, so in many respects we are a natural evolution of that,” said Mason, a former CNET employee.

Space.com and LiveScience.com both have ecommerce components that will relaunch this fall. Now, the science-oriented sites sell everything from telescopes to Star Trek bathrobes.

Another Purch property, HermanStreet.com, is a ecommerce site, focusing on downloadable software and select consumer electronics. Purch has a fulfillment center for its orders, and also works with drop-ship vendors.

Next up is the ecommerce launch of Tom’s Store in September, which will sell to audiences consuming content on Tom’s Hardware and Tom’s Guide.

“Our mission is to making purchasing decisions easier. There’s an opportunity where we can streamline that experience for the consumer and make it easier, and make more money because we don’t have a middleman,” Mason said.

Purch’s Affiliate Biz

Purch also receives referral fees from advertisers, “via CPA relationships, lead generation, ecommerce, affiliate, you name it,” Mason said. “Because we know we reach intent-based consumers, we’re more likely to go long with marketers. We know they will convert to sales, so we’re not afraid to take the risk.”

The CPA relationships might take the form of a dozen links next to a product review category on TopTenREVIEWS, Mason said. For B2B categories, like BuyerZone, there is a “click for more information” button that will help marketers collect qualified leads and market to them through a CRM system like Salesforce.com.

Three different sales teams handle advertisers at Purch. One group focuses on CPA, the second on B2B lead generation and the third on traditional direct sales relationships.

According to Mason, an incredibly high percentage of people who visit Purch sites convert. “We know that 20% of visitors who come on a site of ours like TopTenREVIEWS will convert to sale. We know that not by attribution, but by relationships we’ve had with marketers who have told us that, and maintain relationships with us because the efficiency of the site is so high.”

DMPs: Getting First-Party Data in Order

“We see ourselves as building a platform that is led by data,” Mason said. “Our data platform is where we’re putting the most investment.”

Right now, Purch is using Proximic to do category mapping and tagging first-party data. That information will flow into BlueKai, its data-management platform.

“We focused on BlueKai because most of our direct marketer relationships are with tech marketers, and they have predominantly standardized their efforts with BlueKai.”

Leveraging first-party data will allow them to offer additional targeting Purch hopes will further drive up CPMs. “We’re developing the capability where if you want to come to not just one, but our entire portfolio of sites, and target in-market tablet consumers, you will be able to do that,” Mason said.

Purch Going Beyond Display

Purch is diversifying in a market that hasn’t been friendly to media companies, one reason Mason gives for the company’s annual growth rate of 20% as it approaches $100 million in yearly revenue. Building out the commerce portion of Purch is part of a business model that strives “not to be just advertising-centric,” Mason said. “We’re completely agnostic as to how we monetize. We’re yield-centric. We’re more about revenue per thousand users vs. how it comes in the door.”


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