Journalists regularly embed organic social posts, such as tweets, Instagram content or YouTube videos, into their stories. So, why not monetize them like any other type of ad inventory?
It’s an idea that appeals to Nick Kaplan, director of programmatic at women’s lifestyle publisher SHE Media. Since October 2019, SHE Media has been experimenting with social organic ads on three owned-and-operated sites: Hollywood Life, SheKnows and StyleCaster.
SHE Media is testing the units with Rhombus, a startup founded in 2018 that places contextually relevant ads around social embeds within articles. It creates an incremental revenue source that doesn’t require turning existing inventory over to a new monetization partner that may not lead to additional yield or higher revenue, Kaplan said.
“Basically, this is just net new revenue for us,” he said.
On average, around 36% of articles already include a social post embedded within them, said Abe Storey, CEO and founder of Rhombus, “which means the content is already there on the publisher’s site, ready to be taken advantage of.”
It’s also relatively brand-safe. A big misconception among advertisers is that social embeds have the same brand safety challenges as user-generated content, Storey said. Although some social embeds are controversial or include risky content, writers and editors select the posts to go along with their work, providing at least some level of curation.
Rhombus creates contextual segments by analyzing the metadata from each embed on a page, including the account that originally posted it and any hashtags, images or videos that are part of the post, to gauge tone and sentiment.
Advertisers can bid into the Rhombus marketplace to run custom display units, rich media or outstream video against contextually relevant embeds.
Segments are available through open marketplace deals, private marketplace deals or as a managed service. Ads are priced on a CPM basis at roughly three to four times the cost of traditional display, which Storey claims has enabled some publisher clients to remove one or two traditional display units from their sites while still maximizing yield.
The platform supports Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter, TikTok, Spotify, SoundCloud, Twitch, GIPHY and Reddit. Pinterest is on the road map, as are other types of audio embeds.
“We’re going to prioritize whatever is being used the most,” said Storey, who noted that right now that’s TikTok embeds.
SHE Media is seeing twice the yield from Rhombus units compared with standard display ads, Kaplan said, although he declined to share how much revenue is generated from social embed monetization.
It’s heartening to see as cookies circle the drain, he said. “This provides us with an extra layer of contextual targeting,” Kaplan said. “Contextual has always been a part of our strategy, but with the demise of third-party cookies, it’s only going to play a bigger and bigger role going forward.”
Beyond SHE Media, other Rhombus publisher partners include Bustle, Elite Daily, Salon, The Hollywood Reporter, Rolling Stone and Billboard. Advertisers buying on the platform range from DraftKings and Warby Parker to Oreo, State Farm and ABC.