local media insider

Shaw Media test of Google Consumer Surveys shows new revenue metrics

Alisa Cromer

Company: Shaw Media
Media: Newton Daily News
Key executive: Ben Shaw, CDO

Summary: Shaw Media tested Google Consumer Surveys in one of its markets, generating some early metrics on just how much this partnership is worth. Critics say embedding the surveys gives Google access to at least aggregate data. Local publishers like Shaw contend there is no data on individuals released, and the incremental returns are worth it.

Challenge: Ben Shaw returned from Local Media Association's 2012 Innovation Mission with two immediate initiatives: The first was to add Google Consumer Surveys to provide a new incremental revenue stream. With 12 local daily newspaper sites plus a network of  community weekly sites, the company was attracted to the immediate, no-cost incremental revenue gains. Shaw said the reasoning was simple: "It's like picking a quarter up off the floor."

Strategy: The company decided to do a three month test in one market, picking the NewtonDailyNews.com, the site of the five day weekly in Newton, Iowa. If the test went as planned they could roll-out  the product to other markets.

Google charges any one who wants insights on consumer preferences 10 cents for a completed one question micro-survey, or 50 cents per survey if the researcher asks an additional screening question. The publisher keeps 5 cents. Anyone who wants consumer insights can buy a survey on GoogleConsumerSurvey's site, with a minimum buy of $100.

The survey's are coded to appear half way through a story, blocking the content until the questions are answered. Publishers control where, when and how often to place the surveys; Shaw programmed theirs to only show up to the same visitor once a day.

Results: After about 30 days, Shaw says the test has gone well:

*Google reps predicted the new sites get a 10% completion. Shaw says their was slightly higher than this with a, 10% to 20% completion. So with 90,000 questions served x 10%= 9000 completed surveys. Times five cents that's $450 per month.

*"All bottom line money" and the site did not affect traffic.

*The completion rate was initially low, but returned to normal when the survey was moved higher in the story.

*The only glitch was that initially the user saw the survey more than once

*Shaw plans to roll-out the service to its Suburban Publishing Group

Conclusions: From these metrics, we can estimate the program is worth at least $500 per 100,000 impressions served per month, or about an overall $5 RPM or a little higher. This is still lower than Google's estimated average of $15,  but still a quick way to monetize a few more pages. Keep in mind that this strategy  of placing the survey once a day per visitor, means that the RPM is against the number of UV's, not the number of impressions. Total return will also be limited by the areas of the site chosen. As Shaw puts it very simply, "It is revenue." 

Alisa Cromer

The author, Alisa Cromer is publisher of a variety of online media, including LocalMediaInsider and  MediaExecsTech,  developed while on a fellowship with the Reynolds Journalism Institute and which has evolved into a leading marketing company for media technology start-ups. In 2017 she founded Worldstir.com, an online magazine,  to showcases perspectives from around the  world on new topic each month, translated from and to the top five languages in the world.