Nostalgic America is the leading publication company for all things nostalgic. They publish a monthly magazine featuring articles about and photos of famous figures, popular media, and major events throughout American history. Additionally, they host both consumer and industry events, featuring talented cover bands for music throughout the decades.
In 2016, we here at GGS developed a new website with Nostalgic America (nostalgicamerica.com), offering even more to their viewers online than even possible in print. The result was an incredible website brimming with photos, videos, quizzes, and more, covering historic entertainment, sports, and Americana. With the constant evolution in people of all ages consuming content in 2020, Nostalgic America decided it was time to push harder on the digital front with their website. Their new goal was to draw in more visitors to their site and better monetize their online presence, while giving advertisers some prime digital real estate.
Selecting an Ad Platform
To reach their new goals, we sat down with co-founder Bruce Berns to lay out their options for investing in an ad platform. Selecting how to monetize your website with ads will come down to whether or not you want to use existing ad networks or roll out your own. The existing print publication has a massive number of advertisers behind it, making them a vital resource for the push into digital advertising. The way we saw it, Nostalgic America had three options for implementing website ads:
- Leverage existing ad networks (ex. Google AdWords, Facebook Ads) – These would place typical web ads on their website through existing ad platforms. Nostalgic America’s existing advertisers could get on their site indirectly through these ad platforms, but the relationship between publisher and advertiser would no longer be direct. The benefit, however, is the instant access to a near-limitless number of ads that could be placed on the Nostalgic America website. The drawback is that the targeted demographic of Nostalgic America may go underappreciated and accordingly, under monetized.
- License an ad management platform – There are dozens of pre-built ad platform options available if you want to become an online ad network, but don’t want to build the infrastructure yourself. Most of these options have detailed tracking/analytics and fully automated payment systems. The drawback for licensed systems can get expensive and may require either high rates or a large number of ad impressions to break even.
- Build your own ad management system – A custom-coded ad system with a small but focused feature set, custom tailored for Nostalgic America’s needs. This option would have the highest up-front cost, but little-to-no overhead costs after. It also allows for a more streamlined interface for site admins to manage the ads, meaning there’s a lot less to learn. Features like reporting would still be included, but payment would need to be handled manually, at least at first (to keep costs down). Additional functionality could be implemented as needed down the road.
Ultimately, we determined option 3 to be the best option for Nostalgic America. The payouts from large ad networks would be too small for Nostalgic America’s somewhat niche audience. So option 1 was no good. Option 2 was a no-go either. Although the benefits of an existing, full-featured ad management platform can be great for a large website, we didn’t expect Nostalgic America to see a return on their investment for a very long time. Their needs for digital advertising were small, so a home-grown system was a most effective approach.
Building an ad management system has also allowed their digital ad sales process to mirror their print sales process. This means their sales process doesn’t change, but they now offer more advertising options. It’s a win for both Nostalgic America and their existing advertisers.
With these choices made, Bruce reached out to his existing print advertisers to offer them deeply discounted ad placements on nostalgicamerica.com. This way, the website started with a diverse pool of ads to display, and Bruce could get an idea of how well digital advertising performs before determining finalized pricing for all digital ads going forward.
As we developed the system, we had to pick ad sizes for the advertisers to provide. There were two potential routes to go:
- Use existing Google ad sizes – These are” standardized” ad sizes that can be found across most websites featuring ads from the big ad networks. Sizes such as 300×250 and 320×100 are common to advertisers, so they may already have ads at these sizes ready to go, without an added expense or delay of creating an ad at a custom size..
- Use ad sizes designed for Nostalgic America’s content – The Nostalgic America website has a unique layout and big images, which meant that standard-sized ads would stick out. Custom ads would blend in seamlessly with the content, giving the website a more pleasing look overall.
On the surface, using special ad sizes seems like the better option. However, we found too many potential issues with going that route. Ads blending in with content may be nice in theory, but users may feel tricked or deceived if what they initially thought was content is actually an ad. We didn’t want to sour a user’s experience by not being able to delineate ads from content. Additionally, advertisers may be less likely to buy if they have to make special ad sizes just for one website, instead of being able to use the same ads across all ad networks they buy in to. For those reasons, we recommended Nostalgic America use standard ad sizes throughout their site.
Now that NostalgicAmerica.com is ready for monetization, Bruce is hard at work getting the new website in front of people. He’s continuing to leverage his industry connections to promote the website and magazine, drumming up new visitors and digital advertisers. We’re excited to see where his company goes and will be working with him every step of the way.
Every company has different needs, so the conclusions we came to with Nostalgic America may vary from yours. If you’re interested in getting into digital ad sales for your website, we’d love to help you get there. Give us a call at 561.594.7336.