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PCAN: Making Better Monetization Possible
Posted On February 4, 2008
While some may argue that the ad network arena is getting crowded, there is no question that online ads are lacking in the areas of contextual relevance and, therefore, revenue generation. These issues are especially pressing when it comes to online publishers of business and financial content. Recently, Alacra (—a content aggregation company that provides business and financial information—rolled out its cure for the suffering of content publishers and web searchers alike: the Premium Content Ad Network (PCAN).

PCAN was designed on the concept that online publishers aren’t generating the maximum amount of revenue possible from the ads featured on their sites simply because the ads aren’t relevant to what site visitors are seeking.

For example, users logging in to a website to search the financials of Hewlett Packard probably aren’t interested in an advertiser trying to sell them an HP printer. Rather, they are looking for something like the latest reports by credit sites in order to research where, financially, HP is going in the market so that a more informed investment decision can be made. In other words, contextually irrelevant ads hurt both users (who may exit the site when the trail gets cold) and the publisher of the content (since it’s difficult to make money off of users who search elsewhere).

With the launch of PCAN, Alacra aims to kill the two proverbial birds with one stone. Here’s how it works: PCAN is a mixed-model advertising network that draws from the company’s recently opened Alacra Store—a warehouse of 16 million pieces of content from more than 45 financial publishers, including Gale, Datamonitor, and Moody’s. It leverages this content in order to generate ads that showcase relevant investment, credit, and market research based upon the context of the specific website. PCAN is designed as a pay-per-action ad network, meaning that the content sites earn a fraction of every transaction that results from the ad. Royalties are split among the publisher of the content, Alacra, and the partner for any document that is purchased through the PCAN network. There is no cost to the partner for participation in PCAN.

When a partner decides to participate in PCAN, the ad network scans the content of the site in order to deliver relevant ads. Barry Graubart, VP of product management for Alacra, explains: "We sign on a partner, look at their site, and then emphasize or de-emphasize certain types of content that would be appropriate to run through the PCAN network. If a site’s focus is largely on stocks, we might de-emphasize the economic data we have. After that, everything is on a fully automated basis. Our engine scans the site and decides what the relevant content would be for that site."

Beyond serving up contextual ads with clickable search results, PCAN is also customizable so that incorporating the ad network does not diminish a website’s look and feel. The participant can decide where the PCAN should be placed on the site, and Alacra is able to provide consistent formatting so that the PCAN ads flow with the site’s overall style and design. Furthermore, a site isn’t required to feature PCAN ads exclusively; PCAN can be a complement to the site or blog’s other ads, such as Google AdSense, rather than a replacement. "If a company chooses, it could use our PCAN to fill open space on a website," says Ron Waksman, VP of ecommerce for Alacra. "The site could also opt to replace an existing ad, and PCAN also allows a site the option to create an additional tab for research purposes so that a whole new page will open when a user clicks on a PCAN ad."

In addition to the aforementioned benefits of subscribing to PCAN, content partners also benefit because with PCAN, they are able to reach markets and individuals that they otherwise would not. "If you are our partner," says Graubart, "you might only sell direct subscriptions to individuals, or to companies like Alacra that are specifically content aggregators, but you are never going to reach the actual person who is reading that blog post on Hewlett Packard. It’s the concept of the long tail; it’s pushing the content out to where people are going to be." The majority of Alacra’s data is sold to large corporations, but the launch of the Alacra Store and PCAN allows individual investors greater access to narrow content that is often difficult to locate.

John Blossom, senior analyst and president of Shore Communications, notes: "PCAN is a great example of how publishers can use contextual advertising methods to provide a presence for highly valuable content through a channel that carries enterprise value to both the publisher and the purchaser. [As a publisher], you can’t wait for people to find your research in a search engine or by visiting your site every time: you have to meet premium content consumers at their highest point of need, which is often in highly contextual situations."

Waksman adds, "There is a role-based aspect to PCAN, because you are showing site visitors the ad for financial information on a publicly traded company at the exact moment they are looking at that content; by being on the site, the user has already established what it is that they are interested in."

EDGAR Online and the Livermore Report have already signed up for Alacra’s PCAN service with the goals of better monetization and increased readership in mind. "EDGAR Online’s financial and business information is used to make well-informed decisions by a wide range of clients," says Deb Doane, VP of marketing for EDGAR Online. "We saw participation in PCAN as an opportunity to further our longstanding relationship with Alacra while also extending our market reach."

For Alacra, PCAN is the answer to the prolonged monetization woes of financial and business content publishers by serving the needs of publishers as well as readers. "PCAN is really focused on helping providers monetize their pages by providing relevant information for financial news and commentary sites," Graubart concludes. "Most ad networks focus on consumer searches and product purchases, but financial websites aren't trying to sell products. PCAN is an opportunity for these sites to better monetize their content."

Ashley Jones is editorial assistant for EContent.

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