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Yahoo! Outnumbers Google

Yahoo! Outnumbers Google Nielsen//NetRatings

Weekly NetView and AdRelevance data from Nielsen//NetRatings.

Top 10 Online Search Engines/Portals & Communication Destinations

Brand or Channel Unique Audience
Active Reach
Time Per Person (hh:mm:ss)
Yahoo! 73,074 55.85 1:08:08
MSN 64,958 49.65 0:36:24
Google 62,351 47.65 0:21:26
AOL 48,109 36.77 2:16:40
MySpace 19,623 15 0:54:34
Ask Jeeves Network 15,625 11.94 0:13:00
Lycos Network 8,148 6.23 0:04:57
Blogger 7,262 5.55 0:07:28
Netscape 6,637 5.07 0:12:29
AT&T 4,621 3.53 0:19:38
Source: Nielsen//NetRatings

Top 10 Online Telecom/Internet Services Destinations

Brand or Channel Unique Audience
Active Reach
Time Per Person (hh:mm:ss)
Yahoo! Mail 35,362 27.03 0:46:24
AOL Instant Messenger 33,230 25.4 1:10:57
AOL Email 24,247 18.53 1:06:48
Microsoft Passport 24,119 18.43 0:03:03
AOL Sign Off 22,715 17.36 0:09:03
AOL Welcome Screen 22,424 17.14 0:28:02
MSN Hotmail 20,445 15.63 0:27:33
Real 16,736 12.79 0:20:47
Yahoo! Address Book 15,553 11.89 0:04:32
MSN Messenger Service 15,531 11.87 0:32:49
Source: Nielsen//NetRatings

Week Ending March 19, 2006
US, Home and Work

Note: NetView traffic figures incorporate AOL Proprietary Channels and Internet Applications Tracking with regular web traffic data. This data CANNOT be trended against data prior to week ending Nov. 10, 2002.

Top 10 Business to Business Advertisers

Company Impressions
Colonize.com 517,384
Casale Media 74,811
American Express Company 40,069
Citrix Systems, Inc. 39,489
ProductTestPanel.com 33,442
CDW Computer Centers, Inc. 27,159
Dynamic Logic 24,225
VistaPrint.com 21,436
ExecutiveAgent.com 21,090
Verizon Communications, Inc. 20,964
Source: Nielsen//NetRatings

Top 10 Public Services Advertisers

Company Impressions
Apollo Group, Inc. 192,826
Classes USA, Inc. 140,101
DeVry Inc. 103,215
United States Federal Government 80,405
Keiser College 77,113
American InterContinental University 62,067
AARP 57,136
Sylvan Learning Systems, Inc. 46,435
Monroe College 27,748
UnfilteredTV 27,031

Source: Nielsen//NetRatings AdRelevance
Week Ending March 19, 2006
US, Home and Work

Note: All online advertising data excludes house ads which are advertisements run on an advertiser's own web property.

Note: Nielsen//NetRatings AdRelevance reporting data reflects advertising activity served on pages accessible via the World Wide Web and not within AOL's proprietary service.

Choose your channel wisely

No one knows your brand better than you do. And with that knowledge should come a keen understanding of the outlets that will make your brand stick out like a sore thumb and the ones that seem like the perfect fit. You need to build trust with the sponsored content you create.

When considering channels, ask yourself if the audience is one you want to attract. Are they engaged in their content consumption -- whether it's sponsored or organic -- or are they passive skimmers? Does the site publish more sponsored posts than non-promotional ones -- an obvious red flag? If the stars don't align, abandon ship and seek out alternate channels.

Another important consideration is the publisher's method of identifying whether content is sponsored or organic. There are few faster ways to alienate a reader than having them fully engaged in a post, only to discover a tiny, almost-unnoticeable marker at the end of your article and realize they've been fooled. Even if a piece of sponsored content fits with your brand's values and style and is completely factual, it's dishonest to not label it properly and try to pass it off as a bonafide news article. Readers have the potential to be your greatest supporters. Don't treat them as if they aren't smart enough to know the difference.

And when you're playing matchmaker to find the right outlet for your content, you might also find that your own site is the perfect home. That's okay. If you can't be authentic elsewhere, be yourself on your own site. It's easy to get caught up in the high traffic numbers of a high-profile publication, but you're not helping anyone if that traffic doesn't care about what you have to say. In the end, whether you're publishing on someone else's site or your own, credibility is everything. Once it's gone, it's difficult to earn back.

Don't just let it sit there

You've written a quality piece of sponsored content and published it in a place that's true to your brand's message. If this is where your strategy ends, you're missing out on a huge opportunity.

Once your sponsored content goes live, social media is a brand's best friend. You may have only paid for an article on a website, but you have the power to move that article around the web, gathering more readers and credibility in the process. Plan a social strategy that maximizes reach, and keep it relevant -- understand your audience on each social platform and know what will make them like or retweet and what will have them scrolling on.

Remember: sponsored content, especially when mixed with social media, can do more harm than good if your frequent posting becomes more nagging than informative. It's easy to post daily content about your brand. It's far more difficult to publish content that people finish reading and ask for more. Don't settle for the former.

Striking the right balance

There is no go-to method for deciding where to publish and what to publish -- all the more reason to approach your strategy as if your brand depends on it. For helpful guidance, look for examples of efforts that are leading the pack.

One of the more fascinating case studies of thoughtfully approached sponsored content exists on the publishing platform Medium. When Medium entered the sponsored content world in the summer of 2014, it did so with the purpose of partnering with BMW to tell authentic stories that readers would find interesting -- with or without "presented by BMW" clearly displayed before each article. The six-month partnership that ran on the "Re:form" channel got something else right, too: balance. Out of 100 articles, the partnership only had a single monthly story specifically about BMW. In addition to being clearly marked, those pieces connected directly to the car company's own page on the platform. Medium also had its own editor oversee the process to ensure authenticity and consistency of voice.

The result? A collaborative process that didn't scream "brand manipulation" and instead told compelling stories that readers wanted to engage with. Even those few posts about BMW didn't feel overly promotional.

Ultimately, sponsored content can be an incredibly valuable asset or your brand's greatest downfall, and no amount of money or clicks is worth damaging your reputation. If you don't take your approach seriously and publish with authenticity, your most dedicated brand followers will know it, and their loyalty will be the cost. Should you choose to dive into the world of sponsored content, do so carefully and with a strong sense of who your brand is, who your readers are, and how to publish stories that are true to both of those audiences.

David Mennie is senior director of product marketing at Acquia

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