If you’re in the creative, design and web field you know The Deck — you probably love The Deck. The Deck is a targeted and hugely successful ad network that places small, unobtrusive ads on very select blogs and independent sites that cater to the creative field (The Deck calls them “members”). It then serves up highly targeted, well-vetted advertisement to these sites at a premium price.
The price is worth it because The Deck gets a massive amount of impressions — close to 111 million in November alone — from its well-regulated stable of members. The click-through rate, which the company doesn’t state on their site, is presumably enormous. But The Deck doesn’t sell itself on click-throughs, it sells itself based on cost-per-influence:
The loyal, regular readers of the fifty-six sites and services consist of web publishers, writers, developers, editors, reporters and bloggers as well as influential designers and art directors. Plus, the aggregate audience is made up of writers, photographers, illustrators, students, filmmakers, typographers, artists, animators, musicians, coders, designers and many other creative professionals.
The Deck is a great model for how to do advertising right within a select community and someone should copy it for the nonprofit and social good sectors. Like the creative community, this sector depends on loyal, regular followers that are regularly pulled back to our sites to learn about the work or make donations. These days, almost everyone in the nonprofit/social good sector is churning out regular content either through their site or their blog. There is also a well-developed sector of companies and blogs who are, or should be, specifically targeting the people who visit nonprofit and social-good sites.
And of course, nonprofit and social good sector companies need money and diversified streams of it — they can’t always depend on the kindness of strangers.
If I were making The Deck for nonprofits I’d copy their style — small ad with minimal text — and their model, matching up companies with an interest in targeting nonprofit donors with select nonprofit and social good sites. I would also put blogs and news sites like Grist, Treehugger and Good in the companies column. I’d then start looking for strong non-profit blogs and start matching them up. An ad for Belkin’s Conserve line could get placed on The Nature Conservancy’s Cool Green Science, and an ad for Good magazine, could be placed on Amnesty International’s Human Rights Now.
One thing that might cause complications for non-profits under this model is corporate sponsors — a lot of non-profits have them and they can be very touchy about competitive advertising. To handle this, a non-profit version of The Deck might include premium back-end tools to allow non-profits to insert ads from their sponsors that are then rotated into the mix. Part of the premium pricing charged to the the non-profits would then have to be shared with the advertisers who aren’t getting seen because of the sponsor ads.
In the end, a model like The Deck would allow non-profits to bring in more revenue while not ceding excessive ground to advertising and, if run correctly, it would give readers exposure to content and services that truly interest them. This is, after all, what makes The Deck such a valuable service now — minimal intrusion and quality content. It’s not just and advertisement, it’s a actually a service to a site’s readers.