Sell Through Rate - On Line Advertising
There are indications that the average online advertising sell-through rate of major online media and/or video properties in the United States is somewhere between 95% and 100%. While the average and individual sell-through rates of the top online media and/or video properties in the country are not available in the public domain, there are sources indicating that Ziff Davis, whose online media properties include IGN, Mashable, PCMag, and AskMen, has an average sell-through rate of 95% for the majority of its video ad inventory, and AARP Media has an average sell-through rate of more than 90% across its digital channels. Since these online media properties rank lower than the top 100 websites in the country, we expect that higher-ranking websites correspondingly have a higher average sell-through rate, higher than 95% but lower than the rarely achieved maximum value of 100%.
To find the requested information, we began by conducting a press search. We checked first if actual sell-through rates are readily available in the public domain. We quickly found, however, that the average rate across major media and/or video properties in the United States has not been published before. There was only evidence that a perfect sell-through rate of 100% is rarely achieved. The average sell-through rates of publishers Ziff Davis and AARP Media are publicly available, but these publishers' media and/or video properties do not figure among the top websites listed by Alexa and Quantcast. There are other examples of sell-through rates, but these examples have nothing to do with advertising. It appears the term 'sell-through rate' is used in the auction, retail, and supply chain industries as well to denote the portion of inventory sold.
We looked for online or display advertising benchmarks in the hope that these include benchmarks for the sell-through rate, but unfortunately, our efforts proved unproductive. Our attempt to look for surveys of publishers and their online advertising performance turned out unsuccessful as well. We tried to research the sell-through rates of the top websites identified by Alexa and Quantcast one by one but soon realized the ineffectiveness of the strategy. Only the sell-through rates of Ziff Davis and AARP Media could be located in the public domain. Those of top websites such as YouTube, BuzzFeed, and Vice are not publicly available.
As a workaround, we checked how far the ranks of Ziff Davis and AARP Media's properties are from the top 100 and used the resulting comparison to draw conclusions about the average sell-through rate of major media and/or video properties. Given that more popular websites have higher chances of selling all of their available ad impressions, we assumed that, compared to other media properties, higher-ranking media properties likely have higher sell-through rates as well.
Though information on the topic is very limited, a few sources suggest that the average online advertising sell-through rate of major online media and/or video properties in the United States is over 95% and below 100%. First, an article published by Ad Exchanger in 2017 indicates that Ziff Davis has a 95% sell-through rate for the majority of its video ad inventory. Ziff Davis's portfolio is composed of the following brands or properties: IGN, Mashable, PCMag, Speedtest, Geek, AskMen, ExtremeTech, Toolbox, Offers.com, emedia, TechBargains, and Salesify. These properties are not among the top 100 websites listed by Alexa and Quantcast, but Ziff Davis considers itself "a leading global digital media company." On Alexa, IGN ranks 167th in the United States, Mashable ranks 451st, and PCMag ranks 690th.
Second, the LinkedIn profile of Peter Zeuschner, AARP Media's digital director of sales who leads the organization's countrywide advertising sales efforts, indicates that AARP Media's digital channels have an average sell-through rate of more than 90%. AARP's media properties include AARP The Magazine, AARP Bulletin, AARP Digital, and AARP Native. On Alexa, AARP ranks 1,021st in the United States.
Since sell-through rate pertains to "the number of paid impressions sold divided by the number of ad impressions available for sale," it can be at most 100%. However, only a few publishers can achieve a sell-through rate of 100%. Based on an article released by Digiday, "there’s relatively few publishers out there that are at 100 percent sell-through rate." According to this article, the average is not even close to 100% for impressions sold through direct-selling channels.
An article published on both Web Analytics World and Analytics Magazine mentions that one publisher has an average sell-through rate of only 70% for its online advertising inventory. It is not clear when the article was released by Analytics Magazine, but we know that the article was published by Web Analytics World in late 2016. As this article was published more than two years ago and we are unaware of the publisher's rank among websites, we decided to exclude the rate of 70% from our analysis.
As it appears from the aforementioned sell-through rates that higher-ranking websites have correspondingly higher sell-through rates, we expect that media or video properties belonging to Alexa or Quantcast's list of the top 100 websites have an average sell-through rate of over 95%, higher than that of Ziff Davis but below the perfect rate of 100%.