Toronto Sun engages audience, advertisers with interactive live video chats

As part of Sun Media Corp., the Toronto Sun has a broad network of sister newspapers with whom it can share content.

And while that has helped blanket its site with current video news coverage, it is the video it’s shooting in its own studio garnering the most attention.

Live chats have become a popular offering on the Web site, boosting reader engagement, and justifying premium rates for advertisers during those segments. Online chats with prominent figures — politicians, musicians, celebrities, and sports figures — have driven reader engagement to record highs for the Toronto Sun.

“It’s something that’s live and interactive,” says Jamie Wallace, editor-in-chief. “We’ve done one with (astronaut) Chris Hadfield, the general manager of the Blue Jays (baseball team), things of that nature.”

Because the chats have been so well received, they have opened the door to new revenue possibilities. For the live chats, the Sun seeks out sponsors at a premium — and it has the numbers to back up its asking price.

“In January, we had 7 million reader-engaged minutes for a chat,” Wallace says. “That’s a big number.”

That “big number” allows it to go to advertisers with a flat rate that costs more than purchasing multiple pages in the printed newspaper. But it also carries a big promise, since readers spend so much time on the site during the chat.

Wallace says the editorial content is framed with an appropriate, relevant advertiser to ensure value. Given the success of the chats, Publisher Mike Power says the Toronto Sun will begin looking for sponsors to support a package of chats — perhaps selling as much as three months of broadcast chats in a single package — which relieves it of the burden of seeking out new sponsors each time.

As the Toronto Sun continues streamlining the process, it will use pre-roll ads instead of the current framed display ads.

“There are a lot of possibilities,” Power says. “We are looking at how we could have a countdown to the chat and incorporate that into a pre-roll advertising package. This gives our advertisers a different opportunity to reach out to our readers. We still have the strong traditional lines between editorial and advertising, but in terms of execution, we are working very closely together.”

About Paula Felps

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