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Advertising on Pocket Hits: A Case Study

Logo for Pocket Hits Case Study

As a digital marketer, I’m always looking for the latest and greatest way to connect with my audience. Being one of the first to market on a new digital channel can usually result in better performance because marketers haven’t “ruined it” yet. So, when the opportunity to start advertising on Pocket Hits came my way, I knew I had to jump at the chance. I hope that this Pocket Hits case study can help other marketers looking to take advantage of this channel.

What Is Pocket Hits

Admittedly, I wasn’t the one who discovered Pocket Hits, it was my wife who told me to check out their newsletter. It is a form of content marketing for the Pocket App, a bookmarking tool that people use to discover new and interesting articles. The daily newsletter effectively analyzes the user behavior on the app to determine the ten best articles to be aggregated into their daily email. This is seriously one of the best things to subscribe to on the web, so if you haven’t done it yet you’re missing out.

I found myself opening the newsletter regularly and would often click one or more of their stories. But something that caught my eye was the sponsored content, a story in the second position in the newsletter, that brands were paying to advertise on Pocket. As opposed to the trashy Taboola and Outbrain articles found at the bottom of CNN and other online stories, the sponsored articles in the Pocket Hits were often interesting. Rather than shilling to the lowest common denominator, they seemed to be provide insights, information or a story that was worthwhile.

Pocket Hits Advertising Example
Pocket Hits Advertising Example

After doing an informal poll of my friends who subscribed to Pocket Hits, I found out two things: (1) they were not “offended” by the sponsored content in the Pocket newsletter and (2) often clicked it. This is in direct opposition to how many people complain about ads overtaking their Facebook/Twitter/Instagram feeds and the annoying pre-roll videos on YouTube. NOTE: this doesn’t diminish the fact that they are effective, but people do find them irrating. I figured that it was worth investigating Pocket because it could be the perfect storm of being highly effective without being highly annoying.

Breaking Down the Stats for this Pocket Hits Case Study

The folks on the Pocket advertising team are top-notch. They absolutely want you to be successful, but they also respect the community around the newsletter they’ve built. They provide strong guidance one what should be included, which is why you don’t see those trashy click-bait styled articles. They were also up front about the metrics:

  • Sponsored story cost is $15,000 for one email drop
  • Total number of subscribers at 4M
  • Opens often range between 400k to 600k
  • CTR for sponsored content often is between 0.6% to 0.8% (!!!)

That CTR is extraordinary! In a digital world where 0.2% to 0.3% CTRs are more than acceptable, the level of CTR that advertising on Pocket Hits has for sponsored content demonstrates their quality. While no demographic data is released, gauging by the stories I would imagine that the subscriber base skews towards techies (, Slack, Asana, Dell EMC, Norton all advertise and stories often feature tech) and folks with a higher education (based on the stories and publishers that are often featured). And given the fact that Pocket is a San Francisco company, I would imagine that there is a large Silicon Valley audience as well. I would be interested in getting more defined demographic information to verify these assumptions and to further be able to validate the spend.

So, let’s break down the numbers. On a $15,000 ad spend you’re looking on the low end at the following results:

  • CPM of $37.50 (assuming 400k opens)
  • CPC of $6.25 (assuming 400k opens and 0.6% CTR)
  • CPC of $4.70 (assuming 400k opens and a 0.8% CTR)

Obviously looking at the higher open rate, this would be the return on the $15,000 ad spend:

  • CPM of $25.00 (assuming 600k opens)
  • CPC of $4.20 (assuming 600k opens and a 0.6% CTR)
  • CPC of $3.15 (assuming 600k opens and a 0.8% CTR)

From my experience, you’ll fall somewhere in between these ranges. Be open to exploring alternative titles or descriptions that the Pocket team may suggest. These people know their platform and the audience and you’ll benefit by heeding their advice.

Why Go with Advertising on Pocket Hits?

Admittedly, they are high on the CPM and CPC as compared with many social campaigns, but I feel that you are getting better results. Sure, Facebook may report a CPC of $1.28, but did the person actually land on your page? (More on this in a future article.) Most likely the answer is “No,” so your effective CPC is going to be much higher than the metric Facebook reports. With Pocket, I have noticed on the backend metrics that the number of clicks that they report is more in line with the number of page views. I think that this is due to several factors:

  1. There is a lower probability of an errant click—the CTA is very defined and not crowding other content
  2. There are less “bots” subscribed to a newsletter versus clicking on paid social content
  3. People who are clicking a link in the Pocket Hits newsletter want to read the story, i.e. they will wait for the page to load
  4. The article loads in an actual web browser instead of a browser embedded in an app, i.e. clicking a link on an iPhone opens a Safari window versus clicking a link in social networking app opens a browser in that same app, which always seems slower to me

Ultimately, the buy-in price to advertise on Pocket Hits will make it an option only for companies who spend a decent amount of digital advertising. For most small to mid-sized companies, this probably isn’t a viable option. Additionally, since there is no way to target by geography, this type of digital advertising doesn’t make sense for regional companies, whether they are large or small.

But for larger organizations (a la with a national reach that have massive advertising budgets, Pocket Hits is a tremendous opportunity to get your brand’s message out. Additionally, national organizations with more modest advertising budgets that are looking for quality reads instead of vanity metrics, Pocket is a savvy way to drive traffic.

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