The Times of India is auctioning print advertising via an online bid platform, auctioning premium print ads during the Diwali Season, via bid.indiatimes.com. For this, the company has created new premium advertising spots in the newspaper, over and above the regular inventory, to meet demand during the advertising season, for the newspapers the group will publish between the 20th and 25th of October. The papers in which ads are being auctioned include the Times of India (all editions), Bombay Times, Delhi Times, and the Mirror newspapers (like Bangalore Mirror and Mumbai Mirror).

Speaking with MediaNama, a Times of India spokesperson said that the idea behind the auction was set up because of significant demand for Diwali, and with around 80% of normal ad spots already sold, they “But we wanted to see if we can do create new spots, and fulfil new demand. We decided to make new ad spots which normally advertisers can’t get, and put them up for sale in a transparent ad auction.” The new ad spots include a Skybar ad just under the masthead, Ear ads next to the mastheads, and a Spine ad, which goes across the spine of the first and the last page, which is like a binding for the newspaper. Control is being exercised on who can bid, reports Exchange4media, since agencies have been given usernames and passwords.

Will it work beyond Diwali? Our take is that it’s worth a shot. While there are sites like Ads2Book, they are primarily for booking classified ads online, and don’t really offer premium ‘display’ inventory to anyone who can bid. Auction platforms aggregate demand from small advertisers as well, and if you keep the base price high enough, it could work in your favor. On the flip site, because rates are transparent this way, advertising revenue wouldn’t be too difficult to track because of limited newspaper inventory. “The rate card exists because there is a lot of inventory over the year. It’s for the super premium ads like during Diwali that you would try to do it. We’ll probably experiment with other places, ” the spokesperson said.

Why premium inventory instead of remnant inventory? The company says that they normally have 80-90% inventory sold, and inventory is dynamic in print because pages change all the time. There is some element of contraction and expansion to accommodate that, and inventory can either be replaced with in-house ads or content. “The desire to make smaller money and try to cannibalize with lower rates is not of interest to us.”

In any case, instead of a sales force going and selling ad spots, there could be a situation wherein, to an agency or an advertiser, a visualization of how a particular ad unit would look in the newspaper could be shown, and there is potential for ads to be placed directly by the agency, through the web, perhaps helping reduce the cost of sale of ads for the company.