Publishers & Advertising: A comeback story
If relative volume of column inches is anything to go by in assessing interest in topics, then, looking at the international Trade Press over the last year or two, one would be tempted to conclude that publishers do not care immensely about digital advertising anymore. After all, the great majority of articles dealing with premium content providers’ revenue growth focus on reader revenue (be it subscriptions or other schemes such as membership or micropayments) as well as new sources such as e-commerce or, say, events.
This is distinctly shortsighted, bordering on plain wrong – sure, this myopic approach is understandable when the market share of global platforms has risen inexorably over the last few years and when fragmentation and quality concerns (relating to parameters such as, say, viewability and invalid traffic) have hampered demand growth. And this is not to mention brand safety which, at the beginning of the pandemic, was managed crudely from the buy-side, denying funds to adamantine content brands just when they (and, by implication, citizens) needed them most. Grievances can be excessive but one would have to be extremely narrow minded not to agree that publishers had a valid point.
And yet a series of developments bears the hallmarks of major, positive change: the rise of first party data (due to both technological and regulatory change), the blossoming of national Quality & Transparency initiatives (addressing issues such as viewability, ad fraud and ad clutter while often setting rules through Codes of Conduct) and the realization by major advertisers that over-reliance on platforms can have notably negative consequences all point to a turning tide. Even the notorious issue of brand safety is in the process of becoming –in the context of a “trust economy”- a solid advantage for premium content providers. In short, this is not the time to put advertising on the back burner – it is time to double down.
But how? Given the pandemic-induced scaling back of content marketing and thus brand studios, it is programmatic trading that constitutes by far the biggest opportunity, particularly through the deployment of header bidding. Already largely in place in major publishing operations in mature markets, it is proving to become a game changer: by increasing sources of demand, it delivers uplifts in eCPM that can go up to 50% while at the same time minimizing, if not eliminating, inventory leakage and discrepancies thus bringing in more supply to monetize. The term itself may sound complicated but it’s essentially Economics 101: higher demand raises prices, higher supply raises volumes, both lead to revenue growth. Immediately.
Still, could this be another development whereby the publishing industry bifurcates between, on the one hand, major (possibly international) organizations that have the resources to invest in as well as operate such models and, on the other, standard content providers who –even if they are among the leaders in their own markets– do not have all the know-how, tools and talent in-house? Not necessarily: what these publishers need is a trusted partner with a holistic approach that can deliver the services necessary, beyond more demand sources, critical as these may be – this means development, onboarding, yield optimization, analytics dashboards and extensive support, in both a technologically neutral manner and in full compliance with local and international standards.
This is where companies such as Project Agora come in.
Constantine Kamaras, Moderator, The Publisher Sessions