Trend-Spotting: Where Publishers Will Prioritize Their Investing in 2018

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Jerry Ferrara, President, Investor’s Business Daily
Folio: Where will you be focusing your initiatives in 2018?

Ferrara: It needs to continue to be about capturing more information and insights on existing customers and prospective customers. I think we’re doing a good job of understanding who our customers are. We’re all racing to understand our customers better, so the bar is continuing to be set higher and higher in the type of predictions that we can make about what our customers are going to do. Every publisher, every media company out there, is going to have to continue to know more and more about their customers.

For us, continuing to emphasize analytics and data capture and understanding what our customers are thinking, feeling, and believing is going to be key. I think we’ve done a good job of understanding them and that’s what’s allowed us to grow subscriptions and launch new products and diversify the revenue streams, but we’ve got to continue to stay focused on that. That’s a big, big priority for us going forward. I’m more concerned with that than developing something for Snapchat or some exploratory product. We’ve got to always be exploring new opportunities, but you can’t be thinking that one of those is going to be the next big thing. Publishers in general need to just focus on their existing customer base and who they think they can bring in.

Folio: Is that where you plan to focus your investments in the year ahead, deepening that data and insight into your customers?

Ferrara: Absolutely. I have no problem stating that. I think every publisher out there should be doing it. If they’re not openly talking about it, they’re doing it anyway, or they should be doing it.

When you’re in a constant state of transformation, it’s just what we have to do. It’s change management, it’s culture management. A lot of these new technologies being utilized by all publishers can be scary to a certain segment of the population that just doesn’t take change as well as others. And it’s not an age thing, it’s just all a part of change management.


Michael LehmanMichael Lehman, VP of Supply, TripleLift

2017 was a year where we acknowledged the market’s transparency and legitimacy issues and began our collective reckoning around how we can actively solve for them. More specifically, within the next 18-24 months, the volume of auction/unsold inventory should considerably decrease and the verifiable quality of inventory will go up considerably for reasons including:

  • Ads.txt will reduce the amount of publisher-specific (premium) inventory available for sale in the auction.
  • Supply Path Optimization will push buyers to commit to some exchanges while eliminating others.
  • Improved bid-processing infrastructure for DSPs and Exchanges will reduce the inventory they’re forced to process and the prospect of bidding against themselves.
  • Continued Partner Audits and the overall “Race to the Bottom” for exchanges will reduce/eliminate non-transparent margins and improve the ROI on buyer auction spend.
  • Efforts to “clean up” undesirable ad experiences like the Better Ads Standards will reduce overall ad inventory volume and improve the performance and budget applied to remaining, respectful advertising.

At the most basic level, the increase in quality, decrease in volume, and an overall scarcity in the marketplace will result in higher quality and auction CPMs increasing.

Beyond the economic model itself shifting, publisher attention and resource prioritization will begin to change, starting with the way yield is considered and managed. Since the programmatic auction will begin to generate efficient and accurate CPMs, publishers will not need to use a swath of different but highly redundant monetization platforms to put pressure on each other and drive of performance in an inefficient market. As such, look for pubs to:

  • Double down on certain platform partnerships while eliminating others: Market inefficiencies and S2S Header Bidding have long incentivized publishers to use any and all monetization platforms they could handle; expect that to change as publishers pick which platform they want to grow with as they clean-up their ad stack and try to reduce where inventory is accessible and duplicative.
  • Invest in programmatic client relationships: For a variety of reasons that include the massive over-supply of auction inventory, Private Marketplaces (PMPs) have consistently underperformed as a practice. As a result, PMPs are often an unstrategic yield management play – frequently used to skew up indirect CPMs through a “spray and pray” approach—more than actual automated direct sales. Look for publishers to reserve PMPs for more strategic clients, leading to a world where programmatic is incorporated into annual Holding Company rate cards, and we begin to turn the corner on programmatic guaranteed audience and spend deals with the help and participation of programmatic buyers.
  • Create uniqueness: Beyond the overall move from disrespectful ad experiences, look for publishers to create unique, engaging ad experiences, leading to better results for marketers.
  • Streamline Ops and Revenue: The tension between ops and sales is not a new phenomenon. (And one need only check out to see how these relationships continue to play out as the market becomes seemingly more complex and more full of acronyms!) But processes, teams, and technology to support programmatic deals continue to lag, and publishers seem to be really looking to invest to solve the underlying issues: investing in the right teams and training, creating the right incentives structure, setting up the right tools and teams for analysis, tracking and optimization.

These investments will take some effort, collaboration, and process to implement, but will drive long term value along with the continually improving health of the market.

John Palumbo, President and Publisher, Rhode Island Monthly

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