Publisher Challenges

After my well received piece on the RTB industry (part 1 and part 2), I thought I put some thoughts together around the publisher side of things.

I was supposed to chair the European Publisher Forum early June. Unfortunately the organiser had to move the date to September, so pending my next gig I might not be able to chair and moderate the forum. This would be a shame as I come from the demand side and really enjoyed speaking to publishers, learning about their challenges. It will be a really good event with great speakers confirmed already!

The challenges from publishers are manifold. To be honest, I never really looked at publishers before, as sitting on the RTB (real time bidding) demand side, my focus was around how to deliver a good campaign for an advertiser direct or through their agency. But did anyone ever thought that really without publishers, there wouldn’t be any end consumers? I am a publisher, having a blog. People coming to my blog to read the content that is there and ultimately I create a certain audience that might be of interest to advertiser A. I am the one creating an audience – no one else. As simple as this might sound, publishers are key to our value chain!

newspaper

So without publishers our whole ecosystem would be in trouble. No publishers, no money to spend from advertisers. But why, at least it seems that way, is no one solely looking after publishers’ interest? Of course each Supply Side Platform (SSP) would jump up now and say that they have the best interest of publishers at heart. Best results and best performance for their remnant and premium inventory. Private marketplaces to ensure quality advertisers on the site, maybe even some direct sales (via or not via RTB) to networks or Demand Side Platforms (DSPs) to have guaranteed income. Floor prices that allow for good yield.

Now there are a few points re this. I remember Microsoft on Tradertalk a couple of years ago saying you can buy their premium inventory at a fixed price and fixed impression volume via an account manager or you can buy it in real time via Microsoft AdExchange, however be prepared to pay a premium and don’t be surprised if you don’t get all the volume of impressions you need. I guess that sums up how RTB works. If you buy impression by impression and the user rather than the publisher, you are happy to pay more for some impressions because they are on a more premium environment. However, if you are really after the individual user, you could argue that the publisher quality doesn’t matter. Re-targeting might be a good example here 😉

Latter, not caring about the publisher quality, is what some publishers do themselves. They collect their audience data and buy this audience across exchanges based on their 1st party data and maybe matched 3rd party data. ‘Audience Extension’ is the word for it. Instead of selling their data, and a question would be whether the data from their site is theirs or the advertisers, they use it to create a packaged audience they can sell at a higher CPM.

The biggest challenges for publishers, at least as far as I understood the ecosystem in the last four weeks, is monetisation of data and inventory. The data monetisation is relatively simple I suppose. You work with some third party data provider who pays you a revenue share for your data (and not on the increased CPM price for the impression they might achieve elsewhere). They sell it on to a data exchange and the advertiser pays a premium to use that data to target someone on the publisher site again. Wait a second, would it not make more sense for the publisher to sell data directly to the advertiser? I guess so. They ‘only‘ need data qualification and classification technology and enough direct sales or ad ops people to sell it directly. It puts the question out there whether the sales person – that is true for data or inventory – needs to be an ad ops person, an analyst or a sales person, or everything together. I suppose the latter would be nice but this skill set is not very common.

publisher omni channel

Back to the data question. If the publisher, and I know a few that do, utilise their own data, analyse it internally, they can – given enough impressions – use that data to sell audiences on either their own site or via audience extensions. If the publisher network is big enough there shouldn’t be any problem with supply and higher yields will most certainly be achieved by having the “internal data approach“.

Another challenge, to monetise the inventory at a good CPM, can be solved easily I’d say. I might be too ignorant here but if the internal data approach works, there is no need to sell via exchanges or SSPs. So happy days. However, any other remnant can be sold via SSPs or via PTD (publisher trading desk) technology, e.g. simplified an ad server that plugs into several SSPs and exchange platforms to sell at the highest yield. I have seen some of those tech recently and it is amazing what they can do. Sooner or later this technology comes to an ad server near you. And consultancies are working left right and centre to help publishers establishing a PTD! Watch that space. I know that some publisher have built a similar solution in-house. The additional yield will justify the investment in technology and that of implementation. And of course those companies have to increase the visitors to the site, e.g. make the buyer aware of the new inventory or the new way of buying that inventory but that is the same with any publisher focused solution. So the SSPs become sales people on behalf of publishers going to the DSPs who go to the advertiser….the old value chain.

Floor pricing and guaranteed deals will help the publishers’ yield. RTB will to my mind still be the underlying technology and surely the utilisation internally will improve CPMs and net revenue. Also of course special ad sizes, page take overs etc. which you cannot sell via traded media that easily (yet).

My only question left to ask, and I most certainly cannot answer it, is why the publisher who delivers the end user gets the smallest share of the media buy? If you buy a CPM for £1, the advertiser spends 0.65 pence, the agency takes another few pence and in between the delivery and the publisher another 40-50% margin are lost to tech providers. The publisher is left with maybe 20-30 pence CPM. And, if you are a publisher who delivers the value, and maybe ‘remnant premium’ this could really p* you off. No surprise 🙂

I hope I understood the ecosystem here and made it clearer to some of you. However, as aforementioned I am not an expert on the publisher side (yet) but took my blinkers off the demand side whilst evaluating job opportunities. Exciting times ahead to deliver value for publishers. And that doesn’t mean that the classic ad network won’t be able to do so after all.

Watch this space and feel free to leave a comment below. Or email me, if you know of any jobs, publisher or advertiser side.

Cheers,
Volker