10 Different Ways Publishers Are Tackling Programmatic

Publishers and ProgrammaticWhen RTB knocks on a publisher’s doorstep, not everyone answers with the same greeting.

While some publishers give it a warm embrace, prioritizing that demand or selling exclusively through programmatic channels, others are more cautious or turning it away. Here’s how publishers are tackling the upsides and blocking the downsides of programmatic.

1. Bring in ad revenue for a new site quickly, creating a foundation for direct sales

When Bauer Xcel Media finally decided to gas up its digital division, it monetized with programmatic first. It plans to add in commerce functionalities next year. Politics-focused Rare did the same thing, as did inspirational and DIY publisher LittleThings. “We had to build a big enough audience in order to have enough to direct sell,” Rare publisher Leon Levitt told AdExchanger. “I don’t want to go out and direct sell banners. Programmatic is fine for that. I want to go out and direct sell sponsorships.”

 2. Trick out your yield management and data platform

Consider what Purch did with a strategy called RAMP (revenue and audience management platform). RAMP determines the value of inventory by including page context, performance and audience. Advertisers get higher-performing placements, and Purch extracts more revenue by matching price with actual value.

Or what video game publisher/developer Gameloft did when it built its own mobile ad server so it could create native ads for its mobile apps that worked better and were less intrusive than those from outside demand partners.

Or even what BBC did, using the analytics functions of its SSPs in order to adjust price floors to improve yield.

3. Embrace Private Marketplaces

PMPs were every publisher’s favorite growth area this year, pairing advertiser data with pricing that reflected the value of access to a publisher’s inventory. Among those hailing their benefits were Answers.com, TEN, About.com and CafeMom.

4. Make sure advertiser tags don’t ruin the user experience

Hearst Newspapers has a tool to deal with the dozens of tags from its advertisers. But Susan Parker, VP of digital revenue and analytics, thinks other ad tech partners need to step up too, she told AdExchanger earlier this year. “We’re reaching a point where these technologies have to be tested with the help of publishers, and not around them.”

5. Add “programmatic” to non-digital ad sales

Time Inc. experimented with programmatic print, a way to buy its magazines' audiences instead of an individual title. “We wanted to take advantage of the momentum we have in [digital] programmatic and consider, ‘How do we make print equally accessible to all buyers?’” Time Inc. SVP Andy Blau said of the original decision to create programmatic print.

6. Focus on ad quality 

Publishers who bring in ads programmatically deal with low-quality ads, or ones that counter a publisher’s mission. That’s the case with the Guardian, which has dealt with NRA ads showing up on the site. “If I didn’t work for the Guardian, I would block ads,” Guardian US CEO Eamonn Store told AdExchanger. He is calling for the industry to create more solutions that give control back to publishers dealing with unscrupulous advertisers and brand-harming ads.

 7. Add publisher data

Data management platforms (DMPs) are a publisher’s best friend. Edmunds began sharing its data with automobile advertisers for the first time this year. Using DMPs to organize data from print subscribers is Tribune Publishing’s next big project, and CafeMom is building its own DMP, Athena. On the horizon, publishers like The Odyssey see opportunity in bringing context to the programmatic decisioning process. “Today a vast amount of programmatic is audience buying,” said Ken Nelson, chief business strategy officer for The Odyssey. “We feel there’s a form of targeting that’s evolving that’s content-driven and native-driven.”

8. Participate in Facebook Instant Articles

Publishers can direct sell ads via Facebook Instant Articles, but they can also rely on Facebook to sell ads using its audience data. It’s clear the Instant Articles experience is faster for Facebook users, but not as clear if it will bring in as much revenue for publishers as their traditional setups. The Washington Post and The Atlantic both publish on the platform.

9. Speak the language of programmatic buyers

Intermarkets talks to buyers using programmatic lingo like where they are in the stack, audience matching and backing into KPIs. That’s the key, Erik Requidan believes, to unlocking higher-value programmatic budgets. Other buyers and sellers agree: The biggest mistake publishers make, MediaMath VP Sam Cox observed, is sellers “pricing arbitrarily without understanding downstream economics of the advertiser.”

10. Decide if programmatic is right for you 

Not everyone likes programmatic – including top publishers like Refinery29 and Vice. As Mic CEO Chris Altchek told AdExchanger, “The big winners [in digital publishing] will have the scale to work with agencies and brands directly and solve the challenges that brands and agencies have. Others will have to work with programmatic, ad networks. They’re giving up 40% to 50% of their CPMs to third parties, and that’s a harder business.”


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