Photo: Flickr | ArneCoomans
I’ve spent the last few days at the Digiday Publisher Summit in Park City, UT. Not a bad place to have a conference (despite there being very little snow).
The final session of the event focused on the topic: “What’s keeping publishers up at night?” The lively discussion included the same concerns that most of the publishers I speak with are wrestling with day in and day out. Here are some highlights along with my thoughts on how a range of publishers are addressing them.
1) Audience Data: Publishers have proprietary data that they should protect, leverage to create differentiation in the market, and use to scale media and access to those valuable audiences outside their owned and operated inventory. Ziff Davis is a great example of a publisher using proprietary data to offer marketers unique access to highly qualified audiences.
2) Google: Google offers a closed advertising system that is driving automation, scale and efficiency for marketers but publishers are wary. Google has so much control, captures an inordinate amount of the value from each ad transaction vs the actual value they create, and are actively competing with most publishers via their massive media properties like YouTube and Google Finance.
3) Automation: Paul Rossi of The Economist said that real time bidding is suicide for publishers. That may be a bit aggressive, but for a premium publisher simply dumping inventory into an open exchange will certainly devalue the inventory and make it very difficult to run a profitable business. However, RTB and more automated buying mechanisms like 24/7 Connect give publishers transparency and control over the inventory, how it is purchased and who can buy that inventory. If used smartly, automation can drive efficiency and higher yields for the publisher.
4) Ad Verification: Premium publishers don’t understand the need for ad verification. They see why a marketer may want to use these services in the open exchange marketplace to ensure brand safety but when being bought directly within a known environment the additional costs don’t make sense. There are hard costs that impact the bottom line and having the additional tracking tags potentially slows page load and risks data leakage.
5) Content versioning: Should publishers be building multiple versions of their content to engage with consumers within various devices and environments? Is it smart for a publisher to build a version of their site on Facebook, Flipboard, multiple versions of tablets, tumblr, etc. No one will argue that consumers are flocking to these environments in droves, but as a publisher you need to determine how you want your audiences to engage and where you will maintain the most control and ability to generate revenues.
6) Monetizing Mobile: Finding ways to derive value from the explosively growing inventory on mobile was a hot topic. Most publishers mentioned that mobile inventory is now a significant portion of their overall volume — upwards of 40% of traffic. This creates a dilemma as the buyers are not yet prepared to plan, buy and analyse mobile and the budgets are still experimental. There is definitely some good creative work being done, but the reoccurring theme was that mobile will shine when the quality rich media creative executions are standardized across device types.
7) Video content creation: 2012 is all about video and most publishers are doubling down in video, Meredith launched a video studio, Spanfeller Group built a video studio in their new NYC offices, and HealthiNation is aggressively moving into lifestyle content for syndication across the web. Marketers love pre-roll video advertising and are willing to pay a premium to be adjacent to original content. This creates a great opportunity for publishers to drive larger revenues if they can create quality content at a reasonable price point. Branded entertainment content is also something that publishers like Gawker and Vox Media are adopting to deliver higher levels of engagement between brands and consumers.
Clearly publishers have a lot on their plates. There are many innovations happening in the digital space and in order to remain relevant and competitive publishers need to find ways to 1) protect their value, 2) say “no” more frequently, 3) focus on their core product, making it the best in the market, and 4) find partners that can help them evolve. I would love to hear from you. What’s keeping you up at night?
The views expressed here reflect the views of the author alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views of 24/7 Real Media, its affiliates, subsidiaries or its parent company, WPP plc.
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