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Another Firm Exits Free Ad Serving

adzerk-james-averyFree ad serving might be bad business for all but the biggest players in ad tech.

AdZerk, an ad-selling platform for publishers, sent a notice to its free and self-service customers that it’s shutting down that part of the business to focus on its enterprise clients. The company will complete its exit Aug. 31.

The announcement comes just over a year after OpenX beat a hasty retreat from the self-service ad-serving space, with the abrupt shutdown of its OnRamp offering in February 2013. AdZerk swooped in and said at the time it was seeing self-service customers sign up at three times the normal rate in the immediate aftermath.

AdZerk’s free offering relied on small publishers to tack on premium products and convert into enterprise clients over time. CEO James Avery said the conversion from free to paying customer was disappointing – fewer than 1% of free users were going on to sign enterprise contracts. Avery said he’d hoped to see at least 3% of users convert.


AddThis Pivots From Social Shares To Publisher Content, Analytics

AddThisSocial bookmarking mainstay AddThis has rolled out an online marketplace to help online publishers serve more targeted and relevant content to their visitors.

Like other companies of its kind that have shifted strategies (Bitl.y for example), AddThis, which began initially with a distinct focus on sharing widgets and site plug-ins, has since expanded its pitch to include publisher "engagement" and analytics.

The shift was spearheaded by CEO Rich Harris, a relative newcomer to AddThis, who joined the company in September 2013.

"I felt like there was a lot of opportunity to get more out of the assets AddThis had and really configure them in a different way. One of those core assets is really this publisher platform, which has 13 million publishers using it," Harris said. "Another asset is the fact that we have a huge number of users coming to these publishers and we're able to see what they're doing and what they're engaging with on the Web on a daily basis."

The firm tracks 1.7 billion users on a monthly basis and has become a go-to repository for data about what's happening on the Internet, according to Harris.

"I felt that we could enhance and take advantage of that legacy of sharing to move into a full-fledged content engagement platform," he added.

AdExchanger caught up with Harris to discuss the reasons for the change, what it means for marketers and how AddThis will change its business model, accordingly.


Millward Brown: Publisher Ad Effectiveness Linked To Brand, Site Context


Both site content and a publisher's brand perception have significant impact on overall ad effectiveness, a new Millward Brown Digital publisher study reveals.

The study, titled "Publisher Impact," surveyed a sample group of 4,000 respondents, asking them to rate 40-some publishers across five categories for site "experience." The end goal? Help premium publishers justify their position as a "premium" inventory source.

“This is one of the first studies or solutions that really tries to think of sites as actual brands, and tries to understand what that impact it,” said senior client service analyst Hannah Pavalow at Millward Brown Digital. “In advertising, we often think a lot about product branding and creative. But it’s important to understand the bigger picture of what the context is.”

The study used a set of dimensions to "quantify" online consumer experience, and determined  that advertising efficiency is linked intrinsically to visitor experience. The six dimensions that shape online consumer experience include: meaningful difference, personality, touch points, site pedigree, visit catalyst and everyday relevance.


The Economist Makes First Impressions With New Multiplatform Ad Units

DavidKayeThe Economist has rolled out "First Impression" multiplatform ad units to let advertisers grab a weekly premium spot across all Economist channels, including its website, tablet and smartphone apps, as well as its print edition.

The publisher has also debuted a new weekly reader measurement called “Total Economist Weekly Audience” (TEWA) in partnership with PricewaterhouseCoopers to help advertisers determine how people are accessing its content. One TEWA finding indicates close to 40% of The Economist’s readers consume their content on at least two platforms.

David Kaye, The Economist’s senior vice president and chief revenue officer, spoke with AdExchanger about the new initiatives.

AdExchanger: Can you describe The Economist's audience reach?

DAVID KAYE: The global audience is a little more than 1.4 million for print and about 170,000 for digital-only. If you’d like both, you actually have to pay a little more.

How are readers consuming content cross-platform?

When we found out that almost 40% of The Economist’s worldwide readership consumes the content across at least two platforms, we weren’t terribly surprised. We always knew our audience used multiple platforms. Economist readers are certainly comfortable with technology, and they are frequent travelers equipped with an array of devices.


Post Spinoff, Time Inc.’s Fate May Boil Down To Video Ads

time-gearsTime Inc. is in a tough spot after its spinoff from Time Warner Inc.

It begins its run as an independent public company saddled with $1.3 billion in debt and revenue that has steadily declined with only two quarters of sequential growth in the past six years.

In related (and unfortunately timed) news, the publisher's erstwhile parent is reportedly in advanced talks to acquire a large stake in youth publisher Vice Media, as Sky News reported Monday. Time Warner's investment would value Vice at an estimated $2.2bn.

But Time Inc. will not go down without a fight.

Its private exchange  built on Google’s DoubleClick Ad Exchange  was relaunched globally in February. (The platform replaces a US-only version rolled out last September.) Time Exchange will target the 55 million households (116 million global uniques) the network reaches to be divided into audience segments and sold programmatically to advertisers. Its relaunched websites for the Fortune and Money brands are also keeping with the times by using native advertising in concert with standard display.


Mobile Video Difficult To Crack, But Offers Huge Potential

jeremysteinbergThe Sell-Sider” is a column written by the sell side of the digital media community.

Today’s column is written by Jeremy Steinberg, senior vice president of digital ad sales for The Weather Company.

I think everyone would agree that two of the biggest growth areas of digital advertising are mobile and video. Content consumption on mobile devices is skyrocketing, and I am seeing firsthand how marketers and agencies alike are grappling with how to invest in and message to the modern consumer.

At the same time, online video usage is growing by leaps and bounds, causing TV budgets to shift. As a result, it shouldn’t seem like a stretch that these two sectors combine to represent the fastest-growing area of digital advertising.

Mobile video is going to be huge in the near term. I have no doubt about it. But – and that is a big "but" – there are challenges that need to be overcome. The opportunity is still nascent because there is lack of consistency in ad products and content offerings across the mobile ecosystem.

But the IAB has laid the foundation for change with its recently announced Mobile Video Buyers Guide. And advances by Google with its Preferred Platform, Twitter’s Amplify program and Facebook’s Video Ads platform will help make it easier for marketers to run video ads on mobile.

Mobile video is by far the most complicated medium to unlock value for marketers right now. The good news though is that the train has left the station and explosive consumer usage will drive quick change. We just need to focus on several fronts to keep up.


Google Debuts Video Exchange, Plus Direct Deals Functionality In DoubleClick

neal-mohan-CAB-usethisThe road to "programmatic premium," once a cow path, has become a highway (OK, maybe a county road) cutting through the heart of ad land. And Google can't take its foot off the gas pedal.

The company on Wednesday rolled out a programmatic video marketplace called Google Partner Select and announced support for direct deals through the DoubleClick platform.

The new video exchange will aggregate supply from big name media companies focused on producing quality video ads. So far, only Time Inc. has been identified as a participant, but Google has promised agency partners that other high-caliber media companies are in the pipeline.

On the demand side, Google is positioning its Partner Select inventory to attract large brands and agencies clamoring for programmatic access to high-quality video ads. Google can help accelerate the efforts of agencies to strike individual deals with media companies, according to Steve Katelman, EVP for global strategic partnerships, digital, at Omnicom Media Group.


Yahoo Japan Gets On The Content Discovery Gravy Train, In Deal With Taboola

TaboolaYahooBeginning in September, Yahoo Japan will use Taboola's video discovery and content distribution network to power recommendations on owned and operated properties, as well as partner publisher sites, with the rollout of Yahoo Content Discovery.

Yahoo Japan is a joint venture of Yahoo and SoftBank. In addition to its role as an online search and Internet portal, Yahoo Japan runs online auction and ecommerce site Yahoo Shopping, which is now powering payment transactions with Alibaba’s Alipay service.

Yahoo (the Sunnyvale, Calif.-based one) owns about 30% of Yahoo Japan (some reports have pinned the value of that stake at $9 billion), in addition to its oft-discussed position in Alibaba Group, worth an estimated $26 billion.

In addition to global publisher access and the additional traction some 8.5 billion page views Yahoo News incurs each month, Adam Singolda, Taboola’s founder and CEO, said Yahoo Japan’s display advertiser relationships will be an additional base that Taboola can tap on the buy side.


The Prospects For A Google CMS

google-cmsAs AdExchanger reported Friday, Google is working on a CMS, likely with its own ad server baked in. The solution is expected to unify the functions of a content management system with the DoubleClick for Publishers toolset – ad serving, sales management, yield optimization, and so on.

Google has declined to comment on or confirm the report.

The key question here is not whether Google can pull this off – it probably can – but rather, could anyone else?

DoubleClick for Publishers reaches an estimated 85% of publishers in comScore's top 300, a very large base Google could use to upsell media companies on its CMS product. Furthermore DoubleClick's positioning as a provider of "total revenue management" for the advertiser might lend some credibility to its pitch. Publishers thinking about paywalls and commerce could also get those solutions from Google (though Google has not shown interest in driving commerce at the publisher level.)

"An intelligent CMS that is either ad aware or that is fully integrated or part of an ad delivery system would be game changing for the market," said Eric Picard, CEO at RareCrowds and a former executive in Microsoft's ad platforms business. "Google is one of the few companies that has the existing technology stack that could just be extended to roll out a CMS."


Google Explores A Unified CMS And Publisher Ad Platform

google-cmsGoogle is developing a content management system (CMS) that would unify editorial, advertising and perhaps commerce activities for media companies, AdExchanger has learned.

Beginning in 2013 Google started talks with some big publishers about offering software to help manage content and advertising in a holistic way, multiple sources said. Among the executives involved in some of those early discussions was Richard Gingras, Google's senior director of news and social projects and formerly the CEO at Salon Media Group. However, any CMS product would likely come from Google's ads development side, not Gingras' group on the news development side, sources said.

Google's CMS plans are at a very early stage. While discussions with some publishers began last year, no one commenting for this story has seen a demo or screenshot. But according to one source, the idea is more than conceptual. "It's past the whiteboard phase," this person said.

If and when the CMS becomes reality, the product would tie in to Google's publisher-facing ad stack including its DoubleClick for Publishers ad-management tools and its yield management capabilities acquired via AdMeld, now housed within DoubleClick Ad Exchange. Other likely functions include integrated paywall support, commerce features, content recommendation links and plugins to ad sales-management tools.