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Scripps Among Publishers Facing ‘Programmatic Headwinds’

CPMs publishers decliningThe shift to programmatic isn’t making things easier for Scripps, the media company behind properties like HGTV, The Food Network, and The Travel Channel.

Programmatic, difficulties monetizing mobile, and declining display revenues brought Scripps’ digital business down 5.3% year over year. Since digital accounted for just $27 million out of Scripps’ $684 million in revenue for the quarter, the company had a solid quarter overall, with total operating revenues up 6.5%.

“We're seeing some headwinds from programmatic buying” affecting digital revenues, President Burton Jablin told investors during the company’s Q2 earnings call Thursday.

Scripps is not alone in having difficulty adapting to programmatic. Other publishers that have cited issues with programmatic depressing average CPMs areThe New York Times, Meredith, Yahoo .

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People and EW Improve Engagement With Multiplatform Video

Gotham and Time Inc Mobile VideoAs mobile traffic grows, the stakes for advertisers also climb. This is especially true for a publisher like Time Inc., where mobile traffic increased 35% in six short months - from 39 million unique views in December to 53 million unique views in June.

As more traffic shifts to mobile, “being able to provide more value in the mobile space is key right now. With mobile, a client can have more than one opportunity to reach that user, and there is a lot of value there,” said Derek Gatts, associate director of advertising operations for Time Inc.

Recently, there was a problem. Time Inc. properties People and Entertainment Weekly (EW) wanted to enable entertainment clients to create, video-centric ad campaigns, but Apple’s iOS only allows autoplay video ads in-app, not on the mobile web.

“It’s a matter of engagement,” Gatts said “Immediately streaming a video without asking our user to leave the site automatically grabs their attention.” (more…)


AOL Is Reaping The Rewards Of Programmatic

AOL quote"Programmatic ads grew at over 100% year-over-year, and we're growing faster than the programmatic field overall," AOL CEO Tim Armstrong told investors looking over the company's second-quarter results. "Programmatic [ad revenue] has grown from 5% to 34% of our business in a year, which is part of a large industry shift and the biggest shift in the business in the past twenty years," he said.

Besides programmatic, better inventory pricing and video helped propel AOL's advertising higher. Display was up 9% year-over-year, search was up 6%. AOL's third-party platforms business, which includes AOL One, Adap.tv, Ad.com, as well as AOL's DSP and SSP, was the biggest beneficiary: Revenue was up 60% year over year.

AOL's better monetization of inventory suggests it is executing better than Yahoo, the other first generation digital publisher to which it is often compared. During its earnings call, Yahoo said it was struggling with declining CPMs as it tried to increase its premium inventory.

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OpenX Plays A Game Of Inches For SSP Supremacy

merging-demand-ssp-openxSupply-side platforms (SSPs) such as OpenX, Rubicon Project and PubMatic are under heavy pressure to increase value for publishers who pay a premium to use their technologies.

“The fact that SSPs are positioned on the sell side after much of the transaction value has been extracted by other intermediaries puts more pressure on their margins than buy-side players' experience,” said Andrew Frank, analyst at Gartner.

It’s in this environment that OpenX recently began pitching its updated SSP, which it says allows publishers to maximize their ad rates by combining real-time bidding (RTB) and ad network demand into a single, real-time auction.

Describing the new SSP as a “culmination of an acquisition plus two years of development work” following the company’s 2012 purchase of LiftDNA, Jason Fairchild, chief revenue officer of OpenX, said the goal was to allow the platform to “adhere to a marketplace model such that there is pricing pressure and full visibility across all demand channels.”

The concept of a single auction for multiple demand sources isn’t new – PubMatic’s Unified Auction, launched in 2010, combined demand from ad networks, RTB and direct sales to automatically sell and serve ads to the highest bidder. Google’s “dynamic allocation” is a similar concept, although it only works within Google’s ecosystem with DoubleClick for Publishers and Google Ad Exchange.

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Gannett Splits Business into Two, Buys Remainder of Cars.com for $1.8 Billion

Splitting the BabyGannett is splitting its business into two separate, publicly traded companies. One will be the publishing division, including USA Today, USAToday.com, and 81 newspapers across the US. The other company will hold Gannett's digital and broadcasting properties. That will include 46 television stations, as well as Cars.com and CareerBuilder.com.

Gannett will also pay $1.8 billion in cash to acquire the remaining 73% of Cars.com that it does not currently own. The digital business alone will take on the debt related to the acquisition.

"This represents a one-two punch that will position these businesses for growth,” said Gannett CEO Gracia Martore in a call with investors. She will continue as CEO of the digital and broadcasting business.

The split speaks to the different valuations and forecasts for the newspaper and television businesses. "Wall Street does not value print media the way it values broadcast," said Peter Krasilovsky, VP and senior analyst for BIA/Kelsey. "We haven't had illusions about 'synergies' between print and broadcast for several years."

Cars.com will give Gannett’s digital business access to a large amount of local advertising revenue. “Cars.com doubles our growing digital business,” said Martore. It has 30 million visits per month and displays 4.3 million cars from 20,000 dealers, making it “one of the few proven and established digital solutions of scale in this market,” Gannett said in its release. Cars.com also recently changed its agreements with its affiliates to make the terms more favorable to Cars.com, which is expected to further improve the margins of the business. (more…)


Men's Sporting Vertical Scout Media Taps Big Digital Talent With An Eye On Programmatic

ramsey-scoutScout Media is pulling together an A-team of digital talent in the wake of founder James Heckman's repurchase of the business from Fox/News Corp.

The new leadership, including Ross Levinsohn as executive chairman and Ramsey McGrory as EVP of programmatic and media partnerships, will help build Scout into a larger content and commerce play with programmatic at the core.

Scout is a men's interest vertical media company focused on football, golf, baseball, hunting, fishing and military themes. It was created from both the reacquisition of Scout.com from Fox, which purchased it from Heckman in 2005, and the print publisher North American Membership Group.

Scout boasts 300 websites, 35 magazines and three TV shows reaching an audience of 21 million. Its annual revenue is north of $100 million, half of which is derived from ecommerce.

Levinsohn, the interim Yahoo CEO before Marissa Mayer was picked to fill that role, most recently ran Guggenheim Digital Media, the investing vehicle that owns The Hollywood Reporter and Adweek. He will be executive chairman of Scout, which he once oversaw as president of Fox Interactive Media.

Another key hire is that of McGrory, the former CEO of Yahoo's Right Media exchange and more recently AddThis. McGrory will be EVP of programmatic and media partnerships, leading everything to do with programmatic ad sales, data, audience products, content distribution and partnerships.
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Upworthy Sees Early Success With Its Socially Conscious Native Content

Ed Urgola UpworthyEarlier this month, Upworthy – a curator of socially-conscious content – revealed native content was outperforming editorial content. The data was striking: Branded content received 3.5 times as many views, 2.9 times more “Attention Minutes” (an Upworthy-developed metric) and three times as many social shares compared to its in-house editorial content. All this for a site that launched its first formal native advertising campaign in April.

“Most reactions to that are ‘What? How? Why?’ said Ed Urgola, director of marketing and communications at Upworthy. “We kind of thought to ourselves when we saw that for the first time. First off, the selection bias is high. We’re picking the right campaigns for the right brands, giving them TLC, making sure they’re framed up properly, and with the same curators that work on editorial working with brands.”

Selection bias aside, getting native to perform well is a challenge for any site. For Upworthy, the stakes are even higher. The site does not run display advertising, so the site is monetizes its content through paid posts.

That may be one reason why Upworthy made the source code publicly available for its new metric, Attention Minutes, intended to measure total engagement instead of clicks and page views. It’s a metric designed for native, not display. (more…)


Programmatic Consultancies Help Publishers Play Catch-Up

Matt ProhaskaJust because there’s a push to adapt programmatic strategies doesn’t mean everyone is equipped to handle them. Publishers, in particular, have lagged behind advertisers in embracing programmatic.

While agencies now have trading desks and brands like includes Kimberly-Clark, Kellogg’s, Procter & Gamble, Heineken and Mondelez International are taking it one step further, bringing programmatic brand in-house, many publishers are just starting their programmatic operations or have just dipped their toe into the waters. It’s a situation that’s led to the rise of a handful of programmatic consulting groups.

Last August for instance, two architects of IPG’s trading desk founded Unbound, which offers technology- and service systems-integrator services. And five months ago, Matt Prohaska reopened the doors of his consulting business, Prohaska Consulting.

“As the industry matures, programmatic has become part of doing business,” Prohaska said.

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Defining Native Advertising Success At The Washington Post

wapo-andresenLike many publishers, The Washington Post’s Kelly Andresen grapples with success metrics for native advertising campaigns.

As director of ad innovations and product strategy, she has a front-row seat on her publication’s digital evolution and oversees teams that are dedicated to creating new digital advertising revenue, including native.

“When you move into content marketing, it’s a whole different conversation than standard display advertising," Andresen said. "A click-through rate is not going to tell you a story of how well your native campaign performed."

WaPo’s go-to native product is WP Brand Connect and Q4 of this year will bring its next iteration: a roll-out of the solution in all of the company’s mobile apps. It will build on what Andresen said has been a successful implementation for the company's desktop and mobile web properties.

Andresen discussed the latest on native at The Washington Post with AdExchanger.

AdExchanger: What’s the biggest challenge in measuring native?

KELLY ANDRESEN: I think our biggest challenge is “How do you define success?” Right now, it’s different for every advertiser since each has different requirements in developing a content marketing campaign.

A metric like time spent on site or video completions might make sense to our advertisers. Or, their goals might be that they just want to get their message out there and raise awareness. So sharing metrics such as “How often did people share this?” and “How often did they ‘like’ it?” are probably much better measures for awareness and engagement.

In the end, it’s about how clients define success and how can we design a program and the metrics that help them understand what happened here and if they made a great investment. (more…)


Digital Advertising, Circulation Up But Profit Down For New York Times Q2

Mark-Thompson-CEO-NYTCo

The New York Times' overall revenue declined .6% in Q2 year over year to $388.7 million; its adjusted operating profit declined drastically from $70.7 million in Q2 2013 to 55.7 million in Q2 2014. Advertising revenues were down 4.1% to $156.3 million year over year, fulfilling a Q1 prediction by CFO James Follo that such revenues would decline. Much of this was driven by weakness in print advertising which decreased 6.6% year over year.

Digital advertising and circulation stemmed the losses somewhat. Digital advertising increased 3.4% to $41.5 million from $40.1 million, and currently accounts for over a quarter of all advertising revenue.

The New York Times added 32,000 digital subscribers in the quarter, 39% more than the growth at the same time last year, for a total of 831,000 subscribers. That includes e-reader subscriptions as well as new products like NYT Now, Times Premier and NYT Opinion.

Growing digital circulation further is an area of focus. “We know that long-term digital revenue growth depends on the reach and depth of engagement of our digital audience…[we] believe we can significantly grow our digital audience, which in turn will contribute to improved digital subscription and advertising monetization,” CEO Mark Thompson said in a statement. (more…)