For The New York Post, Vertical Video Becomes A Pre-Roll Alternative

The New York Post has a love-hate relationship with pre-roll.

While pre-roll typically commands high CPMs when sold directly, too often it’s hard to monetize because it’s either in short supply or locked up in private marketplaces.

Sometimes the supply issue is technical. The New York Post recently found it had missed half of its video ad calls because of a disconnect between its player and its ad server, DoubleClick for Publishers.

“While we sell through a lot of our pre-roll inventory, because of issues with our player, we’re not able to push out or monetize as much as we would like,” said Amanda Gomez, senior director of revenue operations for the Post.

While it works out those kinks, the Post has been moving some dollars away from pre-roll and into newer formats like outstream and vertical video using Unruly, the video platform its parent News Corp. acquired in 2015.

“We think of ourselves as a little startup within News Corp., so we’re always trying new things with the user experience, but at the same time, we need to make money,” Gomez said. “For us, vertical video was something new and customizable, since we work with a lot of entertainment and fashion clients who want to try the newest trends out there.” 

Even though the New York Post is moving toward transacting most of its inventory programmatically, it has monetized vertical video mostly through direct sales since the format still attracts advertisers looking for a shiny new object.

“It’s something we’re able to go out with when we’re selling that buyers get really excited about,” Gomez said. “Because of Snapchat, a lot of times it’s more prevalent for clients who want to make a splash.”

When Unruly launched its vertical video format in June 2016, News Corp. properties like The Sun and the Post quickly adopted it.

Although vertical video was first popularized by platforms like Snap, it’s gaining traction as publishers like Match Media Group, which owns the dating app Tinder, increasingly monetize through full-screen, in-app video ads.

Because the format is immersive and designed to match a mobile user’s natural movements like a swipe or scroll, Gomez says it’s a win-win for advertisers and consumers.

“We’ve seen this mini ecosystem emerge around vertical video content,” added Craig Hughes, SVP of programmatic for Unruly. “The most interesting thing we’ve seen is a 36% boost in completion rate for vertical video compared to horizontal.”

While many publishers are still in the experimental stage with vertical video, the Post predicts even more dollars will move once publishers prove out its performance over the long haul.

And increasingly, Unruly’s Hughes sees these nonstandard video ad formats bought programmatically through private marketplaces as partner DSPs facilitate more demand.

Initial returns are promising. Gomez said vertical video completion rates are about 10% higher than horizontal units, and are slightly higher than outstream or in-article ad units.

“A lot of publishers are in the same boat as us,” she said. “We’re creating video teams to try and create as much of our own content as possible rather than [distributing] other people’s content. Whether we’re pushing it out on our own channel or socially distributing it, video is only going to get bigger across the board.”

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