Home Networking Settling The Network Debate: What Are Publishers Missing?

Settling The Network Debate: What Are Publishers Missing?


“Networking” is a new column focused on the evolving roles of networks in online advertising.

Today’s column is written by Andrew Pancer, Chief Operating Officer of Media6Degrees.

networkingIt’s become a sport to bash ad networks over the past couple years, with panels and articles calling for publishers to “fire your network.” My personal favorite was an article calling networks “a tax on lazy publishers” and publishers “idiots”. It’s interesting commentary and does bring to light some legitimate issues. The problem is that these network haters are trying too hard to make a complex solution into a black and white issue.

It’s a tough time for publishers. The publishing business is not easy to begin with. And advances in technology that have caused your traditional audience and brand sales strategy to be at risk have made it even harder. But bashing ad networks is not the answer. There is no going back. The industry has changed forever thanks to the fragmentation of audiences, the abundance of content and advances in technology – and networks and exchanges do provide a value in this new reality.

I am convinced that once the frenzy dies down, the end game will be better for the audience, publishers, and marketers alike. Having spent time on both the publisher and the advertising technology side, I’ve collected some ideas on what publishers should be doing now to adapt:

1. Intelligent use of inventory –

It’s pretty well known that many, if not most, online publishers generate the majority of their revenue from only a portion of their inventory (the 80/20 rule). Publishers on average typically only sell less than half of their inventory through their direct sales force.

Network haters have rallied the publisher world to not even turn over the unsold inventory to networks, arguing that you won’t make any money from it. This misguided strategy is just leaving money on the table.

Publishers should keep the best inventory. You should sell it at premium rates and not turn it over to networks. But the other inventory that goes unsold should not be left fallow. Publishers benefit from every dollar of revenue. Why make profitability that much harder?

2. Creativity by the publisher –

Randall Rothenberg and the IAB threw down the gauntlet last year for our industry when he demanded that we bring more creativity into online advertising. When I say publishers should keep their best inventory, I don’t mean just to run standard creative units. Your best inventory should also leverage your best ad products. Use sponsorships, roadblocks, rich media, video, conversational marketing tools. When you do this, networks cannot compete with you on your home turf. And it is this level of thinking and work that marketers are looking for when they spend at premium levels. Show them you are a strategic partner, not just another place to run banners.


AdExchanger Daily

Get our editors’ roundup delivered to your inbox every weekday.

3. Performance –

You cannot rely on the quality of your audience and your brand alone. If you are just selling standard units in non-endemic areas at a premium, you need to rethink your strategy. Now.

A huge eye opener for me moving from the publishing side to the technology side was the fact all we do – all day long, every day of the week – is focus on ROI for our marketing partners. Achieving ROI is the responsibility of every team within our organization. It requires a concerted effort across all functions. Publishers are not able to have this singular focus. You need to put the consumer first and the advertiser second. Outside of the top publishers who have large in-house technology teams, most publishers do not have the resources in place to create a truly unique consumer product while also keeping that unwavering focus on ROI.

As a result, many publishers often have to rely on irrelevant static ads running against general content, and the audience is not influenced by the message. These publishers are not putting their best foot forward for marketers and will get dramatically outgunned by the guys who can target effectively.

Think of the inventory that you do not sell directly. For example, the traffic that comes in from search to articles that were created years ago. There is clear intent there on the part of the consumer. Are you set up effectively to target them? If not, let someone else do it and pay you for that option.

I just do not see any way publishers can hope to compete in this game on their own.
So sell your best stuff. Cordon off your most desired content and develop the best possible campaign you can. Price it at a premium because marketers will pay for quality. But publishers, you cannot solve all of your problems by turning off ad networks. There is an optimal mix of direct sales and networks. I strongly encourage publishers to spend more time finding this balance and less time trying to turn back the clock.

Follow Andrew Pancer (@apancer) and AdExchanger.com (@adexchanger) on Twitter.

Must Read

Advertible Makes Its Case To SSPs For Running Native Channel Extensions

Companies like TripleLift that created the programmatic native category are now in their awkward tween years. Cue Advertible, a “native-as-a-service” programmatic vendor, as put by co-founder and CEO Tom Anderson.

Mozilla acquires Anonym

Mozilla Acquires Anonym, A Privacy Tech Startup Founded By Two Top Former Meta Execs

Two years after leaving Meta to launch their own privacy-focused ad measurement startup in 2022, Graham Mudd and Brad Smallwood have sold their company to Mozilla.

Nope, We Haven’t Hit Peak Retail Media Yet

The move from in-store to digital shopper marketing continues, as United Airlines, Costco, PayPal, Chase and Expedia make new retail media plays. Plus: what the DSP Madhive saw in advertising sales software company Frequence.

Privacy! Commerce! Connected TV! Read all about it. Subscribe to AdExchanger Newsletters
Comic: Ad-ception

The New York Times And Instacart Integrate For Shoppable Recipes

The New York Times and Instacart are partnering for shoppable recipe videos.

Experian Enters The Third-Party Data Onboarding Business

Experian entered the third-party data onboarder market on Tuesday with a new product based on its Tapad acquisition.

Albertsons Takes Its First Steps Into Non-Endemic Advertising, Retail Media’s Next Frontier

Albertsons is taking that first step into non-endemic advertising next week via a partnership with Rokt to serve ads to people who have already purchased groceries.