Web Publishers Need A New Mantra

I forgot my mantraIn a memorable clip from 1977 film classic Annie Hall, a young Jeff Goldblum says his one and only line into the phone, “Hello? I lost my mantra.” Transporting ahead Star Trek-style to 2009, publishers struggle with their mantra saying, “Hello? I lost my CPMs.”

Demand-side voice, Rob Griffin of Media Contacts – makers of the Artemis platform – tells Joe Mandese in MediaPost today that ad networks’ ability to aggregate audience in a cost-effective manner is changing marketers digital strategies and, consequently, reducing pricing power for large publishers.

Havas’ client – Lenovo’s Gary Milner – adds fuel to the “premium” CPM bonfire saying, “We don’t buy any premium inventory in display anymore…It’s hard to make a $30 CPM work when you have a 15x difference [in ROI].”

It may be hard for any large publisher to admit in public, but the cat is out of the bag, the horse is out of the barn, the genie is out of the bottle, and now someone’s fly is open.

In that quality, actionable inventory is available through networks and exchanges (whether from remnant lots of large, “premium” publisher sites or through the premium/remnant of the Long Tail) buyers are not going to be paying the CPMs of yesteryear.

What’s a pub to do? Get a new mantra!

Supply Is The New Demand

Publishers need to become counter-intuitive in their future, digital media strategies: let go of pricing. And, we’re not saying Ms./Mr Publisher that you should not set baseline CPMs for inventory or floor pricing. Of course you should – price control is an exchange feature to be leveraged by the publisher.

But, if you’re a publisher, you are going to need to open your inventory to the auction of the exchange and prepare yourself for real-time bidding. As data and exchange liquidity wraps itself around each impression in the real-time bidding process, your CPMs increase and unlock previously unattainable pricing.

Moreover, publishers are going to need to become buyers and arbitrage. In acquiring less expensive traffic, pubs will drive reach and yield. It’s going to become a math “challenge” to a degree, but tools and trading platforms are developing which will make it easier. As we’ve said before, publishers will need to create the role(s) of “trader” on their sales team who can sell and buy online display inventory.

No doubt subscription models may become a revenue solution for the publisher as will the fat CPMs of custom, integrated sponsorships enabled by a direct sales team.

But trading is coming, too, and for those ready to jump, you may find a new mantra.

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