The New Publisher Revenue Stream: Data

Social Exchange“Social Exchange” is a column focused on the evolving roles of social media in online advertising.

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

There has been a lot of discussion around Mediaweek’s April 4th article “Web Publishers, Ad Nets at Odds”, where and several other major publishers accuse InterCLICK of falsely claiming to sell their inventory. I don’t want to jump into an already crowded conversation, and I’ve already expressed my thoughts on this subject in an opinion piece I wrote in December, which states my position on how publishers should manage unsold inventory.

But for the publishers that won’t sell their ad inventory to networks, there remains the opportunity to sell your data. It’s as valuable to the networks as your remnant inventory, and selling data alleviates many of your concerns about working with third parties.

Ad networks are focused on performance, and the way they deliver on performance is through data.  Sharing basic anonymous data about a browser (not PII) is more valuable to an ad network than being able to share a transparent site list. “Who a user is is becoming more important than where they are,” Mark Zagorski, CRO of Exelate recently told ClickZ. I couldn’t agree more.

Selling data helps publishers in several ways:

  1. If a publisher is determined to keep full control over their inventory, they can continue to do so by selling through their direct channels. They will maintain exclusive control over their inventory. Sold correctly, this exclusivity makes a strong case for advertisers to buy the publisher’s site. In addition, publishers can work with their data partners to create additional solutions and programs for marketers to engage their audience in a high-quality branded environment.
  2. They can tap into a new revenue stream that does not compete with their core business. We read every day how data is becoming such an important part of our ecosystem. Why should publishers sit on the sidelines when this sector is expected to continue to grow rapidly?
  3. They can improve user experience on their sites. Direct sales efforts typically bring in advertisers who are relevant to the publisher’s audience. If the publisher only serves directly sold ads or house ads, their audience will wind up seeing fewer poorly-targeted ads. I would encourage publishers to work with data partners to develop additional means to target their audience while on the site.

The good news is that new technology has come to market to help marketers manage numerous retargeting pixels through a single universal container tag, which acts as the vessel to work with numerous partners. Companies such as Coremetrics have solutions in the market and present a much easier way to manage third-party tags. I have heard that publisher solutions are also on the way. Multiple tags on a site present risks, such as latency to a publisher. Having a universal tag will alleviate the issue and allow for a scalable revenue stream.

I see solutions for both large and small publishers. Large publishers should utilize reach and cut direct deals with networks and data providers. The non PII data available as a byproduct of site visitation is valuable. Recycle it and generate revenue from it. Small publishers should use data exchanges like BlueKai and eXelate. In order to be successful, they need to figure out the niche that they fill with the data they can provide.

Publishers’ best bets are to serve targeting solutions to their readership as they are visiting the site.  Doing this with a data overlay will allow them to better serve their advertiser clients and prove that their site is a “must” buy.  Simply turning off networks isn’t the answer, and publishers doing so are fighting a losing battle – one that I would strongly advise against fighting.

Follow Andrew Pancer (@apancer), Media6Degrees (@Media6Degrees) and (@adexchanger) on Twitter.

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1 Comment

  1. Great article, Andrew. However I question the solution for ‘small’ publishers to take advantage of the data networks, when they apparently (from my experience) aren’t interested in working with pubs w/under 500K-1 million monthly unique users. Or are you referring to >500k uniques when you say ‘small’? Are there any data buyers out there interested in publishers who generate 1-200k uniques per month?