Can Standardized Content Taxonomies Level The Playing Field For Publishers?

The Sell Sider” is a column written by the sell side of the digital media community.

Today’s column is written by Yuval Nahum, VP of product at WhizzCo.

Scale. That’s the dirty five-letter word that keeps advertisers and agencies spending their budgets with Google and Meta. Even the largest and most prestigious publishers can’t come close to delivering that kind of scale.  

But one area where publishers have an advantage over the duopoly is content. For all of their eyeballs and engagement, neither Google nor Meta offer much original content (outside of YouTube). Publishers have a lot of it. 

To help publishers monetize their content and data with greater scale and in a privacy-safe way, the IAB Tech Lab announced seller-defined audiences (SDA) earlier this year. Seller-defined audiences provide publishers with 1,600 IAB audience taxonomies and enable them to define audience segments using demographics, interests and purchase-intent attributes.  

There is no doubt that the scale that SDA would offer marketers could generate a lot of revenue and shift budgets from walled gardens to the open web – if enough publishers implement it. But that’s a big “if.”

Over the years, there have been many publisher-centric initiatives, yet Google and Meta have continued to dominate. Here’s why things may unfold differently this time around.

Big Tech will have to support ad tech 

From attacks on Jedi Blue to antitrust legislation, Big Tech is under pressure. The Computer and Communications Industry Association – a lobbying organization backed by Amazon, Apple, Google and Meta – spent $22 million on advertising across 30+ broadcast and cable markets during just one week this past May.

The best way for Big Tech to alleviate that pressure is to support the digital advertising ecosystem. The segment of digital advertising most impacted by the rise of Big Tech is publishers. Therefore, they’re the most likely benefactors of Big Tech’s largesse. By supporting publishers, Big Tech loses less in revenue than if they support direct competitors, many of which are part of the digital advertising stack.

Supporting seller-defined audiences would be relatively easy for a company like Google. SDA would enable advertisers to programmatically bid on more publisher supply at scale via DoubleClick Bid Manager, Google’s demand-side platform.

SDA is a true first-party, privacy-friendly offering

With legislation and industry changes impacting third-party data, SDAs facilitate the transmission of first-party data to bidders in a privacy-compliant manner. Specifically, SDAs enable publishers to define audience segments and communicate this first-party segment data to the marketers and agencies bidding.

From the advertiser’s perspective, when SDAs are implemented across publishers, they provide scalable first-party data to effectively power campaigns.

Publishers need new revenue opportunities

Newspapers have been declining since 2000. Though this trend is continuing, several publishers are bucking the trend. There is Politico’s $1 billion sale to German publisher Axel Springer last year. In 2020, Axel Springer-owned Insider acquired Morning Brew for $75 million. And, in May of this year, Candle Media acquired digital publisher ATTN for $150 million. Beyond these acquisitions, there is industry excitement around young and growing publisher initiatives, including Axios and Industry Dive.

Growing publisher confidence should empower publishers to retake revenue control. Seller-defined audiences, as a content and audience-driven monetization solution, are the right vehicles for publishers to use to reassert this power.

Stormy seas or calm waters?

The value of SDAs vs. Big Tech only happens when there is scale. Therefore, publishers have an incentive to work together to accrue the greatest benefit from SDAs.

Timing is everything. With the current pressure on Big Tech, are we in the midst of a perfect storm that will drive the growth of seller-defined audiences? Or will it be yet another missed opportunity for publishers?

Follow WhizzCo (@WhizzCo_AI) and AdExchanger (@adexchanger) on Twitter.

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1 Comment

  1. Barron Hirsch

    We are in the health and medical category and work with pharmaceutical buyers. Unfortunately for our industry, the taxonomy will not work at all. Under “Health & Medical Services”, I see only 18 subcategories which are ridiculously few in number to accommodate for a $4.1 trillion industry. The gold standard in healthcare is the MESH taxonomy which has over 18,000 nodes. For advertising purposes, we certainly don’t need that many, but we do need more than 18.

    For folks in other industries, I am curious as to how you feel this IAB taxonomy accommodates your industry(?).