“The Sell Sider” is a column written for the sell side of the digital media community.
Today’s column is written by Christopher Guenther, senior vice president, global head of programmatic, at News Corp.
One of the oldest tenets of business has been to put the customer first – and it holds especially true for media. Publishers must invest heavily in bringing users quality journalism, new on-demand experiences and holistic and innovative practices. But for many publishers and the programmatic monetization of their inventory, it’s challenging to assess the effects on the customer experience.
For years publishers have seen technology as something they selected partners for – the popularity of managed-service header bidding solutions in the past few years proves that – but now more and more publishers are realizing that relying on a team other than themselves can cause conflicts of interest, leading them into business decisions that are far from optimal for themselves, their users and advertisers.
But, we can look to ourselves as publishers to strike that balance. Any third party is incentivized to service the one side they are focused on – but only the publisher knows their own goals and appropriate analytics to drive their business forward. Looking holistically at how the consumer experience is impacted with header bidding is a great example of one area to do so.
The assumption of how header bidding affects consumers
The longer timeouts are open, the longer load times become.
The common belief is that extending the load times leads to an unhappy reader, which then leads to higher bounce rates affecting both the editorial and business side of the house. To put it simply, without having the tools to analyze header bidding holistically, publishers go into these auctions blindly when it comes to the consumer experience.
Publishers can't just trust our partners, some of which are Big Tech, for off-the-shelf solutions to see how both the user and revenue are affected. Publishers need to build solutions that fit hand-in-hand with our own goals and focuses. It’s possible that we’re not leaving the auction open long enough and are compromising our own revenue, or on the flip side, that we’re leaving the auction open too long and are compromising our users’ experience.
Building our own solutions allows us to make decisions that are best for publishers, our users and our advertisers – not necessarily in the product lines of third-party technology companies.
There is a fix – invest in the engineering, including both the talent and the infrastructure – to incorporate user behavior in publishers’ post-bid analysis. Building this information into a proprietary ad stack can potentially drive more revenue – or at the very least drive more informed decisions on how long to keep your timeouts open.
Most analytics solutions consider revenue in a vacuum: They look at an impression and what is the maximum CPM they can get for that. What makes more sense is looking by user and seeing how the user experience changes monetization and how keeping them in your environment or keeping them coming back increases revenue overall.
The bigger picture
As publishers, no one understands our users and content quite like we do, meaning our analytics solution should be bespoke to our goals and revenue streams. It’s also crucial to incorporate diversified revenue streams, such as subscriptions and lead gen, into our analytics, so we look at our data to holistically support maximizing revenue generation – not just in advertising.
While weaving consumer experience analytics into tech is just one investment publishers can make, the key takeaway here is that we should be making investments that help us diversify away from the off-the-shelf solutions that were created to help us make money – yet sacrifice a lot of control.
Moving in the direction of looking at programmatic holistically doesn’t just help publishers take more control of their inventory, but also creates a fairer and more intelligent auction environment. And at the end of the day, a happy user means a more receptive and engaged consumer for advertisers to reach.