Dow Jones Navigates Native Video

djA year after launching a dedicated media unit, Dow Jones Media Group is doubling down on video and augmenting more native and outstream formats to combat a perennial problem: pre-roll scarcity.

“Like many publishers, we see huge demand for video and wish we had more inventory we could sell,” said David Minkin, who joined Dow Jones Media Group six months ago as GM of revenue operations.

Housed within the Dow Jones Media Group are the publisher’s business and financial services brands, such as Barron’s and MarketWatch, along with luxury real estate listings site Mansion Global. The Wall Street Journal operates separately. All are owned by News Corp.

In most cases, Dow Jones’ direct sales team is responsible for selling pre-roll video. Although pre-roll tends to command higher CPMs than other video formats, it poses a challenge for publishers because pre-roll inventory often sells out quickly.

Minkin, who oversees sales planning and ad operations for five sites, focuses on monetizing programmatic inventory.

“That being the case, what we have found is using formats like InRead [videos integrated natively within article content] helps us create inventory that we wouldn’t otherwise have,” Minkin said. “It’s great for the business, but we try to [integrate it] in such a way that it doesn’t hurt the user experience.” 

Dow Jones Media Group uses Sharethrough, Teads and Unruly, which is also owned by News Corp., to power native and outstream video formats on its sites.

But despite a deepening supply pool of native inventory across exchanges and growing publisher interest, native still faces a historical challenge: procuring enough buyer demand programmatically.

“Anything I can do to improve the fill rate for the inventory we’re creating is great,” Minkin said. “As a publisher, I want to increase yield. Managing seasonality in January, in particular, is a more challenging time for us with programmatic demand.”

Demand tends to increase ahead of Q4 and climax between Thanksgiving and Christmas. After a holiday period when brands put a lot of money into the market, bid activity tends to decline.

“We’re working with Connatix to help alleviate some of the natural softness that happens around this time of year in programmatic demand,” Minkin said.

Dow Jones uses the video player/ad server Connatix as a native demand source for the non-pre-roll formats it monetizes using Sharethrough, Unruly and Teads.

In addition to its role as a video syndication platform for publishers such as Mashable and Time Inc., Connatix also has a video marketplace that serves advertisers, including Delta, Lipton and Ford.

Connatix helps Dow Jones achieve better fill rates, particularly during slow periods, but sometimes the goal isn’t purely a volume play.

“Rather than trying to maximize the fill rate on all ad placements on every impression, focusing on filling up all impressions of the most viewable, engaging units on the page will result in a higher yield,” said David Kashak, founder and CEO of Connatix.

But depending on the nature of the individual publisher site, pulling back on the ad load may be the more appropriate move.

“We look at what types of users a site is attracting. Is this a site that’s built around community or are people coming in through social?” Minkin said. “I think there are a lot of variables that play into how you decide to achieve a certain amount of fill, which plays into your price floor. Even for the five sites I work across, the philosophy is different from site to site.”

Beyond monetizing more native video, Dow Jones also aims to grow private marketplaces.

Because of Dow Jones’ vertical focus – serving high-end financial and business professionals – it tends to attract a lot of endemic advertisers.

“PMPs become much more attractive to those advertisers when you’re selling such a focused site [and] audience,” he said. “That said, there is still plenty of money in the open exchange and a lot of brands who are not necessarily buying around context, but buying for audience. Being so focused editorially, we can play in both those areas.”


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