Premium Video Inventory: What Shortage?

mattbrummettOn TV And Video” is a column exploring opportunities and challenges in programmatic TV and video.

Today’s column is written by Matt Brummett, chief operating officer at Answer Media.

The word “premium” is bandied about all of the time in digital programmatic circles. Like much of the jargon that populates ad tech, it has been applied in various ways, depending on the context, so that it has come to mean different things to different people.

As it relates specifically to the online video space, “premium” is often misunderstood. If you go by what the folks at Forrester Research say, the No. 1 way agencies define premium is through domain brand analysis. That means a primary reliance on breadth of audience anchored to a prominent brand equity, similar to the comScore top 100.

While it would be foolish to argue the intuitive sense in employing this logical method for locating premium video ad inventory, it would be short-sighted to stop there, which all too often is what agency planners do. And then they complain that there is a shortage of premium inventory.

But if they, in the name of due diligence on behalf of their advertiser clients, would dig deeper and wider to take a more nuanced approach in evaluating sites that feature video, they would actually realize that there is an expanded marketplace for premium video inventory.

While the long tail of digital content sites on the Internet is often associated with undesirable elements, such as dubious, low-quality content, nonhuman traffic and site spoofing, that reputation is, in many ways, undeserved. It’s the classic example of tarring all niche sites with the same brush of bad content. There are, in fact, many sites, albeit obscure, offering high-quality video experiences for active, engaged user bases, which creates premium video ad placements.

Consumer consumption of digital media has become increasingly fragmented. With so much consumption beginning on Facebook, Twitter, Reddit and other social sharing platforms, readership happens at the article level and there’s a limited – if any at all – consumer relationship with the brand or news company itself.

For example, your typical news junkies in the 21st century do not just go to one or two of the top news sites, such as CNN or The New York Times. They’ll often hit those mainstream players as well as unfamiliar, smaller indie news sites or blogs, where a share or like from a friend, or even a friend of a friend, has led them. Similarly, serious sports fans will likely not only rely on just ESPN, but rather devotedly check in with a super blogger that often scoops the bigger national outlets with breaking news on their local teams.

The point that I’m making here is that just because a site doesn’t chart in the comScore top 200, hasn’t been around for 10-plus years or doesn’t have a recognizable name doesn’t necessarily mean that it doesn’t have a valuable, engaged audience that can produce a high ROI for advertisers. Yet because of antiquated legacy thinking and shrinking agency staffer bandwidth, many smaller but equally valuable premium sites remain off of many media buyers’ radars.

For example, has more than 3 million highly engaged Facebook fans, something you’d probably never guess with a cursory glance at the site. Another one is, which offers high-quality content on a clean format that is getting shared via social media as well. Neither of these has the kind of brand power of a top comScore ranking and could be easily missed unless the demand side takes a more comprehensive approach to analyzing premium content.

With the emergence of companies like DoubleVerify and MOAT in recent years to protect brands against fraud and preserve brand safety, resource-challenged agencies could invest in these types of tools to vet these relatively obscure, niche sites to separate the players from the pretenders.

Conversely, not all of the sites typically deemed “premium” have impeccable content in which advertisers would want to invest dollars. That is a misconception. I have seen many placements on so-called premium sites sold through open exchanges and PMPs that really shouldn’t be considered premium, considering they are often running misrepresented inventory, such as a video placement running in a banner ad unit or unviewable inventory.

Ironically, I’d argue that there’s just as much work required in finding the nonpremium video inventory that’s being sold by the traditional premium publishers – there is more than many would expect – as there is required to find the hidden gems in the long tail.

I summon the trite-yet-true notion that you can’t judge a book by its cover. There is plenty of great video content in the marketplace and brand marketers should make it a priority to uncover it.

Follow Answer Media (@videomosh) and AdExchanger (@adexchanger) on Twitter.

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  1. I understand the sentiment, but for every good site like the two mentioned, you will find a few hundred fraudulent ghost sites or trying to pass off in-banner ads as video.

    DoubleVerify, Moat and others do have great tools, but they still catch very few of these issues and have very conflicting methodologies/results.

    Until there is a massive clean up of video inventory across the industry, very limited hand-picked whitelists are the best tool that advertisers have to access video inventory.

  2. Grant Mucha

    Worse yet when 3rd party companies like integral ad science (IAS) use extremely outdated methods to evaluate websites and assign scores. I’ve seen at least two large Ad Networks (Sovrn for example) is one which outright rejects any website with a low score from IAS. My warning much like the one in this article is do not just rely on these 3rd party companies and these so called white lists. I agree with the article completely and I’ve seen it first hand working on both sides.