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InContext / An inside look at the business of digital content

Will we make the same mistake with CTV as we did with the web?

August 25, 2020 | By Joseph Lospalluto, EVP Americas – Smart AdServer @SmartAdServerEN

It’s a familiar scenario. One of the big ad tech players announces a change and we are all left to interpret what exactly it means. The only certainty is that it will take some effort to understand the full picture, the driving force behind it, and a plan of action. 

As the big players quickly and quietly expanded their walled garden ecosystems, many publishers found themselves left without a key. We all know these big players own most of the market share and also dominate most of the growth as well. By the end of 2020, it’s predicted that nearly 70% of US digital ad dollars will be spent with Amazon, Facebook or Google. 

However, publishers do have options for regaining control, especially when it comes to new growth areas like connected TV (CTV). Even before Covid-19 drove consumers to CTV and streaming in record numbers, 2019 saw a 330% rise in programmatic OTT/CTV ad transactions with CTV market advertising spend in the US valued at $6.94B last year. As you begin to build out your CTV strategy, it’s important to learn from the lessons of the past to avoid making the same mistakes. 

Own your audience relationships 

Distribution and tech partnerships often begin with great promise. When Apple introduced their Newsstand offering, it was positioned as a lucrative way to expand subscriber reach on iOS devices. Once Apple announced they would only allow single issue sales and began acting as an intermediary by keeping the subscriber data collected on their platform, the need for a business model more balanced with publisher needs became evident.

Nothing is more important than your audience and the ability to maintain control over the close audience relationships you cultivate. Effectively identifying these loyal audience segments and estimating user lifetime value is the foundation of a successful strategy. If you’re not working with an independent tech provider, it’s important to consider the potential implications and potential risks of partnering with a competitor or potential competitor and what impact that might have on your audience relationships.

Control and leverage your data

Your data is a key asset in your private garden. Controlling who gets in and what goes out is especially important as GDPR, TCF, and CCPA come into full effect. These changes have immediate impact on your revenue, but also secondary costs from the business model adjustments needed when third-party cookies are disabled.

Niche targeting, personalization, and frequency capping all depend on transparency and insights derived from data. Controlling and fully understanding your data makes it possible to hone your monetization strategy and create innovative opportunities for advertisers. When others have control over your data, it becomes more challenging. 

For example, concerns have been raised around Google’s proposed TURTLEDOVE solution and its less frequent reporting structure. This poses a big challenge around leveraging data to fully optimize and capture revenue. As publisher first-party data becomes increasingly valuable and offers more monetization opportunities, it’s important to consider whether your provider is data neutral or more interested in harvesting your data. 

Control your infrastructure  

Make sure you are the one in charge of all the tech decisions in your private garden. In a technologically nuanced space like CTV look for partners that provide the expertise and infrastructure needed to ensure data protections, but also allow you to maintain control. Be wary of partnering with players who are also competing for your audience’s attention. And ensure that you will have enough flexibility in customization and business rules.

When Google first acquired DoubleClick back in 2008, they promised it would offer publishers more tools, enhanced productivity and additional revenue while freeing up resources to allow publishers to focus more on building and maintaining a web presence. In reality, it was one of the first deals that helped Google establish dominance and affect changes in customization and control that continue to ripple through the entire industry. Again, be very careful with who you let into your private garden. 

Diversify your revenue 

The end of third-party cookies means short-term revenue losses are likely. Many publishers have already begun exploring ways to diversify their revenue streams. Meredith is a great example of strategically embracing data management and ownership. The launch of their Data Studio and e-commerce sites connected back to their brands has helped optimize revenue streams.

Engaging loyal audience segments through registrations and subscriptions is another strategy that many of you have begun to embrace. Build upon existing successes like The New York Times has done with the introduction of their stand alone NY Times Crosswords and NY Times Cooking offerings. This is another avenue for strengthening audience relationships while building more robust first-party data. 

This industry shift towards CTV offers another consideration for diversification. It also provides a prime opportunity to take back control and build your own private garden. Learn from the past in order to make careful choices around who you partner with and how you protect your investments from the start. This will give you the key to your own private garden and bring success in expanding into new growth areas.  

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