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InContext / An inside look at the business of digital content

Two ways publishers can increase digital ad revenue from news content

October 4, 2021 | By Dave Constantino, VP of Client Development – Oracle Advertising @OracleDataCloud

The media is covering news from more angles, and at more depth, than ever before. The Tokyo games generated a flurry of content that spanned fashion, mental health, gender equality, politics, and more. (And let’s not forget the athletes and actual events!)

The summer games reflect how big news events typically branch out across industries, lifestyle categories, etc. Sometimes, the link between what would be considered a critical piece of news and everything else is tenuous.

Unfortunately, in the pursuit of absolute safety and stringent brand preservation, many advertisers err on the side of caution. They employ rigid brand safety practices that lead to overblocking, which diminishes the yield publishers need to bring the important conversations to the fore. As a result, many advertisers sit on the sidelines as journalists explore the various facets of evolving news. Unfortunately, that even includes topics that could be on-brand for many advertisers.

News content holds digital advertising’s future

The advertising industry’s pullback associated with Covid-19 coverage early last year illustrates the negative impact this can have on publishers, advertising brands, and the overall consumer experience. In early 2020, traffic to major U.S. news sites jumped more than 50% compared to the same period the previous year. However, that increase in visitor time and attention did not provide a corresponding revenue increase because many advertisers were steering clear of any content referencing the virus.

The root of the problem lies in the “blocklist.” This simplistic brand safety tactic prohibits ads from being served based on keywords appearing in URLs or nearby content. According to news reports, “coronavirus” was the number-one term on industry blocklists. In fact, more than three thousand advertisers have blocked ads from appearing near it.

Despite these challenges, there is ample opportunity for publishers to move the conversation past purely transactional ad sales and take more active control of their content strategy. By offering curated inventory packages that are both contextually relevant and brand suitable, publishers are able to address advertisers’ brand safety concerns. They can provide also advertisers with greater control over the audiences they are reaching and the content they are aligned with.

Adapting advertising to the news ecosystem

Overly restrictive blocklists impact publishers and advertisers, yet the news will always have complexities and nuances. However, according to GroupM, “There are simple ways to advertise in news without compromising brand safety. But to avoid hard news, or even bad news, flies in the face of the facts.”

Adapting to fast-paced news cycles requires you do the following:

1. Gain insights and control

Evolve from the brand safety of yesterday. Focus instead on understanding the context of the content surrounding brand messaging. Contextual Intelligence tools help advertisers and publishers understand and evaluate billions of webpages and other digital content. This allows them to evaluate supply and identify brand-suitable environments for advertising based on overall page context, not a single word or meta data.

For example, many advertisers might decide they are comfortable with ad placements around current content related to topics like personal hygiene, cleaning, telework, streaming entertainment, food delivery, education, cooking, books, games, or exercise. While each marketer needs to determine its own standards for brand suitability, this type of related content may be appropriate.

In an interview, Edwin Wong, SVP of Insights & Innovation at Vox Media, noted that: “When quality content is matched with people’s passions and interests, it creates a much richer picture of who the audience is, why they are there and what motivates them. When we do this right, we no longer base contextual targeting on just the individual, an individual action, or an individual piece of content, but on what our platforms deliver for the audience holistically. It changes the retroactive perspective of targeting and makes context targeting future-facing.”

2. Provide meaningful ad measurement

Establish baseline metrics

Two primary benefits emerge from consistent monitoring and accounting for viewability, invalid traffic, and brand-safety reporting across your campaigns. First (and very importantly), you protect your advertisers’ brand dollars. Second, effective brand safety will be dynamic. Brand suitability takes page context and intent into account to address continuous content evolution.

Life beyond verification

Connect your campaign to data sets that reveal meaningful impact so that attention becomes an outcome to pursue in tandem with traditional KPIs such as viewability and verification. More broadly, marketing campaigns need an industry ready for new metrics to gauge cross-channel impact beyond just verification.

Measure across channels 

Publishers and platforms will look to brands to maintain consumer loyalty and trust in their expertise. This calls for both robust content and multichannel dissemination.

Evolve KPIs to gauge true engagement and impact

Innovative marketers who experiment with formats beyond traditional social media posts and editorial-style content learn more because verification alone won’t tell you about impact post-view. As marketers seek further control over their ad spend and a better understanding of campaign efficacy, measuring advertising outcomes like consumer attention will become crucial.

When you move measurement beyond ad verification to attention, you’ll show advertisers how your inventory helps them drive success and hit their KPIs. That’s a surefire way to keep them coming back for more.

Drive more revenue through agility

Changes to ad targeting, data collection, and privacy regulations will continue to challenge the digital advertising ecosystem to evolve and bring new solutions to market that support its future. The ability to stay agile and adapt to the changing industry will be critical for publishers while increased collaboration across the ecosystem will provide not only innovation, but an increased customer experience and the need every stakeholder to rise to the occasion.

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