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InContext / An inside look at the business of digital content

How automation can help any publisher compete in digital advertising

November 29, 2021 | By Eddie Lee, Head of Publisher Account Management – Nativo @nativo

This is the Catch-22 era for publishers. Magazines, newspapers and other media companies must evolve their businesses into the digital space to survive. But the digital world has already disrupted their industry. Survival has been at the cost of doing more with less, including fewer editorial and operational resources. Google and Facebook dominate digital advertising. Ad revenues at traditional media like newspapers dropped 62% from 2008 to 2018. Layoffs, exacerbated by the global pandemic, continue to hammer the media industry.

But it’s not all doom and gloom for publishers: 81% of consumers say they trust content on a publishers’ sites. So in the near future, how can publishers survive and thrive given the inherent trust they have developed with consumers, and what technologies will enable that?

To figure out what publishers need, let’s start with what they are missing. Publishers lack a clear means to establishing a foothold in digital advertising that allows them to compete with the volume and efficiency of the industry giants. They lack the technology to provide reliable, data-driven paths to revenue. And increasingly, they lack the people-power to get it all done.

The power of automation

Automation will be key to turning weaknesses into strengths. Automation will also build on the advantages that publishers retain amidst all the digital change happening in their industry. Publishers still have the most premium audience, customized content against which to advertise, plus a deep understanding of their audience and its preferences. And unlike on the assembly line, automation won’t replace staff. Instead, it frees up more human time for higher-level, more creative problems.

Publishers will have to learn or acquire the knowledge to automate in a few areas if they want to stay in the game. Automaton supports:

  • Sales and planning support
  • Pricing and bidding calibration
  • Reporting and relationship management
  • Identifying opportunities for growth and new business lines

Sales and planning support

Pre-sales activities, like vetting, scheduling, and negotiation, take a lot of time. Automation along each of these chokepoints can keep the sales funnel unclogged and new leads coming in, contributing to more stability in revenue flow. Even the process of creating mocks or proof of concept-level examples can be largely automated. This frees up time in the sales journey for real relationship building and, well, sales. Streamlining that demo experience can impact both sales and dev teams and will be pivotal as publishers move to scale exponentially in the digital world. 

Pricing and bidding

Automated pricing and bidding is nothing new in digital publishing and advertising. But as the demand for more customized, alternative pricing models such as engagement-based pricing arises, publishers will spend more time on manual processes to adapt these models to work alongside CPM pricing models.

Now, technology has caught up, and these calculations can be automated within the bidding process. This offers publishers the ability to charge a premium for alternative pricing models as well as frees up Ad Ops teams, enabling them to work and think more critically and carefully (rather than wasting time on tedium) and offers customers greater transparency into fee structures and profitability —  a feature that is becoming more important for brands and consumers alike. 

Reporting and relationship management

Whether you run QBRs or provide end-of-campaign reports, the full planning and execution cycle for these deliverables can be a seriously time-consuming process in and of itself. This is another place publishers need to focus to bring the technology of automated reporting in line with the expectation.

Anyone in advertising has probably spent time battling reporting processes or templatizing minutiae deep into the night. Nailing automation here is both a time-saver and a stress-saver. It’s also one of the best ways to continue to grow your relationship with a customer, providing them with regular insight and feedback and enabling you to work together to make campaigns work better or hit their specific goals.

Opportunities for growth and new business lines

It’s not uncommon for major companies to make decisions based on  screenshots of reports imported into Powerpoint templates. Let’s face it, insightful decisions require ready access to the breadth of a publisher’s data across campaigns. You can’t improve what you can’t measure. So, some well-placed automation of these processes can be game changing.

Streamlining company-wide reporting and data-driven insights, if done right, can guide a company on where to expand next or what they should be focusing on. These are strategies that advertising giants have used for years —  now this technology is available for smaller players to understand and exploit to create more dynamic decision-making.

Bottom line

The bottom line is that we’re not going to compete with the Metas and Alphabets of the world through volume. However, we stand a good chance doubling down on our core audiences and building streamlined, efficient advertising machines. These can be built to incorporate automation that provides more accurate insights, and frees up our human staff to keep bringing that personal touch to the business.

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