In the past year, publishers have weathered several storms. In particular, they’ve grappled with a downturn in ad revenues due to traffic and signal loss.
At the heart of this struggle is declining addressability in the open web. Publishers have lost signals for 70% of the internet as Chrome sunsets third-party cookies and users choose cookie-blocked browsers and employ ad blockers. Current forecasts predict that publishers worldwide will lose $54 billion in ad revenue due to ad blocking in 2024.
Against this challenging backdrop, however, there are tools and tactics that publishers can incorporate into their arsenal to drive success in 2024.
Shifting to direct-sold
As the open web addressability gap widens, budgets flowing through the open marketplace pipes will continue to decline. According to Digiday research, 83% of publishers have experienced significant revenue loss on the open marketplace in 2023. Many of the issues experienced in the open web are alleviated by direct relationships between publishers and advertisers and by addressing all audiences rather than the 30% available in the open. Permutive data from over 150 publishers shows a 62% increase in direct-sold audience revenue in Q2 2023.
Trusted Media Brands (TMB), whose titles include FailArmy, Family Handyman, Reader’s Digest, and Taste of Home, is one example of shifting to direct sales and seeing success. TMB has been working on their data strategy to ensure it can understand audiences across all browsers, especially in cookie-blocked environments like Safari.
TMB now delivers direct-sold campaigns 94% of the time using first-party data. The work has resulted in a 140% increase in revenue from deals using first-party data, a 31% increase in RFP win rate when data is on an IO and a 2X increase in deal size when data is present on an IO vs no data. Building direct partnerships with advertisers to increase revenue has never been more important.
Going beyond collecting first-party data
As third-party signals dwindle, publishers will become the new data providers. This exceeds a publisher’s ability to capture data across all audiences, including cookie-blocked environments. To grow revenues in 2024, publishers must capture more attributes from a known audience and use advanced modelling techniques to offer advertisers a more comprehensive and scalable audience package.
The ability to model out niche and hard-to-scale datasets, including high-quality, self-declared ones, is another mechanism publishers must add to their toolkit. Take lookalike modeling as an example. It is the most prevalent technique to extend an interest, behavioral or intent-based audience.
Classified platform Gumtree employed this technique for its direct advertising campaigns, leading to higher rates and new business, upweights, and renewals. They served over 22m impressions to “lookalike” and “clicker” audiences (users who clicked on other ads), extending campaign reach and improving campaign performance (+27% in CTR).
For use cases where a brand requests distinct groups, publishers can use classification models that take multiple seed audiences to know all possible classes for a specific category or attribute. For example, users who are labeled as “in a relationship,” users who are labeled as “single” and users for whom no relationship data is available. This model ensures a user is only bucketed into a single class, i.e. not categorized as both in a relationship and single simultaneously.
Publishers must continue persuading buyers to recognize the advantages of direct collaboration. To do this, publishers’ go-to-market strategy should and can demonstrate their ability to satisfy advertiser demand by providing quality audiences from interest, intent, and in-market audiences. And showcase their technical ability to scale and ensure reach across all relevant platforms and browsers.
Publishers should craft engaging narratives about their audiences through insights, spotlighting how audiences are built, and being transparent about audience creation, and publishers must exemplify how their first-party audiences contribute to enhancing performance in real-time, effectively meeting advertiser objectives.
Penske Media Corporation created audience cards for presale analytics for each individual brand sales team in conjunction with the marketing team to capture each brand’s core audience. Post-campaign, PMC helped advertisers understand the real individual behind each impression, using their data to help partners get a holistic view of their target audience. PMC’s campaigns showed a 5x increase in performance (CTR) in campaigns that only used first-party data and a 5x increase in driving effective CPA for a clothing retailer when using PMC’s first-party data.
As publishers navigate the complexities of 2024, these three paths to revenue will enable publishers to not only weather the storm but emerge stronger and more adaptable for what’s to come.