Understanding consumers’ wants and needs is critical for advertising success. These days, having technology that enables these insights is not just nice to have – it is a must have. However, with January’s release of the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), which favors consumer privacy rights and increases limitations on advertising targeting parameters, the ability to predict and target those “wants and needs” based on personal information is becoming increasingly difficult.
As a result, advertisers will undoubtedly need to adjust their strategy to accommodate new and emerging regulations. In January, for example, Google announced its plan to phase out support for third-party cookies in Chrome within the next two years. Rather than attempting to reach their target audience based on data collected from cookies, advertisers will need to delve deeper to define consumer preferences and behaviors. Pivoting media buying strategies toward contextual alignment and partnering closer with content creators will be paramount to reach consumers in the new data privacy regulated world.
At Integral Ad Science (IAS), we conduct an annual survey with agencies, advertisers, ad tech vendors, and publishers to get a sense of the common themes and challenges facing industry leaders in the upcoming year. In our 2020 Industry Pulse Report, data privacy legislation was understandably a point of concern for all parties. In fact, 82% of respondents listed contextual targeting as a key industry trend in the upcoming year.
Publishers have the advantage
This is where publishers are able to regain control. With new standards like the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and CCPA already imposed (and Chrome’s looming 2022 deadline) a decreased ability to rely on cookies will undoubtedly take center stage globally. When it comes to reaching desired audiences, the industry shift toward an increased reliance on contextual and semantic capabilities will put publishers back on top. Not only do we foresee great power in first-party audience data and stronger than ever buyer-seller relationships, but there is also a greater opportunity for publishers to market the true value of their content.
The first step is for publishers to ask themselves: Am I monetizing all of my inventory, and how can I stand out from the crowd? Taking the time to understand their unique inventory landscape will help publishers smartly create packages with delivery guarantees that their advertisers actually want to buy.
The media buy
According to one 2020 Industry Pulse Report publisher participant, “Data will be the single most important factor. People want to reach specific audiences and, as a publisher, we need to rely on our first party data that has been cleared from a GDPR and CCPA perspective to offer contextual and behavioral targeting for media specific buys.”
However, curating and selling these custom inventory packages by using first-party data is not as simple as it may sound. Publishers need to partner with an unbiased third-party to validate and optimize these custom packages, especially when trying to win back advertiser trust. Now more than ever, advertisers are relying on verification partners to ensure that their ads are placed in brand safe and suitable environments. When asked about the implications of data privacy regulations, a manager at a global media agency noted, “…Ensuring our media is presented in the way the brand intends is now more important than ever.”
And consumers agree: according to the IAS Ripple Effect study, consumers are 30% more likely to remember an ad found in a suitable environment. Publishers leveraging a third-party verification partner who both sits in the epicenter of the ecosystem and provides patented technology to analyze all page content will be one step ahead of the competition.
The increasing impact of data privacy legislation means predicting and targeting consumer “wants and needs” will become increasingly difficult. Advertisers looking to reach the right consumers in the right context will need to lean heavier on publishers offering contextual and semantic solutions. Content is still king. So, publishers should continue to focus their efforts on creating quality content and then partnering with an established third-party to help intelligently package and promote it.
Digital regulation is in the process of adjusting to a sea of change brought in by legislators at state, national, and international levels. Following the EU’s GDPR lead, the California Consumer Privacy Act took effect meaning publishers must now ensure sufficient measures are in place to protect the data privacy rights of California residents. Otherwise, they face financial penalties due to noncompliance. Many publishers turned to their consent management platform (CMP) to handle these challenges. However, due to poor consent signals, publishers are concerned about continued monetization efforts.
Data protection actions
All data privacy regulations involve three basic tenets:
Inventory: identification of all data collected, used, shared and stored by the
organization. This frequently involves questionnaires and mapping of data
Interaction: covers the rights consumers have regarding their data, i.e.,
Adjustments: ability to satisfy requirements for upholding consumer rights such
as consent management, digital data tracking restrictions, data tracking
categories and more.
regulation and browser actions put targeted advertising, cookies, and other
persistent identifiers under unprecedented scrutiny unlike ever before. Tracking
technologies have not been of much legal concern until recent years and private
right of action is prompting companies to think and work smarter.
worse, CMPs struggle to send the appropriate signals regarding consent. This is
particularly difficult because different markets have different requirements.
These unclear signals in RTB muddy the bid process, causing trepidation among
AdTech out of fear of serving an ad to an un-consented user. The result?
Lowered CPMs for everyone.
Under today’s regulatory environment, the systems by which
organizations have previously built their digital ecosystems could cause
significant headaches for ad-supported businesses. But it shouldn’t have to be
that way. Publishers that take control of their websites and mobile apps can
facilitate compliance with any data protection regulation.
The DCN example
The presence of unmanaged third-party vendors and their
contribution to widespread data tracking activity are the chief culprits of
this digital woe.
Analysis of leading DCN member websites reveals that 81% of the executing code required to render the user experience is from third parties. Other data points include:
774: average number of domains
8%: executing domains are risky
138: average number of cookies dropped
per user session
21% of cookies exhibit lifespans
greater than 1 year
With your websites and mobile apps causing this much code executing on consumer devices, you cannot ignore the data compliance risks of external code from service providers and third parties. As a site owner, you must know exactly what personal information your digital assets collect, the reason it’s collected, and who has access to the information. This will help you accomplish two CCPA obligations:
Provide users with full disclosure of what information you collect from them.
Inform users in case their data has been misused or shared without consent. If consumer data is leaked or mismanaged, your company (and associated digital vendors) must accept responsibility for the incident and work to recover consumer trust and re-establish the brand’s position.
Approximately 8% of executing, client-side code presents a
controllable risk. These domains are overtly malicious, have a history of
suspicious activity, or mask their ownership. Inability to verify domain
ownership is a red flag; this type of obfuscation is basic tactic adopted by
bad actors. Unmanaged third-party code is routinely hijacked and
used as a backdoor to infiltrate consumer-facing websites and covertly skim
Throughout 2019, several big brands made the headlines and found
themselves in regulatory hot water because of large scale data attacks by
cybercriminals. These breaches resulted in well-known industry giants being
slammed with record-breaking regulatory fines and penalties.
Thus, it’s vitally important for companies to implement digital security
measures to ensure their CCPA preparedness.
Compliance is not a spectator sport
Compliance is more involved than simply drawing up contracts that
require service providers to comply with obligations. You must be just as
concerned with ensuring that providers are compliant as you are with upholding
Many publishers perceive compliance to be harmful to page views, content
consumption, and as a result advertising revenue. However, it has quite the
opposite effect. Consumers and advertisers alike gravitate towards businesses
that care about their privacy and strive to secure it. They’ll remain loyal to
companies that have full visibility and knowledge over the data collection
taking place on their sites. They expect companies to be transparent about and
communicate all the information that will be collected during a browsing
Compliance management can be burdensome and time-consuming without the
right tools and expertise. But when procedures are optimized and tools with the
capability to provide a broad view of the digital ecosystem are implemented,
compliance management can be operationalized and streamlined to gain total
control over unauthorized data tracking and take back control of the digital
landscape your company operates on.
About the author
Chris Olson co-founded The Media Trust with a goal to transform the internet experience by creating better digital ecosystems to govern assets, connect partners and enable Digital Risk Management. Chris has more than 15 years of experience leading high tech and ad technology start-ups and managing international software development, product and sales teams. Prior to The Media Trust, Chris created an Internet-based transaction system to research, buy and sell media for TV, radio, cable, and online channels. He started his career managing equity and fixed income electronic trading desks for Salomon Brothers, Citibank and Commerzbank AG.
In recent years, the industry has focused a great deal of attention on the “tech tax” on programmatic spending. This refers to the fees being paid to the various DSPs, SSPs, exchanges, and other parties that sit between publishers and advertisers. Unfortunately, that’s only part of the story. Publishers are losing hundreds of millions of dollars every year to another hidden tax on their sites: latency.
Due to the volume of ad tags on today’s sites—and the slowness they inject into the site experience—publishers are losing untold impressions to ad technology that’s supposed to improve their monetization. Unfortunately, unless publishers actively address this problem, the latency tax is only going to go up. Here’s why.
Latency begets countless other ills for publishers
The true scope of the latency tax on publishers encompasses many sub-taxes. One of the most notable in this regard is viewability. Viewability measurement doesn’t start until an ad has been fully rendered on a page. Thus, laggy load times on a website have a direct impact on viewability. This, in turn has a direct impact on revenue. After all, today’s advertisers are increasingly relying on viewability metrics. This is only when selecting publishers with which to work, but also when determining the impressions for which they will pay.
With regard to latency, the viewability conundrum for publishers goes even deeper. Whether or not ads are viewable—and whether they’re appearing on brand-safe content, for that matter—is gauged by third-party ad tags on publishers’ sites. These tags, ironically enough, contribute to the latency on a publisher’s site, which in turn reduces viewability. On top of it all, thanks to ad tags that fire late or incorrectly, there’s typically a discrepancy between what’s happening on sites in reality and what these third parties say publishers can charge advertisers for. That’s another ding to publisher revenue that’s rarely considered.
And then, of course, there’s the user experience. On average, most publishers see several seconds of latency on their sites before the content loads and then ads begin to populate. The late incoming ads tend to shift content around on the site while users are already in the process of trying to consume it. That’s a bad user experience—and it has a real, tangible effect on a publisher’s bottom line. Latency results in user abandonment. Overtime, it contributes to wholesale ad avoidance, either actively (via ad blockers) or passively (via chosen platforms like iPhone and Safari). This is a direct result of the poor experiences being created by today’s ad tech and the resulting reaction on the user and browser side.
And yes, it’s going to get worse
The latency tax is already taking a heavy toll on open web publishers’ already-razor-thin margins. And this isn’t a problem that’s going to correct itself. On the contrary, technology advances on the near horizon promise only to exacerbate the issue. Take 5G, for example. As 5G networks and devices gain greater traction over the next two years, consumer expectations for speed in their mobile experiences are going to skyrocket. Unfortunately, faster speeds are only going to call more attention to legacy ad technology on publisher sites that drags down site performance and, correspondingly, monetization via ads.
For publishers, now is the pivotal time to be seeking new opportunities to streamline site experiences and reduce legacy latency issues within the ad experience. All the ad tech in the world isn’t going to help publishers better compete in the digital landscape if it’s ultimately contributing to a poor user experience and countless lost impressions. Publishers today need a new site-serving paradigm that removes the latency burden of today’s ad tags from their pages and accelerates the overall site experience, ads included.
Publishers have been quietly paying their latency tax for far too long already. In doing so, they’re ignoring a fast path to revenue that’s already there. It’s time to take a hard look at their current tech stacks. Then they need to make the changes required to get back to a place of speed, good user experience, and profitability.
As the art and the science of acquiring digital
subscriptions has progressed, the use of advanced analytics to profile
potential subscribers and target them with subscription offers has become
standard practice. The early days of 20 articles-per-month metered access have
given way to hybrid Freemium models that offer premium content to subscribers in
addition to metered access to free content for non-subscribers. And certainly,
balancing advertising and subscription revenue remains paramount to many
publishers. This is particularly true for those with advanced programmatic
advertising revenue capabilities.
post discussed the tactics for maximizing total digital revenue, audience,
and advertising revenue, by using an intelligent paywall strategy. This post builds
on that discussion with additional insights on how audience analytics add value
to the subscription revenue model. The goal is to help publishers refine their
acquisition strategies to reflect the motivations of different customer
segments for subscribing. These same analytics can help publishers take steps
to retain customers once they have taken the leap of subscribing.
Propensity to subscribe
Our recent work with publishers developing propensity-to-subscribe models has identified several reasons why individuals subscribe to digital content products. These factors have also been written about by the American Press Institute intheir research on reader revenue that used surveys of recent subscribers.
These factors are often cited by many subscribers as their
reason for subscribing:
Community – Refers to a reader’s interest
in local news and events. 60% of the API survey respondents mentioned local
news as a reason they subscribed.
Cost – Receiving a discounted offer at
the right time is also a common factor in subscription decisions. 45% of the
API survey respondents mention discounts or promotions as a reason.
Content – The desire to read content that
the reader finds interesting. 40% of survey responders gave this as a
Contribution – Supporting local
journalism, whether the reader is actively engaged with the publication or not,
was mentioned by 31% of survey responses.
In our econometric models of subscription propensity, these
same reasons were identified as important for predicting customer behavior. Local
news content is consistently one of the significant drivers of subscription
Offer price is also an important factor in our models of
propensity to subscribe. Variables that are correlated with interest in
content, such article page views, average time on site, and frequency of visits
are important predictors. These statistical results developed on observed
customer purchase decisions validate the stated subscription reasons in the
Harder to measure empirically is the influence of the
contribution motive on an individual’s likelihood to subscribe. However, we do
observe a consistent proportion of digital subscribers that have very low
engagement following their subscription purchase. This behavior supports the
belief there is a large audience segment that wants to support local journalism
despite low engagement with the product.
As an interesting aside, there are precedents for people
placing economic value and paying for resources that they do not use. Environmental
economists measure the value individuals place on the fact that certain natural
resources exist, such as the Everglades or Redwood forests, even though they
may never see those resources or use them directly.
Understanding the motivating factors for subscribers is
helpful for selecting acquisition and retention tactics to implement, and it
helps explain why freemium models are replacing metered models at many
publishers. For those readers motivated to subscribe by interesting content, premium
content is an effective acquisition tactic as readers motivated to access a
particular article will accept a subscription offer. Premium content also gives
those wanting to contribute to the journalistic mission a low-friction path to subscribe
relative to a multi-article metered strategy.
Pathways to subscription
For publishers that have had a premium content strategy, the
trend is to increase the proportion of content categorized as premium. Le Monde
recently shared they now have 35% of their content as premium, even though it
may negatively affect advertising revenue. Schibsted in Norway has also
increased the percentage of their content designated as premium.
We often find that less than half of new digital subscriptions
are sold via a paywall. The other subscription sales come from newsletters,
emailed promotions, and the “subscribe now” option on the site. Personalized
newsletters and email promotions can focus offers on those readers who have hit
the meter one or more times but not subscribed at the standard offer. Paywalls
can provide this type of offer targeting, but there is a risk in having dynamic
pricing on a site itself as many customers find this type of targeted acquisition
pricing confusing. It is also hard to implement since many customers come to a
site from different devices and browsers.
The current state of the art is deciding what content is
premium to each reader at what time. There are a growing number of publishers
using predictive analytics to assign content as premium based on its expected
subscription conversion performance. However, most often the editorial staff
are making these premium content decisions. Combining this tactic, dynamic
premium content decisions, with an intelligent paywall can maximize
subscription sales while still protecting advertising revenues.
My next article will describe how retention tactics that
reflect these subscriber motivations can be applied to each customer segment to
minimize digital subscription churn.
Since the dawn of the printing press, publishers have been
navigating the forces of technology. From the advent of newspapers and
magazines in the 17th century to the more recent emergence of electronic
media like radio, television, the internet, and mobile devices, content
creators have needed to continuously adjust their business models to adapt to
new technologies, channels, and consumer behavior.
Today, the pace of that change is accelerating. This year, for the first time in history, digital advertising is set to surpass all offline advertising mediums combined. Analysts estimate that advertisers will spend almost $130 billion on digital media in 2019 in the U.S. alone.
Yet even as digital dominates and content creators are leveraging new and exciting media for storytelling, publishers are looking toward the future and preparing themselves for the next set of opportunities and challenges on the horizon. To succeed in the hyper-speed world of the modern digital economy, publishers should focus on three large issues that will help determine their success or failure.
1. Bring the focus back to media quality
The trailblazers of digital advertising have always been pushed
and pulled by centrifugal forces, especially those on the sell-side. As
hundreds of millions of people first moved online, advertisers raced to get
their messages in front of those digital audiences. And an immediate income
stream was born for anyone who could drive traffic or, more important, capture attention.
At the dawn of the programmatic era, increasing complexities came
into play. And this may have pulled the pendulum too far toward scale and away
from media quality. These days, consumer choice at an all-time high and
publishers face increasing competition from walled gardens. So, it is vital for
publishers of all sizes – from big cross-channel players to digital-only hubs –
to regain that focus on media quality.
Beyond the big three issues of brand safety, viewability, and
fraud, publishers need to realign their thinking and their metrics to better match
consumer behavior. For example, in the fight against non-human
forms of traffic, questions such as “did a person ‘see’ our content?” sometimes
override the more important question of “did a person actually ‘read or watch’ our content and for how long?” Let’s swing that pendulum
back to consumer-focused media quality.
2. For publishers, media quality is the top job
Publishers must keep their focus on what truly matters: engaging
their audience through compelling storytelling. This includes building an
advertising experience on their properties that puts the user experience first.
This must include integrity around validity, viewability, and brand safety.
When it comes to demanding higher quality ads and organic content
on the web, publishers have a huge opportunity to move the needle. Publishers
have the advantage of providing consumers and brands with a curated platform that
offers a more controlled experience,
enabling them to tell their story and reach consumers in an impactful way that drives
an emotional connection.
This level of command over content allows publishers to control
the conversation with their advertisers, share peace of mind with their
partners, and better demonstrate the value of their media and audiences.
3. Valid, viewable, and safe is only a starting point
How can publishers tell if their efforts to build a better ad
experience are successful? New and nuanced forms of measurement hold the key.
While consumers may never love all forms of advertising, we know
from research that they find certain
types more tolerable. The job of providing better advertising that meets those can’t
fall on publishers alone, of course. It will take buy-in from advertisers,
agencies, and all industry players.
More important, when publishers themselves measure media quality
only in terms of things like brand safety, viewability, and invalid traffic,
they are missing out on other relevant signals. A publisher that is achieving a
holistic view with their metrics is able to see if their content is connecting
to a brand’s message or if it’s engaging an audience.
This holistic view comes from more sophisticated measurement,
offers answers to questions such as:
Is there ad clutter?
Who are the returning users?
Which formats are in play? (i.e., infinite
scroll vs. photo galleries vs. sticky player)
What is the site experience? (i.e., navigation
or content discovery, which can be especially valuable for full-page branded
In short, valid, viewable, and safe is just a starting point. The
publisher of the future will set a higher bar. Through a better understanding
of performance, monitoring context, and applying more advanced ad quality
metrics, the industry will be able to launch ads that resonate, are viewed and
interacted with, and, ultimately, serve the interests of both advertiser and
viewer. All because the entire ecosystem better understands what the audience
The publisher of the future is now
More than ever, as attention spans continue to shrink in the modern digital landscape, publishers need to understand what truly influences attention, quality, and engagement. By focusing on these signals, publishers will not only delight their audience, but they have the power to make brand advertising more effective.
The publisher of the future looks forward with optimism and a
strong conviction for storytelling. The publisher of the future recognizes they
have the opportunity to deliver entertainment and experiences the world truly
desires. It starts with helping marketers connect with their audiences
sustainably and ethically, protecting an ecosystem that citizens rely on every
You are the publisher of the future. And the future is now.
Dave Constantino is the Senior Director of Client Development at Oracle Data Cloud, where he is responsible for driving revenue across the full measurement solutions suite encompassed by Moat Analytics, Contextual Intelligence, Moat Outcomes and Moat Reach. He joined Oracle with the Moat acquisition in 2017, where he focused on scaling the sales team and revenue for the business with strategic publishers and platforms. Prior to Oracle, Dave has held various roles as a SaaS leader and in sales.
If you open
a podcast app, like Castbox, Spotify or Apple Podcasts, the content available
is immensely vast. Hundreds of thousands of podcasts in every thinkable
category, available with the tap of a finger and a slip of an earbud.
learn something about unconscious patterns that drive human behavior? Try NPR’s
Hidden Brain. Can’t get enough true
crime stories? Try season one of Serial, which might be credited to starting the
whole podcast craze. Perhaps the newest, burgeoning fiction podcast category
might be more your speed. Short 20-minute audio experiences tell a story over a
handful of episodes. Featuring the voice talent of actors like Rami Malek and
Josh Gad and complete with sound effects and music, they create a new kind of
digital audio content that hasn’t existed before.
become an easy way for people to learn and relax. And with the ability to
listen across devices, and with a multitude of available app choices, you can
start a podcast on a phone to make a lengthy work commute go faster. When you
get home, pick up where you left off by casting to a Google Home device and
make mundane chores like washing loads of dishes seem not so boring. These new
listening scenarios have created new opportunities for brands to engage with
potential customers in places and times that previously were more difficult to
people are consuming podcast content, but are the ads that go with them
resonating with listeners and delivering an impact back to the brand? Kantar
conducted an analysis of 12 podcast ad campaigns which were inclusive of automotive,
CPG, finance, technology and other brand categories. Findings indicated that ads
in podcasts contributed to increased brand awareness at a near identical rate
to other channels, including in comparison to traditional radio and display. However,
when looking at lower-funnel metrics, like Brand Favorability and Purchase
Intent, podcasts emerged with lifts 37% higher than other media channels in
aggregate. Results like these suggest that listeners are connecting well with
the ads that run within podcasts and this resonance is translating to strong brand
consumers are spending more time behind personal devices, podcasts aren’t just
a shiny new way to spend coveted ad dollars. As discovered in Kantar’s Getting
Media Right study in 2019, marketers are recognizing the impact and potential
of podcasts, and plan to funnel more of their budgets to podcast advertising in
2020. This intent to increase spend puts the medium just behind planned dollars
devoted to online video and social, but ahead of traditional channels like
radio and online display.
reported in 2019 that podcast ad spend was estimated at nearly $679M and with
the presence of podcasts on media plans expected to soar in the next year, it
could easily surpass more commonly used media channels as a relatively uncluttered
way to engage with both niche and broad audiences.
of ad types have emerged, from companion banners in-app and dynamically
inserted pre-recorded ads to baked-in voice-overs read by the host in the
middle of the podcast, and the ever present “this podcast is brought to you
by…” opening message. So, there are plenty of opportunities for advertisers to
fully leverage the podcast platform and engage listeners from multiple angles.
advertising in podcasts will help define the effectiveness of different podcast
ad formats and how they create varied content experience for consumers. However,
with the superior ad effectiveness seen so far for podcasts and high brand
interest, the medium should be a fast-growing channel with loads of potential
for media companies to deliver unique advertising opportunities to in a
“quieter” media environment.
As stakeholders across the digital media industry work to fine tune the programmatic market, the issue of ad quality continues to reveal new challenges. This makes sense. “Ad quality” is really an umbrella term, and under that umbrella we find ad security, ad performance, aspects of brand safety, and more. But ad quality is about even more than the ad itself. It’s about content – on the publisher’s page and beyond. Content quality is a deeply significant piece of the perceived quality of an ad, and it needs to be considered more closely and carefully in these conversations.
For the sake of clarity, when we say,
“content quality,” we’re not accusing your editorial team of slacking. We’re
talking about making sure content is classified accurately and specifically, so
fewer off-message ads end up next to that content. And we’re certainly talking
about where the user goes when they click on an ad: What is on that landing
page? Does the content of that landing page send a message that feels
inappropriate or unwelcome, compared to the publisher page they just came from?
Another question: Does the ad’s creative
accurately represent the content it leads to? Yes, we’re all familiar with
“fake news.” But the problem of “fake ads” has also spread, more quietly but
widely. These ads may be inconsistent with the publisher’s ad policies. They
may also feature misleading creative.
Sometimes, the creative tells all you need
to know, and the ad is simply the wrong ad for the environment in question. Unfortunately,
though, often the only way you can tell it’s the wrong ad for this environment
is to click through and see where you land. And for the unsuspecting user,
landing on a clearly inappropriate page can wreck user experience.
It is impossible to fully separate the
publisher’s site from the ads on that site, and in turn from any of the landing
pages behind any of those ads. When the user clicks through a seemingly
innocuous ad and is surprised to end up on a highly partisan page, or a page
with adult content, they may close out that site in seconds. However, they will
remember which publisher site they came from. Publishers have a responsibility
to their users to provide positive, relevant experiences, and it’s a liability
to the publisher when an ad links out to a site the publisher shouldn’t be
But let’s go back to the right ad creative for the right environment. Inappropriate creative can be instantly spotted. And, at this moment in digital, a lot of categories could be considered inappropriate. Political ads are an obvious case. Major digital players, including Netflix, Spotify, and Twitter, are now banning political ads, or at least election ads. The trend is to get ahead of potential brand safety and UX issues by blocking entire ad categories wholesale.
However, when you block, say, all political ads, you likely also end up blocking harmless ads as well. For example, ads about local politics, which could ultimately be more of a service to the user than a source of controversy.
The nuclear option should not be a
publisher’s go-to. Publishers should step back and ask: Are our content categories too broad? Is that inadvertently causing ad
quality issues? When we categorize content, are we representing our brand and
our vision accurately? These are questions publishers can answer, and the answers
will not only help publishers monetize, but enrich the entire programmatic
This requires collaboration between
publishers and their supply partners. Together, they can clarify and codify
more accurate content verticals for the publisher’s site. Passing keywords to
SSPs and other ad platforms is old hat. We need to go deeper for a couple
First, platforms do have an interest in
demonstrating their value to publishers by delivering monetization, and keywords
are only effective if targeting around them is enforced. Second, buyers won’t
always demand an exact match of keywords anyway, if the site is a high-end
premium publisher. They may value certain sites for the publisher’s name and
brand higher than the page’s content itself.
Ad platforms need to recognize that when
they collaborate with publishers to classify content more clearly and
specifically, they open the door to more business for the entire programmatic
market. Brand safety concerns have long been a huge deterrent to brands
increasing their investment in programmatic. Alleviating those concerns will
lead to more programmatic spend, more supply – which in turn makes the platform
more valuable to publishers.
All stakeholders need to look at and classify
not only the ad creative, but the landing pages. In programmatic, it’s
essential to classify landing pages in real time, before the page renders.
While this may seem technologically daunting, ad quality and security vendors (such
as the company I work for, GeoEdge) have already the groundwork for this kind of
real-time detection of and response to issues in the programmatic market.
For publishers and ad platforms, it will
likely be necessary to introduce more content verticals – more specific content
categories that can be allowed or blocked, for the ad creative and for the content of the landing page.
This will take some effort upfront but will create efficiencies in the long run
that are truly useful on the programmatic level.
In recent years, global publishers have shifted their focus on the ties that bind loyal readers and their propensity to become subscribers. Therefore, we wanted to better understand loyal reader behaviors, starting with an analysis across devices and distribution channels. Here’s what we found.
Loyal readers no longer tethered to desktops
Believe it or not, loyalty is actually higher on mobile than desktop when we analyze our global publisher data.
Across the board, mobile visitors show more loyalty. We see the accessibility of these devices — a 24/7 window into what’s going on at any moment — driving this trend. This does not mean desktop traffic is going away, it’s just often tethered to a single place (e.g., work or home), whereas your mobile device moves with you all day long.
When looking at weekly visits by traffic sources across mobile and desktop experiences, we saw that app direct visitors are nearly 6x more loyal than platform visitors.
Where visitors are finding apps and how it impacts loyalty
Visitors coming to apps via deep links or direct traffic on the web do so three times more often than platform visitors, as we see below. That said, our research found that at this point loyalty is roughly the same when it comes to the major platforms (i.e., Facebook and Google Search).
What our channel loyal findings mean for content creators
“Subscription is an act of loyalty, and readers need some way of developing that loyalty and affinity for a publication before they’re likely to pay,” Josh Schwartz, our Chief of Product, Engineering and Data Science, recently told Nieman Lab on the topic of reader revenue and loyalty. The data we outlined in this piece suggests that publishers are increasingly aware of this journey to develop loyalty, using multiple channels (and increasingly, mobile-first experiences) to grow these relationships over time.
A few other takeaways from the research:
Shift in app experiences suggests new paths to loyalty
The data suggests that loyal readers want a direct path to publishers — a huge indicator that there’s value in improving app and direct to mobile experiences. That being said, friction along the mobile journey poses a massive hurdle in getting even loyal readers to move closer to subscription.
Platforms still have a prominent role in loyal readership
Yes, we’re seeing an interesting shift in visitor patterns that favor direct visits to apps. Yet, loyal readers are still coming from Google or Facebook. Our recent research shows that there’s still a case to keep your platform presence top of mind.
Movement matters when it comes to device-based loyalty
Loyalty among mobile visitors is growing rapidly. This finding makes sense when you think about today’s mobile-first readers. Don’t go abandoning your investments in desktop, especially since we still depend on this experience every day.
Overall, we see that loyalty among mobile visitors is growing rapidly, which makes more sense as we think about today’s mobile-first readers. Moreover, it points to an important shift in audience behavior — loyal readers want a direct path to publishers. This tells us there’s still a massive opportunity to improve app and direct to mobile experiences.
What’s more, the loopholes long used to circumvent these regulations are closing quickly and will likely be almost completely eliminated in the future. Even new ones that pop-up will likely be quickly snuffed out as these practices roll-out throughout the digital ecosystem.
For digital publishers, this raises a lot of questions. Isn’t the personalization provided by 3rd-party cookies better for advertisers? And, isn’t that what is required to maximize the value they are willing to pay publishers?
We’ve heard Google recently tout research that says personalized advertisements are more highly-valued than non-personalized contextual ads. That would seem to paint a bleak picture for publishers. However, keep in mind that Google is one of the few parties that can offer scaled first-party data and may be inclined to view this issue with bias.
With that being said, many still wonder that in a world without third-party targeting, how are publishers going to be able to deliver an audience to advertisers that are as valuable as the ones they’ve become used to? And at the end of the day, publishers want to know if they can make as much money as they were before from advertising.
Consider the source
Publishers need to take a step back and look at the premise of all this and ask, “Am I being manipulated by parties in the space to believe that I am going to lose value selling the exact same thing as I am today?”
The big change in the ecosystem will come to the third-party targeting system as a whole—and that’s an advertising system. The system being affected is largely going to be the programmatic one (buying and selling inventory using online systems, like Google Ad Manager). Publishers are simply leveraging the advertiser’s system to sell their inventory in an easy and cost-effective format.
This isn’t to say that publishers get to sit back and relax. In fact, publishers might have to find a new way to market that audience to the advertisers. However, if we look at the shifts in spending for advertisers, there’s no slowdown in digital ad spend. Given that spending is going up and your audience remains the same, publishers should have a fair amount of optimism.
Winners and losers
Google is already using cookieless tracking. The same can be said for many other major ad exchanges and ad networks. The advertising market has continued to grow and the money flows to the eyeballs, no matter what. When those eyeballs are on a TV ad for the Superbowl (obviously without cookies), the money flows there. That revenue is driven by the opportunity for advertisers to reach an audience they know is unique.
For advertisers, this is where they lose a little bit. They will have to work much harder in identifying what makes their audiences unique and where they can put their dollars to ensure they’re still able to capture them. This means trying new systems and methods.
In the realm of programmatic advertising, Google has the largest reach, a hold on the industry’s most effective tools, the most user data, and they’re incumbent at just about every layer of digital user experiences. It’s hard not to see them as the biggest winner in all of this.
The vast majority of the internet is potentially going to lose personalized cookie targeting. The good news is that publishers are more important than ever before. Your audience, your data, and the material relationship you have with them are more important than ever. And the value that comes along that is only poised to increase as time passes.
The only thing you should fear, given the death of 3rd-party cookies, are the players that will inevitably come out of the woodwork. They’ll tell you that the upcoming cookie changes are of reason why you need to pivot your strategy, need to leverage this company, or this third-party network, because they have great personal relationships with X network or Y direct advertisers.
Basically, they’ll say: Sell your audience to us and we’ll resell it to advertisers. It’s the only way to save your business. It’s in these players’ best interest to grow their first-party data and they need you to help them. Beware these pitches. Instead, rely on doing a good job of engaging with your audiences and understanding who they are.
My last piece of advice is this: Protect the relationship you have with your audience because it’s only going to get more valuable as time goes on.
There’s a blackhole in the video game universe. A massive, bare chest Jeff Goldblum is lounging on a London lawn near a bridge. And the golden arches have inverted.
Surely some sort of revelation is at hand!
Oh no wait: It’s just brands going viral.
Inspired by Fortnite’s bold strategy of taking the massively popular game offline for nearly two days to tee up the release of a new virtual world, we decided to investigate several so-called “publicity stunts” to see which ones were the most impactful in generating reader engagement.
To do this, we checked how these campaigns impacted readership about the companies on the Taboola network of news publishers. We’ve seen that successful marketing can often generate significant news coverage and create a viral effect.
Taboola’s data include readership of more than 1,300 US news websites including national, local, and digital-native organizations. The scope of the network offers a broad view of what’s capturing people’s attention.
With that in mind, let’s see which stunts sparked the biggest spikes.
The Fortnite black hole
Fortnite has become one of the rare titles of this generation to transcend gaming to become a cultural phenomenon. Its player base has expanded into the hundreds of millions over the past two years.
Naturally, people totally freaked out when the game’s universe was sucked into a black hole leaving behind only a dark screen and a cryptic string of numbers.
“It then, to the internet’s collective shock, stayed that way. Confused players joined forces to decode mysterious numbers, play a hidden minigame, entertain themselves with speculation, and spend more than 35 hours staring at what basically amounts to a screensaver.”
It didn’t take long for people to realize that this was the game’s way of teasing the beginning of a new season and the introduction of a new world for players to shoot to control.
In the meantime, millions of people read news articles about the phenomenon. We saw readership spike more than 10x above its daily average.
International house of what now?
Who doesn’t love IHOP? The food is decadent. The blue roof is iconic. And “Rooty Tooty Fresh ‘N Fruity” is honestly one of the all-time great names for a menu item.
You could invert three of the letters in IHOP and not a thing would change. But when the company inverted that fourth letter, a great mystery ensued.
After several days of anticipation, “IHOb” revealed the b stands for burgers because, yes, they also serve burgers. A month later, IHOP admitted the supposed name change was a gimmick all along.
Readers seemed to find the gag palatable. Traffic spiked like an 8-year-old’s energy level after eating IHOP pancakes with blueberry syrup.
IHOP isn’t the only food chain to cause a stir by inverting its branding. A McDonald’s in California flipped the golden arches in honor of International Women’s Day and the company changed its logo on its social media channels to match.
McDonald’s said this gesture was meant to recognize “the extraordinary accomplishments of women everywhere and especially in our restaurants.”
We saw increased readership about McDonald’s related to this move. But it was not necessarily a triumph of publicity. The gesture received harsh backlash as people criticized the company for the wages it pays its workers.
Payless pranks influencers
Fashion influencers flocked to Palessi’s popup shop in Santa Monica, California, to sip champagne and try on shoes listed for up to $1,800. The line to get in extended well out the door. Photos were posted to Instagram.
No one suspected the supposed luxury kicks normally sell for as low as $20 until discount retailer Payless ShoeSource revealed it was behind the entire production.
Well played, Payless.
The farce earned a big bump in readership for the company. Unfortunately, the spike was overshadowed a few months later by the news that Payless was imminently closing all of its US locations.
Tesla boldly goes
Here’s one only Tesla could pull off.
Yes, that’s a Tesla Roadster in outer space.
The electric car company was able to pull off this extraterrestrial feat because of its association with SpaceX (since Elon Musk founded both companies).
So when SpaceX needed to show off the capabilities of its Falcon Heavy rocket during a 2018 launch, it brought along the Tesla as the payload to add some extra flare to the event.
How epic was this stunt? Business Insider’s Mark Matousek wrote, “Tesla created the world’s best car commercial without spending a dime on advertising.”
Both companies saw significant bumps in readership around this event.
Pizza and potholes
Most of us likely have experienced the utter disappointment of receiving a pizza from a delivery person, only to open the box and see a pie that looks like it’s reached us via a carnival ride.
Domino’s created its “Paving for Pizza” campaign aimed, perhaps symbolically, to address this issue by fixing potholes in towns across the US. In theory, this would create a smoother ride for their delivery people.
A road condition meter on the website promoting the campaign shows the supposed carnage various degrees of road disrepair wreak on pizza.
Domino’s even put its own branding on repaired roadways to make sure citizens knew who was responsible for the fix.
This campaign did not see the same type of traffic spike as the others. When it launched in June 2018, there were a number of stories that caused a small bump in activity as indicated by the red arrow in the chart below.
It’s possible this campaign had more of a slow burn effect though. It seemed to create increasing buzz at the local level as it expanded to new towns.
And despite the lack of readership at launch, there were a number of positives. PRWeek highlighted the campaign’s success on social media. It also covered the sheer number of requests the company received from towns that wanted to be part of the program, which included over 15,000 zip codes.
Sex sells, but at what cost?
Your scientists marketers were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should.
If the advertising maxim “sex sells” is true, then this one might be the new gold(blum) standard. See for yourself.
Unlike the other companies we’ve discussed so far, we didn’t actually see a spike for now Now TV when measuring readership in the UK. Taboola’s semantic AI looks for terms in headlines and the first few paragraphs of a story to categorize them into topics. Since Jeff Goldblum is such a big star, most of the story headlines about the statue gave him top billing and mentioned that it was organized by Now TV deeper in the stories.
With this in mind, we also looked at news stories about Jeff Goldblum and did find a bump in readership when the statue first appeared. As you can see below, it wasn’t the biggest Jeff Goldblum news of the past two years. That honor went to the revelation that Goldblum, Laura Dern and Sam Neill would all appear in the next “Jurassic World.”
The competition is fierce for the attention of readers and customers.
The stunts that not only successfully garnered “earned” media for brands but also significant audiences for those media sites can be categorized into three themes: providing a public service or pushing for social good (Domino’s/McDonalds), generating intrigue (Fortnite/IHOP/Payless), or creating a spectacle (Tesla/NowTV).
The successful stunts for brands were the ones that best aligned with their public image. A lighthearted brand like IHOP with playfully named menu items can get away with shenanigans if it’s all in good fun. While Tesla and SpaceX, both known for being on the cutting-edge of technology, took those reputations to the next level with the space car stunt.
Journalists have the important responsibility of giving readers context about these stunts and holding brands accountable when their plays for attention miss the mark. However, when done right, these stunts not only deliver significant PR, they drive interest and traffic for media companies as well.
Note: Taboola’s news publisher partners have access to data on trending topics in the Topic Insights part of Newsroom, a real-time audience analytics platform. There’s also a publicly available version of Topic Insights on the Taboola Trends page.
Taboola is always looking for interesting ways to use data to help bring context to how news readers are interacting with real-world events such as measuring which presidential candidates are getting the most attention and measuring the huge impact of a coordinated media effort to increase climate change coverage. Please DM @franberkman on Twitter if you’re doing any research or reporting that you think this type of data could help support.
As a 20-year marketing technology and media vet, I must tip my cap
to Data Management Platform startups for bringing new energy and interest to
the needs of publishers and their commercial partners. We face an ever-changing
media landscape characterized by fragmentation in delivery channels, evolving consumer
consumption behaviors, and privacy regulation. To navigate it successfully, we need
to focus our time and effort on finding innovative and effective ways to
connect, enrich, and activate consumer data for publishers in a manner that
respects consumer privacy and empowers choice.
I admire the marketing prowess and focused messaging of these Data
Management Platform (DMP) companies. However, I can’t stand by while they
purposely and repeatedly mischaracterize technical capabilities and
confuse publishers (and media outlets) on the facts related to profile
identifiers, browser storage mechanisms, privacy compliance, and “match rates.”
In a series of three pieces, I will set the record straight. This
first piece will focus on the facts on profile identifiers, browser storage
mechanisms, and their relationship to privacy regulation.
The facts about profile identifiers and browser storage mechanisms
If I had a dime for every time I’ve heard the term “cookieless
DMP” in the last year, I’d be a very rich person. This is purely a marketing
term with no basis in fact or function. If we’re talking about data management
technologies that are operating in a web browser context, then there is no such
thing as a “cookieless DMP.”
All data management technologies — including DMPs — use profile
identifiers (“PIDs”) in a web context to organize and connect consumer data. A
PID is typically a string of randomly generated letters and numbers. By itself,
a PID usually has no information that can directly identify an individual in
the real world.
In a web browser environment, these PIDs can be stored using one
of three browser storage mechanisms. These are: 3rd party cookies, 1st party
cookies, or browser local storage (sometimes referred to as HTML5 web storage).
It’s important to understand that a cookie is just a storage mechanism (a text
file), and you put a PID string inside the cookie.
1st and 3rd parties
Many years ago, DMPs primarily stored PIDs in 3rd party cookies
because they provided a consistent and scaled container to access PIDs across
websites and over time. In 2017, Apple released
their Intelligent Tracking Prevention (“ITP”) functionality in Safari. It blocked
the setting of 3rd party cookies by default and made that storage mechanism an
ineffective tool for storing and retrieving PIDs. As a fallback mechanism, DMPs
could use 1st party cookies to store and retrieve PIDs.
The difference between 3rd party cookies and 1st party cookies is
that 3rd party cookies can be accessed by the entity that originally set the
3rd party cookie irrespective of which website the consumer is visiting. In contrast,
1st party cookies can only be set and accessed when a consumer is visiting a
specific website domain.
So, for example, a PID that is placed in a 1st party cookie when a
consumer is visiting Publisher_A.com can only be accessed when the consumer is
at Publisher_A.com. If the consumer subsequently visits Publisher_B.com, then a
different PID will be generated and placed in a 1st party cookie that can only
be accessed from the Publisher_B.com domain. Now this same consumer has two
PIDs stored in 1st party cookies — each only accessible when visiting the
Within the past year, Apple has
continued to ratchet-up the ITP restriction on cookies in Safari, and now
even 1st party cookies are being squeezed. In many situations, 1st party
cookies will now only persist for 24 hours before being deleted. As a result,
web developers — including DMPs — have increasingly used browser local storage
as a fallback for storing PIDs.
Browser local storage is a
standard technology built into all major web browsers. It allows for the
storage of larger amounts of data (e.g., HTML code) than cookies, and over
longer periods of time than cookies. Browser local storage isn’t magic
technology — it’s standard web browser technology — and using it to store PIDs
When companies refer to their tech as “cookieless,” it
should be qualifying such as “3rd party cookieless.” It is worth noting that,
despite loud and repeated marketing claims to the contrary, these companies use
1st party cookies as the centerpiece of their platform for data collection. We
know this factually and objectively because they say so in their documentation.
The facts about profile identifiers, browser storage mechanisms,
and privacy regulation
I’m not exactly sure how the idea came about in the press that “cookieless
DMPs” are automagically GDPR compliant. However, that’s a misunderstanding that
needs to be corrected. Whether a PID is stored in a 1st party cookie, 3rd party
cookie, or local storage has no bearing on GDPR compliance obligations as a
processor for a publisher’s data.
Consumers have a set of rights under GDPR. Therefore, any
technology company processing consumer data on behalf of a publisher needs to
provide a means for publishers to transmit to such processors the consent
signals for data collection and use. They must also provide a way for the
processors to enforce those consumer consent choices. Mobile devices don’t use
cookies whatsoever in the app-space. However, publishers still need to comply
GDPR compliance obligations for a publisher-as-controller and a vendor-as-processor do not differ based on whether a vendor’s PID is stored in a 1st party cookie, 3rd party cookie, or browser local storage. Even if no 1st or 3rd party cookies were used — and if browser local storage was exclusively used — the GDPR obligations for the parties remain the same.
True forward-thinking innovation for publishers will be based upon
connecting publisher data to marketer data in meaningful ways across channels
and platforms. It requires providing the means for all parties to analyze,
enrich, and activate for commercial benefit — while always respecting consumer
privacy and empowering choice.
About the author
As Chief Marketing Officer, Adam leads Lotame’s global marketing
and product teams in helping publishers, marketers and agencies solve complex
business challenges with unstacked data solutions. His diverse experience
balances art and science. It includes stints as an aerospace engineer and
patent attorney, plus 21 years in consumer media and marketing technology in
leadership roles at Viacom Media Networks, Time Inc., Hearst, and PebblePost.
Adam is co-inventor on four issued U.S. patents related to interactive video
From the boom of direct-to-consumer (DTC) brands to the introduction of new OTT streaming services such as Disney+, 2019 brought significant innovation to the digital media space. As we begin 2020, it’s time to think about which media trends will shake up the new year. Here’s what the MediaRadar team sees on the horizon.
The year of paradox for linear TV
In 2019, it was estimated that 6.4 million paid subscribers stopped paying for television. In 2020, as OTT streaming services continue to gain control, an almost equal, incremental decline in number of paid subscribers is predicted. However, despite “cord-cutting” in the TV industry, linear cable and broadcasters are poised to have a successful year. This is due in part to several major TV events set to occur throughout 2020.
The 2020 presidential election will have politicians spending significant amounts of ad dollars to get their messages across. Some estimate that spending will approach as much as $10 billion – or almost $6 billion more than the 2010 election. Advertisers are also predicted to allocate heavy ad spend towards the Tokyo Summer Olympics, as well as other large tent-pole sporting events like the Super Bowl. This year’s Super Bowl is expected to deliver strong financial results, as Fox reported in early December 2019. In fact, 80% of the inventory had already sold at a reported $5.6 million per 30 seconds. That marks a 7% jump from last year.
Amidst the evolving TV landscape, providing viewers with
real innovation will become crucial for success. Keeping that in mind, in 2020,
it’s believed that nearly all major broadcasters will either reboot or unveil
their paid streaming businesses. While this is just the start, this shows
broadcasters are committed to re-engaging with their audiences and future
Politics’ role in digital media
An exploding ad spend isn’t the only way the presidential
election will shape the industry this year. The election is expected to take
over much of the news cycle and political ads. Every platform will be
scrutinized for accuracy more than ever before. Ahead of the election, digital
ad companies are expected to face strong public pressure to ensure their
political ad policies are tightly “buttoned up.”
Twitter recently announced they will be opting out of politics, disallowing political ads entirely. Google announced that they are restricting targeting capabilities for political ads and Facebook is predicted to follow suit, despite pressures to go further.
Based on these companies’ decisions, it’s likely that other
media will feel the same pressures in 2020. It will be up to these companies’
leadership to navigate this evolving digital landscape during the election
cycle. Foremost: an emphasis on clear and ethical business decisions.
OTT remains hot
Over the past few years, investment in the OTT space has been heavy and rapid. It shows no signs of slowing down in 2020. UBS estimates a combination of 16 media firms will spend $100 billion to produce content in 2020. Of that $100 billion, just three firms – Netflix, Disney and WarnerMedia – are projected to account for 25%, producing unique content for their viewers.
For the financial health of the companies competing in the space, it’s likely that this investment cannot last long-term. Bob Iger, Chairman and CEO of The Walt Disney Company, has acknowledged that Disney+ will probably not break even for at least the first five years. Meanwhile, AT&T has said the same of upcoming streaming platform, HBO Max.
Eventually, it’s predicted that end user prices will rise,
ad-supported models will become more common – SVOD versus AVOD – and spend on
content will decrease to ensure profitability. Being in the early days of the
streaming wars, however, the major players are willing to gamble with losses
now to gain profits later. In the fight to capture the attention, and monthly
payments of consumers around the world, and to make the investment worth it,
not all can win.
2020 looks to be both an exciting and transformative year
for digital media. The TV industry will shift focus as they seek to re-engage
with audiences through paid streaming businesses and offerings. Major TV
events, specifically the 2020 presidential election and flagship sporting
events, will help sustain linear cable and broadcasters through the year.
Investment in OTT is only expected to increase, especially as “cord cutting”
Perhaps the biggest change in 2020, though, will be as a
result of the state of politics. With politics playing a larger role in the
space than ever before, media companies will begin adjusting their strategies
and policies accordingly – a change that could have a lasting impact on the