The adtech ecosystem hasn’t always been easy for publishers to navigate. Managing complexity around data privacy, dealing with opaque fees, and working around anti-competitive behavior has become standard operating procedure. And 2021 brought no relief with more change than ever introduced into the ecosystem.
Big players have caused big waves
Last year, publishers had to deal with Apple implementing their ATT framework under iOS 14.5, which changed the way apps collected data about end-users and shared it with other companies for tracking purposes. This major move had a strong impact on IDFA tracking. It resulted in lower opt-in rates, less ability to serve personalized ads, and a shift in spending from iOS to Android where lower CPMs were available. All of this led to a decrease in revenue from iOS users.
Google followed with their announcement to postpone cookie deprecation after they were challenged by both the UK competition authority and GDPR to release their privacy sandbox. And, revenue was further impacted with European authorities taking a stronger approach to enforcing GDPR. We saw consent rates drop from 94% to 85% after the French data privacy authority (CNIL) required websites to ask users to accept or decline consent at the same level.
With each of these changes, publishers were forced to relinquish more control and adapt. In this climate of uncertainty, publishers are left questioning who they should trust. But that may be about to change.
The tipping point
As the industry awaits the resolution of ongoing legal battles—such as the Google antitrust lawsuit filed in Texas—we’re set to reach a tipping point. While any outcomes are impossible to anticipate, we can look to what’s happening in Europe for hints of what to expect.
Last year’s ruling by the French Anticompetitive Authority resulted in Google sharing a set of commitments focused on increased access to data and transparency. This opened the door for publishers to partly regain their choice of tech partners without compromising revenue. Google also agreed to a test run with a select group of French publishers to validate their commitments. These tests are currently underway and the proof points are expected to be released soon. This could provide additional confidence in the increased level of control they have promised. However, we will have to wait and see.
In addition, publishers have historically innovated to create solutions when faced with roadblocks. A perfect example is the evolution of header bidding as an industry standard in response to pain points imposed by Google. As publishers began looking for additional ways to make the most of their non-consented traffic last year, we saw new targeting solutions emerge. We expect these to become more widely adopted in the year ahead as they allow for even greater revenue and control over content, data, and audience relationships.
What’s a publisher to do?
There’s still a lot of uncertainty around what lies ahead when it comes to the industry as a whole. But those who are ready to embrace change have never been in a better position to thrive with all of the independent players and options available to help take ownership of first-party data or content, their most critical assets.
Curation is a great start for reducing reliance on a big tech walled garden. In addition to offering better brand safety, it streamlines the value chain through a more transparent deal process to offer enhanced accountability and efficiency. This means fewer intermediaries and fees. It also allows you to avoid data leakage and provides more control over your inventory through direct deals with buyers.
From there, another big step is protecting yourself from data leakage. By partnering with an independent SSP, you will be able to input first-party data in clean rooms. This safe and secure environment can serve as a basis for privacy-safe targeting with no risk of data leakage. And it can also be leveraged for audience extension and creating direct deals and PMPs. This way you will be able to leverage the full value of your first-party data and generate a new revenue stream.
Then, once you are ready to embrace large-scale change, the independent players can help you replace your full-stack to create your own private garden. This approach gives you full control of your data and revenue while opening the door for the creation of publisher networks or alliances to increase scale and better identify audiences. Independent providers can offer more innovation than the big tech player solutions. In instances where the walled gardens act as an adblocker and do not monetize non-consented traffic, an independent player allows you to provide buyers a path to targeting this traffic through performance and contextual targeting.
Change takes time. But, as the landscape finally begins evolving in their favor and more transparent solutions emerge, publishers are well-positioned to be in the driver’s seat as we enter this new era.
The metaverse doesn’t exist. The term is a framework for discussions around Web 3, NFTs, decentralized virtual spaces, and the gaming landscape. Despite the fact that it does not yet exist, there has been a huge amount of money invested into the metaverse, from people purchasing virtual real estate adjacent to celebrities to building out festivals within platforms like Roblox. Despite its hypothetical state, it’s already lucrative.
There’s an early mover advantage for news and magazine publishers to launch on new platforms. While only 8% of news publishers currently say they intend to invest in metaverse products, the need to discover younger audiences and to discover new revenue sources is a powerful lure. But as we saw with the overreliance on platforms in the era of Web 2.0 — and the terrible consequences that wrought — there is enormous danger for publishers when it comes to building strategies around platforms they don’t own.
So how can publishers take advantage of the potential of the metaverse without making the same mistakes around platform over-reliance? More importantly, to what extent can media companies help define the metaverse, and take a leading role in its development?
The lure of new platforms
The appeal for news publishers is obvious. We know from recent forays into NFTs that they are hungry for new sources of digital revenue, particularly those that do not just replicate non-digital revenue strategies online. Much of the early pitch to brands of the metaverse is around selling persistent virtual products, which are being marketed as a new form of social status for particularly younger consumers.
Andrew Kiguel is CEO and co-founder of Tokens.com, which builds and sells services and real estate within the metaverse. He says, “The metaverse is the next iteration not just of gaming, but of social media. Right now, the status symbol on Facebook or Instagram is posting a picture of the restaurant or whichever resort you’re at. What’s going to be the status symbol soon in the metaverse [is] you walk around with your NFT Gucci bag or your Nike running shoes.”
The bigger draw, however, is that of creating touchpoints for new audiences. We’ve seen newspapers experiment with virtual reality spaces before, from The Wall Street Journal’s 2016 foray into VR real estate to the virtual town halls run ahead of the 2016 elections. Persistent and long-lasting communities are being built in those unreal spaces, based in no small part on lessons learned from social media and gaming. Friends lists, followers and gaming clans have formed the basis of how we will keep track of and communicate with friends and co-workers in the metaverse space.
That’s an opportunity for the news publishers who are making access to a community a big part of their offering. Start-ups like Tortoise make its community “Think-Ins” part and parcel of its marketing. And legacy titles, including The Telegraph, organize exclusive events for subscribers. The ability to open those events up to audiences who wouldn’t otherwise be able to attend is a big opportunity. We’ve already seen them experiment with these in Twitter Spaces and other remote meeting tools during the pandemic.
In addition, we’ve already seen early examples of news outlets within metaverse platforms. The Second Life Enquirer, for example, maintains a newsroom on Second Life. And other titles and magazines create their own communities from audiences already on metaverse platforms.
Decentralizing the threat
So, if the benefits for entering the metaverse space early are obvious, how do we go about building those spaces without becoming over reliant on the platforms? One of the criticisms already being levied about platforms like Roblox is that its publisher, Roblox Corporation, controls both a portion of any sale and the data of its users. That’s not tenable for media companies in 2022, who are only just rediscovering the value of their first-party data.
Instead, the media industry could look to spaces like Decentraland, which aim to build upon the promise of Web 3 by taking the power away from any one platform or owner. That, in theory, would allow them to control not just the look and feel of their own virtual environment, but also the sale and revenue options of any virtual products (or subscriptions!) sold in those spaces. As Matthew Lines writes, news is inherently linked to crypto payments already:
“Real world cryptocurrency analytics companies like Messari and Coincheckup are starting to display ‘news’ sections. These amalgamate different articles which address a specific metaverse platform and its associated crypto token. In a similar vein, websites like NFT Plazas also display an individual ‘news’ page, showcasing all the latest stories occurring in specific metaverse platforms like Decentraland.”
Dream or reality?
It’s a utopian idea, one that potentially extends a newspaper or magazines’ community far beyond geographic bounds. It also allows them to monetize audiences directly through crypto payments.
However, there are huge questions around the extent to which these decentralized platforms actually are immune to the bottleneck of control that plagued Web 2 for publishers. Between the countless current rug-pulls, crypto scams, lack of interoperability and the funnelling of funds to a handful of big players, the promise of that decentralization is under threat already.
That utopian ideal also relies on companies like Meta – whose relationship with media companies is already fraught – not seizing control of the metaverse through the scale of its investment alone. By inserting itself into the conversation as forcefully as it has, it raises the possibility that it will also try to control payments and data on its metaverse platforms as well.
Years of uncertainty
While virtual real estate is relatively cheap (and potentially comparable to the purchase of Manhattan according to Time), it is still an outlay for publishers already stretched to cover existing platforms. The BBC was recently criticized for ignoring TikTok, despite the fact that it admitted to lacking resources to do so effectively. If even the BBC can’t spread itself across the biggest social networks, can we expect most publishers to invest in an untested space like the metaverse?
Building offices in the metaverse is a nice stunt for marketing companies. But without the surety of return on investment and a lack of time to maintain it, many newspapers and magazines are adopting a wait-and-see attitude to the metaverse.
There may be huge opportunities for community development and creating audience touchpoints, but the revenue model is currently unclear. And it is likely to remain so for years. As tech giants struggle to control it, the metaverse might never even live up to its initial promise.
It is incumbent on newspapers, broadcasters and magazine companies to ensure that any forays they make into the metaverse are shored up by solid revenue and data strategies. Otherwise, it’s just a gimmick, and one that risks the industry repeating its platform-dependency from web2.0.
The last two years have been unpredictable for consumer packaged goods (CPG) brands. In 2020, Covid-19 and pandemic-induced shortages realigned consumer shopping behavior and caused marketers to pull or pause campaigns. These unprecedented changes had a cascading impact on publishers with millions of ad dollars lost and considerable resources exhausted to cater to the shifts.
Unfortunately, the coronavirus continued to wreak havoc on CPG well into 2021. The second half of the year — and the holiday period, in particular — was hurt by supply chain challenges. Long, unpredictable delivery times, and low inventory left brands and consumers scrambling. To complicate the situation even further, all of this occurred while overall consumer spending was on the rise, widening the gap between supply and demand.
As we embark on what is sure to be another challenging year, MediaRadar wants to understand market headwinds for publishers who rely on ad dollars from CPG brands. So, we looked at our U.S. data, and here’s what we found.
How did the CPG market shift in 2021?
As a result of the pandemic, online shopping for groceries and toiletries — staples of brick-and-mortar convenience stores and drug chains — has normalized. Significantly, an impressive 45% of consumers report shopping online for groceries. That trend will only continue, driven by convenience and safety on the consumer side.
“Ecommerce will be the key battleground for CPG brand growth over the coming years,” says Jonathan Barnard, head of forecasting at Zenith, and the numbers are bearing this prediction out. Another driver of increased online shopping is CPG brands getting into more direct online sales. Clorox, Nestle, Ocean Spray, and others are launching or investing in web-based DTC offerings amid the pandemic. These same CPGs are also increasing their social activations with live streaming and live shopping options in the U.S., to build direct relationships with a growing cohort of online shoppers.
Where are the ad dollars going?
With more CPG brands shifting focus to ecommerce sales versus brick-and-mortar channels, our analysis reveals that ad spend is following. Comparing media spend in 2019 to 2021 through November, here is what we saw:
Print spending is down by over half (53%), totaling $970 million in 2021 versus 2.08 billion in 2019. TV is also down by 16%. Spend totals topped $3.1 billion in 2021 compared to roughly $3.7 billion in 2019.
Digital, however, grew like gangbusters and is up an eye-popping 742% over the last two years. Spending last year approached $1.6 billion ($1.59 billion) while 2019 saw investments sit at just $189 million. The growth speaks to changing strategies for CPGs, who are investing more and more in online sales.
CPG ad spend has fallen
Even with the exploding online spend, CPG ad spend has steadily decreased since 2019, and is now down 6%. Digging deeper, we see that 2021 CPG ad spend is down ~1% from 2020 to $5.7 billion, while 2020 dropped 5% from the previous, pre-COVID year. Pandemic-driven sensitivities and supply chain challenges are likely the causes of this downshift, as advertising adjusts to stay in line with available supply — or adapts to mitigate shortages.
Unsurprisingly, TV stays on top
Overall, spendings on TV ads still tops other media and remains hugely popular among CPGs for brand lift. Even as consumers spent more time with entertainment apps, TV still owned 55% of all ad spend in 2021 at $3.1 billion. However, digital overtook print as the second most popular medium, with spend at $1.6 billion.
Changes in monthly ad spending
Note the month-to-month changes as there were decreases with ad spend in February (-16%) and November (-18%) and increases in April (+16%) and May (+13%) as a result of CPG companies reacting to supply chain challenges and leveraging data to react to consumers’ needs.
The top CPG advertisers
According to our analysis over the last three years, the number of CPG advertisers grew annually: 9,329 in 2019; 9,666 in 2020; 12,300 in 2021. This rise was due, in part, to companies who didn’t advertise previously starting to advertising in 2021. (Such as Beautcella offering DERM iNSTITUTE and The Naked Bee.)
Top spenders remained unchanged from pre-pandemic all the way through 2021: L’Oreal, The Hershey Co, Johnson & Johnson, Procter & Gamble, and Unilever. These companies account for more than a quarter (28%) of the overall 2021 category spend. While each brand’s total spend is down YoY, they all experienced growth in digital. L’Oreal, Hershey and Unilever saw increased digital advertising more than 100% YoY. With each, we witnessed large video and Facebook buys adjusting to consumer buying patterns.
What’s next for CPG in 2022?
We believe that CPG companies will continue to reshape portfolios with DTC offerings and investment. They’ll also continue to zero in on health-conscious lines to support changing consumer demands. Ad spend distribution will likely shift in tandem, with more budget allocated to digital and social media. To win those open web dollars and compete with the walled gardens of Meta, Google, Snapchat, Pinterest, and TikTok, publishers should emphasize in-demand formats like video and OTT. As livestreaming continues to grow, advertisers are reconsidering how they can approach their marketing efforts through this medium to help create brand awareness and increase sales.
Overall, there have been many changes within the CPG advertising space. These include navigating external factors like supply chain issues as well as a changing marketplace. Ecommerce and digital advertising are a necessity within this space as consumers shop online more than ever before. While top CPG advertisers remain the same as in previous years, their tactics are shifting. Publishers need to keep a close eye on these trends to understand how to best serve the changing needs of these potential advertisers.
Online news organizations have had a rough go of swaying audience behavior. First you had to get them to click. Then you had to convince them to stay. Now you have to keep them coming back. And with any luck, they’ll tell you who they are while they hang out. But the question that needs to be answered to get them past any of these thresholds is: Why should they?
The biggest barrier in converting anonymous users to known community members isn’t a reluctance to hand over data. Because despite waning trust in Facebook following the Cambridge Analytica scandal of 2018, social media platform still counted 1.93 billion daily active users in its third quarter of 2021. Elsewhere, a study conducted by data privacy company Entrust shows that almost 64% of consumers are quite willing to let companies know who they are if they feel they’re going to get “relevant, personalized, and convenient services” out of it.
There’s the rub: relevance, personalization, and convenience. Relevance can cut both ways. It can be about the content you produce, but it’s also about the interactive environment you create and how essential it is for your user base to get the most out of your platform. Personalization can be a provision for registration. (If you sign up, we’ll make sure you only see the things that interest you.) Convenience is about having fewer hoops to jump through to get to the things you’re interested in. All three are experiential conditions.
So, what does it look like to provide an experience that leads to registrations? First, tackle convenience with a simple sign-up process. Then, start hosting engaging, community-led features on your owned platform that make sense not just for the content you produce, but for the types of interactions people want to have around that content.
A perfect example is The Independent, the national U.K. publication that went fully digital in 2016. It implemented different engagement solutions, including live blogs for breaking news, live AMA series on current events, and automated comment moderation. One popular AMA series is hosted by travel correspondent Simon Calder, who answers questions about ever-changing travel restrictions due to Covid-19. Part of a recent strategy was to make the UI of their engagement solutions simpler for users.
Otherwise, users who want to participate in any discussion on The Independent’s platform have to sign up, and boy, have they ever! Over 12 months, The Independent reported a 100% increase in registrations, with over 2,000 monthly registrations driven just by the comments section. The newspaper attributes 1 million article views from AMA content, and reports 15 times more time spent on the site after a user registers.
Meantime, the Philadelphia Inquirer ushered in Gameday Central in September 2021. Its goal is to create excitement around Philadelphia Eagles games. From the Gameday Central hub on the Inquirer’s website, viewers can watch a live pre-game video that’s also streamed on social media. During a game, users can interact on the Inquirer’s platform with a live blog, polls, comments and pinned comments. Managing editor of sports Michael Huang recently told Digiday that Gameday Central has attracted thousands of users.
It’s not surprising that a major sporting event would attract this much attention. But what’s interesting is that the Inquirer combined several experiences at once to keep users hooked.
Our own research shows that it only takes a few engagement solutions to make your users spend more time on your website, and when they do that, they’re 25.4 times more likely to register. Features like sharebars, email notifications, trending carousels, and personalized newsfeeds generate more page views and considerably increase dwell times. In fact, a user that clicks on a personalized newsfeed profile spends on average 42 minutes more per month on a news website than an anonymous user.
It also can’t be understated just how significant a well moderated comments section can be, because when it’s safe and generates civil discussions, even users who don’t necessarily contribute will spend time reading the comments. When we culled the data from 5 of our media clients, we found that both registered and unregistered users spent an average of over 1.6 million minutes in the comments.
So, you can try to convince your audience verbally that registering is a good idea, or you can incentivize them with a rich experience they won’t want to miss out on. A live blog during a major sporting event, an AMA about a hugely unpopular policy: these are things people are talking about on social media already. What if they were talking about it on your troll-free platform instead?
It was a fourth quarter to remember…and a fourth quarter to forget. The main reason to remember is so other Q4s will look positively luminous in comparison. I’m not just talking about the wrath of Omicron, which ruined holidays for countless families and continues to cause illness, death, and emotional distress across the globe. I’m talking about an alarming rise in malvertising that endangers publisher revenue and consumers’ online safety.
As publishers struggle more than ever to balance user experience and monetization, the perils of the open programmatic marketplace require higher levels of vigilance, lest audiences be lost in a storm of malware. Let’s explore the factors behind the rise in malvertising and what publishers can do to combat its impact.
Malware incidents on the rise
In the digital ecosystem, The Media Trust detected a 64% increase in malware incidents during the final quarter of 2021 — which can account for thousands of impressions or hits — as compared to the same time period in 2020. And 2020 levels were already high as the programmatic marketplace struggled to snap back during the early days of the pandemic.
Malvertising levels this high at the end of the year are unusual. It typically subsides a bit in the fourth quarter. Because increased advertiser demand enables publishers to increase CPMs and raise programmatic floors most malvertisers are priced out of the market.
However, Q4 2021’s record malware numbers weren’t the result of a few blanket attacks. The industry was assaulted by a wide variety of malicious code and content:
Redirects peaked in October, growing 170% over the course of the year.
In November, Digital media was awash in FizzCore, a notorious form of malicious clickbait that employs cloaking technology to hide its devious content. The amount of FizzCore detected grew 9X over two months.
An outbreak of fake antivirus/software update ads also hit hard in November, marking a 50% rise since the beginning of the year.
E-skimming typically increases in Q4 as bad actors hunt for consumer credit cards, but the amount detected in Q4 2021 was 63% higher than the year prior.
Scam ads, which surged in 2021 and made up nearly a third of malware in the space, stayed high and ticked up an extra 9% in December — nearly exceeding the summer peak.
A most malicious year
Unfortunately, these numbers are representative of 2021 as whole, where malware simply exploded. The Media Trust’s Digital Security and Operations team managed an average 2,210 malware incidents daily. That’s a 64% increase over 2020 and well above the ~1,000 historical average. During the summer — the height of the 2021 malware blitz — average daily malware incidents stayed above 3,000.
Overall, The Media Trust identified 26,664 new malware incidents in 2021, a ~30% increase over the number cataloged in 2020. And our creative blocker, Media Filter, halted four times more malware than in the year prior.
The proliferation of malvertising is simply breathtaking.
What’s behind the rise in malvertising
Certainly the 2020 surge in malvertising followed advertisers’ pause in spend; bad ads flooded the programmatic advertising space as publishers lowered floors to grab whatever revenue they could. But even as the pandemic drags on and on, programmatic markets seem to have rebounded. So, what’s behind this incredible 2021 surge in malware?
First, from a programming perspective, the malvertising barrier to entry is very low. The dark web is full of malware kits for sale including turnkey phishing solutions and the ever-popular ransomware-as-a-service. There’s a whole black market ecosystem for selling pilfered data and access to infected devices — and often no legal repercussions for bad actors (though there were some impressive arrests in 2021).
Secondly, research from eMarketer found that private marketplaces account for more RTB spend than the open programmatic marketplace. With $15.4 billion in advertiser spend in 2021, private marketplaces made up 56% of all RTB-transacted dollars. The open marketplace sat at $12.3 billion and had a 44% share.
According to eMarketer, the shift to private marketplaces is only going to accelerate in 2022. Spend is predicted to increase another 21% and make up 59% of all RTB spending. However, the open marketplace will only grow 5% and dwindle to a 41% share of RTB spend.
We also see premium advertisers are investing heavily in connected TV (CTV) — although they’re struggling with campaign measurement — direct, and programmatic. These advertisers shifting their buying power away from the open marketplace is likely depressing CPMs. It is also making more room for bad actors to spread a variety of malicious wares.
Is it time to give up on open programmatic?
So, if the open marketplace is suffering from a rapidly growing malware infestation, am I suggesting publishers turn off their open programmatic pipes post-haste? Heavens, no! That’s not really an option for most digital publishers. Can you imagine the amount of revenue left on the table? All the unfilled inventory?
It’s obvious why private marketplaces are increasingly attracting advertiser dollars: high viewability, actually engaged human beings rather than bots, and impressions on well-respected publications. We’ll see top-tier publishers layering in high-impact audience segments that will likely outperform third-party cookies.
But the challenge with private marketplaces has always been getting them to scale. I still hear publishers lament long-lingering Deal IDs with laughable fill rates. Truly getting private marketplaces to hum requires time and resources, something many publishers in the “fat middle” struggle with.
Premium advertisers will keep buying in the open market. This may be to cherry-pick super-cheap inventory on premium publishers or for prospecting purposes. Smaller advertisers may find it easier to reach target audiences across a wider crop of publishers. Publishers also use the open marketplace to find new advertiser prospects and evaluate the market value of various types of inventory and audience segments.
Your best defense against malvertisers is high quality data
The open programmatic marketplace may be getting seedier but diligent publishers can still drive a ton of revenue. It’s just going to take more work to keep audiences safe from all the fraudsters spread across the programmatic pipes.
Having a page/app-level creative blocker to bat away malware before it hits your property is table stakes. But with this massive expansion of malware in open programmatic, the quality of data fueling your blocker is more important than ever. Publishers can’t go cut-rate. Their ad-quality provider should be pumping data into the blocker in real-time from an in-house team of malware analysts. Third-party malware data isn’t going to be fresh enough. It may also lead to revenue-bleeding false positives.
And finally, publishers need to be a lot more discriminating when it comes to their open marketplace partners — and by extension, those partners’ partners. Especially during the pandemic, publishers have been willing to install most demand sources that might give them an edge with bid density. But open programmatic is getting too dangerous to be carefree about the companies you monetize with. Ensure all your demand partners are scrutinizing both tags and landing pages (preferably from a variety of device and geographic profiles). And if a high percentage of the ads they bring you get shot down by your malware blocker, maybe they’re not the right fit for you.
Open programmatic is definitely becoming a more dangerous place for monetization. But that doesn’t mean it’s not worth the revenue. With the right tools and policies, publishers can make bank — and keep their audiences safe and happy.
From the narrative-changing storytelling initiative, “Driving Change From the Inside“, a look at the DE+I movement in organizations across the country.
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The saying goes: What doesn’t break you makes you stronger. That seems to be the case during the pandemic for Robin Hood Foundation, the largest poverty nonprofit in New York City. Because of catastrophes like 9/11 and Hurricane Sandy, Robin Hood already had procedures in place that enabled it to act decisively and respond quickly supporting at-risk communities during the pandemic.
At the start of Covid-19, Robin Hood raised $90mm for grants across the city to improve the lives of people who were experiencing poverty as a result of the pandemic. But they’ve got their work cut out for them – now, and always.
To gain greater insight into how the organization appears to be thriving through the pandemic and the overlapping racial justice movement, we sat down with the organization’s Chief People Officer, Stephanie Royal.
As Stephanie recounts, “the murder of George Floyd really helped to inspire, mobilize, and accelerate action that had already started. There was such a tremendous outpouring of support within our organization to take the work that had already started even before I got here, and to really accelerate it to help us move toward becoming an anti-racist organization.”
The phrase “becoming an anti-racist organization” stands out. Few I’ve spoken to call out the issue so overtly. This sentiment is indicative of Stephanie’s self-awareness and of the culture being nurtured at Robin Hood. When asked to comment on her upbringing in an upper middle-class Black family, Stephanie shared a sobering dose of realism:
“We’re not far from people who experience poverty on a daily basis within our own family. While my dad was able to go to college — he’s a graduate of Fisk University, a historically Black college — his education changed the game for our family. Part of why I’m so committed to the work that we do at Robin Hood is because we know that access to good quality education is a lever for economic mobility.”
Stephanie helps to illuminate that, for many of our DEIJ leaders, it’s not enough to strive for and achieve excellence. There are headwinds that make achieving and maintaining excellence more difficult. It’s imperative that we have people in leadership roles who have purview into what’s required to overcome poverty, and what’s needed to create a sustained cycle of mobility.
She notes that, “We all know how disproportionately affected communities of color were with health disparities and Covid just made it even worse. We knew that we had to mobilize quickly, and do so in a way that was intensive and meaningful and really holistic.”
Through this learning and growing process Royal has seen that creating a culture of inclusivity and vulnerability requires an evolution of emotional intelligence across the organization. It means ensuring that everyone has the safety to respectfully express their views and ideas. Equally important to working to foster safety for underrepresented and under resourced groups, is having empathy for every voice in the room. Stephanie describes this need well:
“I can only imagine what it must feel like to be someone entering a conversation about race, never having done it before. Feeling like they should not be in the conversation because of a certain aspect of their identity, or having anxiety around it. It requires vulnerability, and it requires an incredible amount of self-reflection. Based on that, we do have responsibility, those that are further along this pathway, to bring along those that are not there yet.”
In our conversation, Royal offered insights from her journey as a professional, from Wall Street, to the classroom, to her current leadership role as Chief People Officer at Robin Hood. Her story is inspiring for those among us, who could direct our intellect and energy almost anywhere, but choose a path of curiosity, compassion, and purpose.
Here are a few highlights from our conversation (full transcript), curated to help any individual or organization seeking to adapt to societal change and create a safe space for employees of all backgrounds, orientations, races, and beliefs.
“We could not have meaningful conversations about DEI without reflecting on who we were as an organization. Were we reflective on racial, ethnic, gender, sexual orientation, ability, and cultural identifiers. Were they reflected in the staff at the time? No.”
“We took a comprehensive approach to how we’ve recruited, how we made decisions about hiring, how we onboarded our staff, how we made decisions about advancement and promotion, so we could embody the values that we set forth.”
“During Covid, we engaged an outside consultant to continue the work of a wholesale cultural assessment. That was a very intensive process. A deeply meaningful and personal process. I know that the results will help to inspire that next level of work.”
“I think our staff would say they are happy to be here, very much committed to the mission. They’re participating and helping to develop a culture where everyone can be their authentic selves, continue to learn, grow, thrive and contribute to advancing our mission.”
Today, a commitment to DEIJ is crucial to the overall health of organizational culture. True commitment requires the willingness to continue finding and repairing gaps in equity and justice proactively. The investment of time and effort might be challenging. However, the rewards from meaningful education, engagement, and growth can be seen in employee values alignment, retention, and output in times of crisis and for years to come.
2. Understand the influence of policy
Listen and learn:
“After we worked on the talent side, we wanted to dig into policy, practices, protocols, procedures. Were they equitable? We continued to dig into the policies related to HR, vendor selection, legal, through a lens of diversity, equity and inclusion. I’ll say it’s a different organization now.”
“There are policies within our cities and at the state and federal levels, that don’t make it easy to access fundamental needs such as quality affordable housing, high quality food, basic clean water. These are not distributed equitably across all communities in this country. Where you see inequity and lack of access somehow seems to align with under-resourced communities populated by people of color.”
“We are trying to address issues of people experiencing poverty through grant-making to the amazing non-profits here in New York City, and across the country, so that direct service can be administered, so that people can access good quality food, quality education, and enter the sectors where jobs are abundant.”
We are all pieces of a larger puzzle. Being a proactive ally for DEIJ requires understanding the rules, procedures, and policies that affect inequity on a micro (in your lives and offices) and macro perspective (in our communities). Start by looking at areas of improvement within your own organization. Examine the procedures that might contribute to inequity and lack of representation. Compassion for our own areas of growth yields ideas and solutions that positively affect the collective.
3. Recognize the link between inclusivity and innovation
Listen and learn:
“We are a place that is welcoming to all people however they show up. I reinforce that in every conversation. I want people to be free, because if you’re not, you can’t do your best work.”
“One of the things that we are most proud of is our Design Insight Group. DIG emerged from the work of our tech incubator Blue Ridge Labs, which works to help founders create tech solutions to some of the drivers of poverty. We invite people from under-resourced communities to work alongside our program officers to develop programs to help in relief efforts.”
“We can, in a very respectful way, engage the experiences of people who have lived experience with poverty and get their input, get their expertise, intelligence, and deep understanding around problem solving to help us find solutions. It’s also important that we compensate them at a level to help them gain sustained economic mobility, for themselves and their families.”
Great ideas can come from anyone, anywhere. In the case of fighting the causes of poverty, it takes first hand experience to illuminate the real problems and the blind spots in existing solutions. When wealth, education, security and power gaps exist, it can be difficult to build trust. Attention to thoughtful engagement and trust building, as well as ensuring fair compensation, can yield needle-moving collaboration and innovation alongside the communities that you serve.
4. Invest in building trust and progress toward anti-racism
Listen and learn:
“In this type of work, which is so human, you won’t be successful unless you have a culture of trust and mutual understanding rooted in safety.”
“What results from those moments are meaningful relationships, deeper friendships, the willingness to step out of your own space and join someone. These are the experiences that make for a stronger team in this culture.”
“There are people who are at different places on their journey of being able to address race, class, privilege, but we’re all on board. It is okay to be at the beginning of that DEI journey.”
“You have to be ready and open and provide the psychological safety for people to show up as they are, no matter where they are on their DEI journey.”
Language is important. So, leaders need to speak about the importance for all to be bought in and supported, no matter where they are on their DEI journey. At Robin Hood, becoming an antiracist organization is essential to their health and culture. They see the results in retention, innovation, and passion. Combining the business imperative with examples of tangible and measurable benefits of anti-racism help organizations and the people they employ stay committed to long term DEIJ goals.
5. Gather a community of support and collaboration
Listen and learn:
“I found my tribe when I first came to New York City. A small group of Black women all working at banks. We relied on each other to make it, to draw upon each other’s good energy, and to share experiences so we could grow and thrive in a foreign world.”
“In my professional life, my responsibility is to care for others.There’s a team of people that look to me for support, for answers, for guidance, and that can be very lonely if you don’t have your own place of respite.”
“I know that I’m a role model to our junior staff. I have to show up for them and be my best self and make myself available to help them understand that this can be their seat as well.”
“We want to be partners with other nonprofits, other philanthropies, government, corporate communities, because we know that philanthropy cannot solve poverty alone.”
You can’t go it alone. Whether you are early in your career or sitting at the top, resilience requires teamwork and support. This is crucial for individuals from under represented groups because of the combined psychological and systemic hurdles that lay as obstacles. Peers and mentors illuminate roadblocks and strategies for presenting your best self. For marginalized individuals and groups, allies, and institutions, we get further by identifying values and goals alignment, and pursuing necessary work, in partnership.
Watch or listen to highlights of Michael and Stephanie’s conversation:
About the author
Michael Tennant is a founder, writer, and movement-builder dedicated to spreading tools of empathy and helping people find their purpose. Before founding Curiosity Lab, Tennant spent 15-years becoming a media, advertising, and nonprofit executive, and delivering award-winning marketing strategies for companies like MTV, VICE, P&G, Coca-Cola, sweetgreen, and Oatly.
Tennant founded Curiosity Lab in 2017 and created the conversation card game Actually Curious. Actually Curious became a viral sensation in 2020 during Covid-19 and the rise of the racial justice movement for helping people build meaningful connections and to tackle the important topics facing our world.
He has channeled his business success and momentum into a sustained movement supporting BIPOC and other underrepresented communities through speaking, writing, leadership, mentorship, consulting, partnerships, and talent-pipeline programs.
Americans spend nearly 8 hours a day on digital devices, according to a new report from eMarketer. Yes, that means time spent on devices now rivals how long people sleep. However, according to Harvard Business Review, for consumers to be affected by advertising messages, they need to be paying attention. This may seem obvious but capturing consumer attention can be challenging.
User attention has become more fleeting in the internet age. A Microsoft study states that the human attention span has dropped to just 8 seconds – shrinking 25% in just a few years. With users seeing thousands of ads per day, and privacy changes affecting how we measure performance, how can the industry determine whether an ad was seen by someone who is actually paying attention?
The opportunity in attention measurement
The rise of the internet set up the reach and quality metrics that everyone is familiar with today, but a lot has changed since then. In pursuit of optimal performance, advertisers gained interest in additional ways to measure and categorize impressions using brand suitability, contextual relevance, viewability and fraud. While these metrics have improved advertising performance immensely, none of them effectively measure attention.
Specific, industry-accepted metrics to measure attention are still being defined. They are also impacted by increased pressure to ensure privacy-friendly measurement. Some solutions rely on eye tracking and other technologies that are based on sampling.
Pay attention to measurement criteria
Our approach to attention measurement is a more complex endeavor that includes a combination of over 50 exposure and engagement signals that help us understand whether a user’s attention is or isn’t captured by an ad. Exposure signals include an ad’s entire presentation, such as viewable time, share of screen, audibility and more. The engagement side focuses on user-initiated events while the ad creative is displayed, including user touches, screen orientation, video playback and volume control, among others. These signals give advertisers and publishers helpful information about ad performance for both campaign and inventory optimization.
Rising use of attention metrics comes at a time when performance is getting harder to measure directly due to privacy changes across the industry. Behavioral targeting enabled by third-party cookies is giving way to other methods for measuring ad performance. For many advertisers, combining attention and quality metrics is a way to utilize new KPIs that can effectively improve performance over time.
People have grown increasingly savvy, avoiding or ignoring intrusive and non-relevant ad placements, so publishers and marketers must evolve to improve experiences and performance. Attention is a way to use privacy-friendly data to measure ad impact without using third-party cookies to track or measure data from the user.
How publishers benefit from analyzing attention
These insights enable more effective media buying, but how can publishers better understand attention as it relates to their inventory? First, we need to understand how attention is measured.
Attention is understood through a mix of exposure and engagement. Exposure is measured by looking at how long an ad was viewed by a user, how it was presented and what share of the screen did the ad take up. Engagement is measured by checking if a user is present and looking at whether they interacted with the ad. This includes actions such as clicks, hovers, volume adjustments, screen orientation, etc.
Key attention themes to watch for in 2022
Exposure: Brand awareness can be driven by measuring exposure to better understand how insights such as time-in-view, share of screen or quartile completion correlate with brand favorability and recall improvements over time.
Engagement: Metrics such as hover, click and mute rates show how optimized engagement can directly lead to increased conversions.
Cost-Benefit: Publishers that use attention to increase ad engagement can demand higher pricing from existing placements.
Understand Creative Impact: Advertisers can begin building better creatives based on knowing when and where to place messaging for maximum impact.
Analyzing attention gives publishers an opportunity to better understand how to package premium inventory in new ways. Advertisers value the increased conversions and brand awareness that comes with placements that result in higher attention rates. Similar to packaging inventory based on quality, this inventory can garner higher CPMs. With the right analytical tech stack, attention measurement enables publishers to understand their inventory in new ways, helping to drive yield.
It’s still early days for attention measurement, but signs are growing that it’s here to stay. Like any new set of metrics, the industry must come together to agree on standards that allow for interoperability and simple communication between buyers and sellers. Ultimately, it’s important to remember that attention is a way to better understand users and the impact of advertising, which is why the industry must evolve alongside new behaviors with the help of new data and analysis.
Most digital news publishers registered growth in subscription and advertising revenues in 2021 as compared to the prior year. And, according to Reuters’ Journalism, media, and technology trends and predictions 2022, close to three-quarters of publishers (73%) are optimistic about this year. To understand future trends in news publishing, Reuters surveyed 246 executives in 52 countries during November and December 2021. The participants were senior-level employees in digital media strategies at news publishers.
As publishers look to the future, scale is essential for most. These companies see a future with a mix of models to grow revenue including subscription, advertising, ecommerce, and events.
Pure plays look to scale: Digital publishers are acquiring and merging to give them more leverage with advertisers and to compete with the dominant tech players of Facebook and Google. Buzzfeed’s purchase of Complex and Vox’s acquisition of Group Nine are recent examples of this strategy. Publishers expect more mergers and acquisitions in 2022.
Traditional media looks to digital acquisitions to drive growth: Large traditional media players have focused on the acquisition of digital brands to add value to their subscription bundles and target a growing digital audience. Axel Springer’s purchase of Politico and the New York Times’ plan to buy subscription-based sports site, The Athletic, are two prime examples. These acquisitions are solid plays to drive audience growth with digital audiences.
New models fuel local start-ups: At a local level, low-cost reader-focused start-ups are using newsletter platforms like Substack to attract audiences. Digital newsletter companies are also building local footprints. For example, Axios is expanding its newsletter-led model to 25 cities this year.
Audience strategies and innovation
Publisher efforts this year focus on podcasts and other digital audio (80%), building and improving newsletters (70%), and developing digital video formats (63%). Publishers are focusing on new audio formats such as audio articles, flash briefings, audio messages, and live formats such as social audio.
New audio initiatives (e.g., Clubhouse, Twitter Spaces, Facebook’s Live Audio Rooms, Reddit Talk) show audience interest in audio discussions. However, executives are unsure how engaged audiences are long-term in these pop-up, discussion-based experiences. More content also means more competition and a need for more content moderation.
Still, publishers see audio as strategically important. It can deliver reach, loyalty, and revenue. Some publishers want to own the audio experience to control the full customer experience. The New York Times purchased Audm, an audio narration app, and they plan to launch a listening product this year.
Publishers also want to engage with younger audiences. They have a renewed interest in short-form video and look to native video formats to attract Gen Z. They are also using third-party mobile-friendly online video platforms to target Gen Z. Executives report that more effort is going to visual distribution and engagement platforms like Instagram (net score of +54), TikTok (+44), and YouTube (+43), and less effort into general-purpose networks like Twitter (-5) and Facebook (-8). Even with a renewed video interest, many news publishers still question the monetization strategy of short-form social video.
News publishers need to develop deeper relationships with audiences. In particular, they must reengage the disaffected and target the young adults. This year, innovation is an important cornerstone to attract new readers, with publishers investing in new audio formats and short-form videos. Investment is essential to build the future Web 3.0 experience.
In May 1961, President John F Kennedy declared that America would put a man on the Moon and return him safely to the Earth and his vision took the world to new heights. Sixty thousand companies in 70 countries invented five million parts and 400,000 of the world’s greatest minds collaborated to achieve a giant leap for mankind. That’s what you call a moonshot.
There is a rising groundswell that the time is now right for a Media Moonshot: one that recasts the industry to blend trust with technology and a new commercial model that can last. The good news is that for those willing to embrace change, it’s not that hard.
A billion dollar opportunity
I have spent the past 15 years working in premium publisher video. I believe a relevant video in the right place in the right article lifts the quality of reporting, and improves the news experience for readers. This is now being recognized by ad agencies who are increasing spend in this sector.
To measure this, we at Oovvuu have been working with the Tribune Content Agency over the past year to match videos to articles from hundreds from America’s largest publishers. Those articles are read 93 billion times a month. Significantly, our data showed only 7% featured video, even when it was available.
Unfortunately, just 1% of the videos that were embedded were relevant. And, unfortunately, the least relevant videos of all were the most likely to be autoplay and contain low yielding bottom of the funnel programmatic advertising. However, our research showed that putting the contextual videos in priority positions, and making them click to play, was popular with news consumers and advertisers who would pay premium CPMs.
We used journalists, along with our own matching tech, with 100 global wires and broadcasters in the TCA project to ensure the highest levels of contextuality. The evidence was compelling according to Wayne Lown, Vice President of Tribune Content Agency, part of Tribune Publishing.
The Tribune News Service syndicates hundreds of daily articles read by millions and across the most trusted brands from Los Angeles Times, Dallas Morning News, Denver Post, St. Louis Post Dispatch, and Chicago Tribune.
“We were able to match 86% of articles in the Tribune News Service with relevant video across news, sport, lifestyle and multiple other genres,” Lown said. “It proved relevant video was there and could be simply matched, revealing a major new revenue stream for publishers who get it right.”
A timely solution
Display advertising is in freefall and subscriptions nearing saturation. The good news is that premium video – which fetches $40 CPMs – offers a way to capitalize on billions of page views and reset publishers’ earnings.
Last month, the world’s largest ad agency GroupM released a report that showed global ad spend was predicted to exceed $1 trillion in 2025. Of that, premium video will account for 19.6% of spend in 2022.
Mark Lollback who served GroupM CEO in Australia and New Zealand before joining Oovvuu believes that “Publishers are perfectly placed as they have massive engaged audiences. And the big global agency groups are openly talking about supporting publishing.”
At the same time, he pointed out that the biggest spending brands are looking for trusted locations for their messaging. Premium publisher video opens a whole new marketing channel for them, but it needs to be done right.
“Publisher video must be click to play, sound on, highly contextual and get premium positions in premium brands. When it does, it taps into users’ attention and delivers the high performance metrics that marketers are demanding,” according to Lollback.
He recently presented research to the IAB showing publisher video delivered double digit performance boosts compared to YouTube on viewability, completion rates and click throughs.
Publishers must act now
The benefits to publishers to grow revenue couldn’t be clearer. Unfortunately, 99% of US articles today feature machine-matched autoplay video with low relevance that attracts low yielding programmatic $7 CPMs. However, The TCA trial has proven that relevant video is available for 86% of articles and premium pre-rolls command $40 CPMs when they are click to play, sound on and highly contextual.
Autoplay should now be outmoded by the smart publishers so they can tap into the opportunity to shift ad spend from YouTube back to publishing. That is the Media Moonshot
Undoubtedly, the emergence of large video syndicators, powerful matching technologies and premium advertising support means it will play an increasingly important role in publisher earnings going forward. The good news is that publishers who do this will be poised to meet customer demand for video, increase engagement and performance metrics across their sites and open access to the largest premium advertising budgets on offer.