It may seem that digital media and ad tech are in a constant state of change. New regulations are making it harder to collect consumer data. A possible “recession” is decreasing global ad spend budgets. And both publishers and advertisers are being critiqued for their role in improving the user experience.
In a recent Think Tank roundtable discussion hosted by EX.CO at Publisher Forum Montreal, a group of revenue, product, and ad ops professionals came together and discussed what they believe to be some of the biggest issues facing the industry today.
With an eye toward developing a well-rounded revenue strategy, publishers are seriously thinking about how content and technology provide them with the necessary building blocks to provide a great user experience that will also bring in more advertising dollars. It’s all about putting users first and building better collaboration across the aisles.
Page Real Estate: UX vs Revenue
To kick off the discussion, Rob Beeler, Founder & CEO, Beeler.Tech, posed a query about how to properly maneuver page real estate.
“So my thought around this is that ultimately page real estate is everything right?” asked Beeler. “And it needs to serve the user or it needs to serve our revenue strategy. It really does both, but who’s involved in those decisions?”
Everyone was in agreement that Ad Ops tends to make those decisions despite their main responsibility of serving ads. In addition, the publishers in the room considered the ways Google’s Core Web Vitals could impact page real estate and how tough it is to properly consider the best page layout that balances UX and significant revenue growth.
“From my point of view, if we’re talking about real estate on a web page for us to run ads, the real estate is limited,” explained one of the publishers. “For us, self-promotion of our own different products is something that we have to take into account because obviously, we’re pulling away the opportunity for us to run a different ad from another brand. So there’s a cost associated with it. And we have to internalize and think about what that cost is today versus if we don’t push that product. We consider where we are with our revenue goals.
But also, we’re like, look, we really believe in X, Y, or Z, and we know that we’re going to take a little bit of a financial hit right now to be able to push products that we really believe in down the road.”
“Are companies diversified enough to take a revenue hit?” pondered a programmatic professional. From their perspective, most companies are not allowed to experiment as much as they would like to because they are worried about staying afloat. A majority of the publishers agreed with that sentiment.
“Earlier, they were talking about testing, and unfortunately, you know, I’m not able to test in Q4. We tested during Q3 to make sure everything in Q4 is set up and optimized. If you do some testing in Q4 and you mess up, you don’t have a job.”
Collaboration is Vital
The conversation evolved into a much larger discussion after one publisher posed a question about Core Web Vitals.
“I run product and technology and Core Web Vitals hit our brand really hard,” said a product executive. “It created a moment of urgency that allowed my team to say to our ad and rev ops teams, this is too much. When the traffic goes away, my money goes away and you work really hard for attention. I’ve always been curious to know what other companies are doing.”
There are usually two ways to act in times of discord. The first is to act as enemies and move forward with your own agenda. The other is to work in one accord and see how everyone’s goals can be met. The publishers thought the latter was a better choice.
“I like this shift in the industry. In general, it has made it essential for products and ops to talk with each other,” said another publisher. “I actually have a meeting right after this. There is a week that we have now where the head of product, our head of SEO, our publisher and our COO all get in one room. They look at the numbers, discuss what can wait for bids in the queue and more. But there is now more collaboration than before for people to get together on the same page. Confrontation does not work and collaboration is the goal.”
“For the first time in my career, I actually have a relationship with the ops team,” added the programmatic professional. “I actually feel cohesive when we sit and we talk. They actually recommended a product that programmatic loves, and I was like, wow, like you guys are recommending something that I will come to the table with.
We recently worked on a redesign of one of our pages together in Q2. Immediately, we saw the effects on the revenue. It literally dropped by almost 75% because they’ve removed a lot of ads on the page. However, we are now seeing a rebound with SEO. They made a conscious choice to take the revenue hit back in Q2 with the hope of seeing it rebound by the end of the year. For me, it highlighted the benefits of having a healthy relationship between revenue and ops.”
There’s a lot of work ahead for the ad tech industry as it figures out new ways of navigating privacy regulations and massive technology updates. Without a doubt, the user experience will need to be considered more thoughtfully, especially for publishers looking to thrive through the decrease in ad spend. To keep them afloat, it will also require collabortion, not just within an individual media organization but across the entire ecosystem.