Top of Publishers’ Minds: Centralized Rev Ops And Data Leakage

Wouldn’t it be nice if vendors worked in unison across a publisher’s multiple owned and operated web properties with divergent audiences? The short answer: yes, but in actuality, publishers wage this battle daily. 

How do publishers centralize vendor management? What are their biggest challenges in developing a revenue strategy across multiple brands and sites?

These, along with how publishers are preparing for a post-cookie world, were discussed during a recent Think Tank hosted with The Media Trust.

Testing 1-2-3

When publishers add potential vendors to the mix, they test them out on their largest, most profitable, websites first, and if they pass the test, other niche sites will follow.

“We test [vendors] in specific groupings of sites so we can see how it affects certain sites with certain scale, depending on what the vendor is,” said one publisher. “We have this whole rubric for how we categorize the sites and how the testing affects all of them. But the main thing is if it doesn’t work for our main site, then it’s not good enough for the rest of our sites and we’ll just continue to iterate.”

Vendors may look good on paper but lack cohesiveness when added to the technology mix. 

Oftentimes, a publisher won’t have all of the necessary resources to make a product work for their business, which will have a huge impact on deciding which vendor to go with. Vendors, with the ability to provide deep customer support, especially when it comes to testing and onboarding, will naturally rise to the top

“We do make mistakes when we’re trying a bunch of vendors at the same time,” added another Think Tank attendee. “We tried one, but found we didn’t have the resources internally to actually teach the algorithm, so we went to another platform with an algorithm that was already educated enough to run and scan our content. It was something that we learned in real-time. Some stuff you’re just figuring out on the fly, too.”

The Centralization Quandary

The more websites and M&As a publisher undertakes, the harder it becomes to centralize rev ops.

“We have vertical teams aligned with a lot of the domains or groups and also teams that run sort of horizontal,” one Think Tank attendee admitted. “But the challenge of centralization for us is how much control does my revenue development team keep and hold versus what do we build to be configurable by the individual verticals?”

Centralizing revenue operations also faces the obstacle of dev teams scattered across individual properties. A lack of uniformity in dev causes headaches for revenue alignment.

“When you’ve got multiple dev teams, everyone’s invested in their own team,” said another publisher. “It’s a wider organizational challenge to talk about the benefits of having a more centralized development team versus the six different dev teams we have that are completely separate.”

Organizational size—and willingness to invest in diverse talent—can become a game-changer in centralizing operations.

Not all publishers are big enough to have dedicated dev team tech engineers and programmatic devs,” said one publisher. “For us, centralizing for the sake of simplicity is what we need to do, even with [the publishers] that we bring on. Many have a lot of stuff going on on their websites, like widgets and plug-ins, and we tell them less is more if we’re going to take over monetization.”

Data Leakage Concerns in a Post-Third-Party Cookie Era

Publishers are taking a closer look at what lies beneath the technology running across their websites. The effort is time-consuming but necessary for a world sans third-party cookies.

“Everything has to be spoken for the purpose of revenue alignment and if nobody knows why it’s there, or how it got there, it comes out,” said one publisher. “We want to know why and how it works, what the revenue opportunity is because we’re so concerned with data leakage.”

But what makes the data leakage threat particularly menacing is the unknown and untested tracking and targeting technologies rapidly entering the digital ad marketplace.

“The vendors can do whatever they want,” another attendee revealed. “The legal in these services is so maliciously vague because the concepts of the legislation have not evolved yet where they need to be specific. What I’m finding is they’re trying to get us into contracts now and deploy all of these scripts that have the potential to do really anything. 

“Beyond data leakage is a huge information security risk that is probably going to cost publishers downstream pretty significantly,” they added.