Leading the Way: Ops Leaders Share Predictions and Pain Points at PubForum

At PubForum Coronado Island, AdMonsters, known for developing content and events for ad tech professionals, held a Leadership Forum where industry leaders discussed today’s hot ad tech topics including life after cookies, how to cope with the results of the ongoing media strikes, and the future of creating compelling content.

Leaders in the publishing space face a variety of challenges, some of which are universal regardless of which industry they hail from. At Publisher Forum Coronado Island, we gathered a group of these leaders to learn more about what opportunities they are looking forward to and what challenges they are anticipating in the upcoming months.

Cookies Continue to Cause Concern

We kicked things off by asking publishers about their top priorities going into Q4. Unsurprisingly, the conversation immediately veered toward cookies, and growing privacy concerns and regulations. One publisher noted that their company has identity solutions in place, making cookies less of a worry.

Another ops professional said that most of their traffic is app-driven, which doesn’t require a user login to access. They are already seeing the effect of cookie loss, and they are looking for updated ID solutions to ensure functionality as the industry moves completely away from third-party cookie usage.

The multitude of identity solutions can be a challenge to navigate, said one publisher who is working on improving the addressability percentage of their audience. “We are working really closely with the product team, who works in close partnership with our ad team. We are trying to change our metering settings so we can push as many people as possible from anonymous to logged in and eventually to paid,” they shared.

DoubleVerify is a leading software platform for digital media measurement and analytics.

As first-party data takes over, an attendee whose messaging is delivered across multiple brands via both print and digital said they are working on presenting a cohesive message. They explained, “We are seeing how we can leverage some of our advertising relationships, specifically on the direct side, and how we can push some of those dollars back over and across.”

First-party data can help diversify revenue streams, another discussion participant added. “If you spend X amount of a threshold amount, we will license your first-party data to you, which you can then transact outside however you want,” they shared.

Overall, it seems there is no one-size-fits-all solution for publishers facing the cookie conundrum. It really depends on the publisher’s business, vertical, and audience. The best path forward is a portfolio solution that leverages first-party data, ID solutions, SDAs, Google’s Privacy Sandbox, and for GAM users even PPID. Some publishers are also trialing bringing their data together with advertisers in Data Clean Rooms. The best advice is to test, test test, and test early and test often to find the best approaches for your organization.

The WGA/SAG-AFTRA Strikes Could Impact Publishers

One publisher who has been using first-party data for a while is experiencing a different challenge — the impact of the WGA-SAG-AFTRA strikes. The WGA (Writers Guild of America) has been on strike since May. In July, when the SAG-AFTRA (the Screen Actors Guild and American Federation of Television and Radio Artists) contract with the American Motion Pictures and Television Producers contract expired, they too joined the picket lines. This has resulted in huge economic consequences for the Hollywood machine and therefore any publishers that are a part of that machine or connected to that machine.

There is still plenty of content to be written that is receiving traffic because people want to know about the strikes, the publisher explained, but ultimately the postponement of major events like the Emmy Awards will impact revenue if the strike isn’t resolved soon. This is particularly true for direct sales numbers.

Another entertainment-focused participant said, “I’m trying to make sure that we are making up for that revenue in other places. A lot of the media entertainment business went to custom ads, necessitating readjustment for that as well as some things that were in production and needed to be postponed for now. It’s important to be aware of what’s happening and understand some teams need to pivot to make money through different verticals.”

A conference guest posed the question, “Will this affect the streaming operators in some manner, for example, will it drive prices down? Or it could drive prices up, which has affected CPMs in the marketplace. There is a potential for increased scarcity.”

The effect on streaming services will likely be dependent on their existing libraries of content, one speaker noted. It’s an interesting time for the strike, as this is happening just as these streaming giants were finally beginning to turn a profit, they added.

Video Content Captivates Younger Consumers

We also asked the publishers who participated in the Leadership Forum if they were seeing more traction in recent months with PMPs (Private Marketplace deals) and PGs (Programmatic Guaranteed) than in the past. One publisher whose media business has been active since the mid-90s noted that their company is producing video content in both horizontal and vertical formats that are performing very well.

“We’re monetizing this content well. For example, in the first month, it accounted for 18 percent of our revenue. With this high quality, high performing video content, we can offer deals to our partners for preferential pricing, or give them a better CPM for a PMP or PG type scenario.” This publisher noted they prioritize delivering compelling content to brand partners.

Another industry leader added, “We’ve definitely found the fastest growing type of content for us is vertical swipe stories. Consumers find it very engaging. If we’re lucky that we have a product that constantly produces clips because generally swipe stories have been very successful, and are easily sponsored.”

The reason this content is so successful, noted the publisher whose site has been active since the 90s, is that it imitates the other content that younger (Gen Z and Millennial) consumers are engaging with daily on social media. While no one knows what will happen in the future, this publisher predicts short-form video content will continue to drive ad revenue.

From a user experience perspective, studies have shown that vertical videos are inherent to the nature of how people use their phones making that experience more immersive. Also, swiping stories is not only more interactive it makes users feel as if they are getting access to exclusive content, which makes this opportunity prime for advertisers looking to sponsor these experiences. And with video ad spend projected to reach $55.2B in 2023, the time is ripe for publishers to dive into this opportunity.

Talking Through Publisher Pain Points

When we initially brought up workflow and data issues, it seemed that no one really wanted to talk about where the challenges were. Then one publisher mentioned standardization as a huge hurdle for ensuring everything runs smoothly.

“The connections break constantly, maybe because of a change a partner makes. A partner’s column for email reports stops running daily, or they have a comma that wasn’t there before and it’s really frustrating. There’s not a ton of standardization with all the different analytic UIs. Maybe some SSPs are not as sophisticated as others, but now we’re running into the issue of they either don’t prioritize being able to email reports or they simply ‘don’t do’ email reporting. It’s an industry issue, I think it’s a non-standardization issue, and it’s painful,” this publisher explained.

The problems of data breakages today are the same as 10 years ago, noted another publisher. Getting your data isn’t a streamlined process and by the time you get your analytics, it is often too late to make actionable decisions.

Those in attendance agreed that it is important to standardize the way data is presented to make sure everyone is speaking the same language. The majority also agreed it is difficult to get valuable information out of analytical data if there is a ton of data collected because it can lead to information overload.

Differentiation in a Changing World

As the industry continues to evolve, partnerships do too. One participant said it is harder than ever to sell directly because of the ability to procure and manage channels and TV deals. “In direct sales now you have to go in with something unique and differentiated that’s going to stand out. Something that’s maybe even PR worthy.”

Heading into Q4, there are a lot of things that are changing or are uncertain, particularly as first-party data becomes the norm. Looking forward, one advantage we have is the experience of being part of an industry that is always evolving, which makes it easier to roll with these changes as they come.

In today’s landscape, with advertisers tightening their campaign budgets, publishers face the challenge of standing out to attract brands to their platforms. The key to success lies in the ability to provide comprehensive performance data that’s easily accessible to all relevant teams. Without it, opportunities for increased revenue go untapped.

Empowering AdOps with enhanced tools and streamlined workflows to share these valuable insights could revolutionize how client-facing teams engage with advertisers. Armed with data-backed insights, they can foster more meaningful discussions on campaign performance.

The ripple effect? Not only does this foster repeat business but also positions publishers with the data-driven arsenal needed to attract new advertisers within their niche. It’s all about unlocking untapped potential in a changing ad tech landscape.