Publishers Prove Resilient Through Industry Changes

Each PubForum, an exclusive publisher-only Think Tank comes together to discuss the most pressing issues in ad tech. In Nashville, the conversation kicked off with a question that spurred the chatter-filled room into silence:

So how is Q3? And what do you think will happen for Q4? Is it as bad as the media is making it out to be?

Silence permeated the room for a little while longer, most likely as the publishers sat with the implications of the question. As the news predicted, Q3 marked a rough patch for many publishers in the room.

Many Think Tank attendees noted that Q3 was brutal and that Q4 would follow the same pattern. The term ad recession has been thrown around ad tech circles quite a bit this year, but whether that is true or not, the publishers in the room all felt the effects of the ad spend slowdown.

Sovrn provides advertising tools, technologies, and services to tens of thousands of content creators, helping them make money, grow their businesses, and access a massive data commons that provides extraordinary insights.

They noted that news sites were hit particularly hard. Yet, the common consensus was that thriving through this tough period depends on how you reach your audience. Per the advice touted through many industry changes this year, reaching consumers and understanding their needs is of utmost importance.

Seller Defined Audiences: Sellers Take the Lead

From there, the conversation transitioned into a discussion about adequately using data once it is collected. For instance, some needed help classifying a consumer and determining the scale at which they reach eligible consumers.

For example, one attendee talked about how some publishers might have the data to understand that one reader visits four pages a month of niche-related content. Still, they need to segment that data to package those types of audiences for advertisers. Where does that leave the accuracy for audience taxonomy and scale? How can the buy side know that the data they recieve is worthwhile?

One publisher asked, “Have you looked at the accuracy of the data categorizations? We’ve been looking into that, and they’re consistently pretty wrong with how they categorize our content.”

In response, a revenue officer gave his perspective from the supply side. They postured that suppliers need to make the data packages they sell appetizing for buyers.

“Either that or we sit around waiting for buyers to define how this is going to work,” said the revenue professional. “They’re going to pick the easiest thing for them. Not the best thing for us. So I think we need to make something easy for them that is also good for us. Seller defined audiences could be that because it allows us to add more value to the open market. But the trust factor has to be there.”

This idea rests on the need for collaboration. Specifically, a partnership between the publisher and the exchanges so that each of their needs are met. It will be beneficial for both parties and the consumer.

“The exchange steps in on behalf of the publisher to also say that the data is good,” said the revenue officer. “Don’t make the publisher and each individual website prove to the buy side that our data is good enough. Have an SSP back it.”

For this to work, there needs to be stronger collaboration between publishers and exchanges. SSPs need to evolve to better serve the new needs of the publisher in the privacy-first world, and it’s time for publishers to lead the charge.

Contextual Targeting: Understanding Consumers’ Interest

How do you prove that the data is good enough?

One attendee asserted they believed contextual targeting was the way to go. While they emphasized that this was not his business’ first strategy, they did praise its usefulness.

For instance, if a consumer clicks on an article about the best fishing rod to buy, you already know what the user is interested in. You don’t need to find them three or four times before sending their data through the bid stream because we already have context about the consumers’ desires.

“I’m a huge fan of contextual but there’s a battle we have to fight to get the buyers interested again,” said the publisher. “You have SSPs on some publisher sites that set one ID category that bid requests across every piece of inventory. One single category for every page. We have other SSPs that will set three different page-level values and they’re accurate. We as publishers need to push on the SSPs to accurately and better define the pages. As publishers, we need to push on more accurate signals and the bid requests that are available on every page for you. That’s my hope.”

The revenue officer responded: “Were you given the bid log for requests that the SSP is then sending on from your inventory, or is that what they saw from you on the inbound?”

According to the publisher, you only get access to what the SSP sends outbound if you ask for it. If you don’t, you won’t see what is sent to the DSP to understand why a specific ID category was chosen.

“The exchange is doing themselves a disservice by having two separate teams on inbound and outbound, like supply and demand,” said the revenue officer. “For the publisher to be the most effective, we should have visibility all the way up to the DSP so that we can pre-populate with as much information as possible and not rely on the SSP for that part of it.”

The earnestness relies on collaboration from all sides of the supply chain — the publisher, the exchange, and accurate consumer data flowing through the pipes. The only way to work out system kinks is to understand the issues on all sides and work together to fix them. The publisher and exchange aspect of the bid stream is only a small part of the entire ecosystem, but this mindset of collaboration is key to thriving through the ad spend slowdown.