Secrets of the Programmatic Roundtable: The Big Things We Need to Get Done

Publishers are under constant pressure, not only to maintain revenue but also to increase it. Many sites still rely heavily on programmatic advertising revenue for the lion’s share of their income. So what should publishers do?

Something I found extremely beneficial in terms of finding answers to that question is attending the illustrious AdMonsters Publisher Forum, held in a different major city every spring, summer and fall. It’s a place where adops leaders from major global publishers gather to share thoughts and advice so publishers can learn from each other.

Besides insightful keynotes and sessions, there are always peer-led roundtables where these leaders come together to discuss the current issues affecting the industry, and then leave with a set of takeaways that can be implemented once they get back to the office. Following a debate—at the recent Miami Publisher Forum—with around 20 industry leading adops executives on the challenges of monetization, a consensus was reached on the four main key learnings that publishers around the table wish they’d learned sooner.

  1. Breakdown workplace silos

Teams such as site design, build, content production, and adops are often siloed in large organizations, with different team targets and objectives. This means they can unintentionally work against each other, rather than holistically—and the bigger the company, the worse the internal communication can be.

  • By bringing leaders from all departments together and acting collaboratively, it ensures all teams are working towards shared goals, and bigger business objectives.
  • It’s important to define a long-term strategy for user engagement and retention first, then consider monetization. The user should always come first, creating good content is useless if people don’t want to engage with it.

While this may be challenging for global businesses, with employees in different time zones—and with different approaches in regional markets to consider—taking the time to touch base with peers and listen to their needs and pain points can help identify and break down barriers.

  1. Clear away the clutter

Ad clutter was a concern for everyone at the forum. However, statistically, one publisher ran a small study and found engagement did not increase as a result of fewer ads.

Displaying too many ads on a page can instantly put users off by disrupting the browsing experience, and can lead to users installing ad blockers. As Rob Beeler, Chairman of AdMonsters commented;  “The internet was not born with ads in mind.”  It, therefore, may not come as a surprise that social networks and other content distribution platforms have gained popularity, as they spend an exceptional amount of time studying engagement and the user experience to make their platforms easy to interact with, while making it potentially addictive as the ad experience is carefully baked into the user flow.

  1. Deal with data

While there have been many advancements in the way we use data, there is still a long way to go before it is being utilized to its full potential. By not sharing the data available from within the same organization, teams are unknowingly working against one another, as different departments work with different data sets, and also different metrics.

This frustration was heard during the forum, with some remarking there was a greater need for actionable insights. It is therefore important to talk about the standards in data collection and reporting to achieve common goals and with all departments playing by the same rule sheet.

There are a number of reporting tools on the market, but having everyone using the same set tools across an organization is important. This is where having a data scientist could be really beneficial and can add so much value to the data in your company—especially if they know the industry well and understand media.

A data scientist can also be one of the most important stakeholders on your sales team, as this data can be used for insights to enhance sales, and after all, it’s the revenue that keeps the wheels turning. So do your best to work closely with your sales team leaders, and give them what they need and draw their attention to any interesting observations you might have along the way. Investing in new metrics such as engagement time will bring new ideas and ways of thinking to the table, as the more engaged a user is, the more likely they are to be impacted by advertising.

  1. Get back to basics with communication

In a world of automation and programmatic, don’t overlook the fact your team might be relying heavily on a written communication method such as email or Slack. Encourage your team to pick up the phone, or simply walk to another team member for a chat. Things will get fixed much quicker. It’s easy to misunderstand somebody when you can’t see their facial expressions, or hear their tone of voice, and more often than not you’ll get a lack of context and backstory.

We can all get stuck in back-to-back meetings, so press the reset button, review your meeting cadence and encourage your team to do the same. Simple things such as reviewing the agenda for each meeting, setting expectations from those you’re meeting with, keeping tight on time, and taking time to listen to your peers, can give them exactly what they need to succeed. You’ll be amazed how quickly you’ll find it reciprocated.

Finally, get involved with industry discussions like this one. Learn from other adtech professionals, if only to know you’re not the only one experiencing these problems. Work with the people outside of your organization, compare notes, and learn from one another. Through collaboration and sharing insights, we can help build a better ecosystem for all.

*Disclaimer: We are sharing notes from the AdMonsters Publisher Forum “The big things we need to get done.” Neither the attendees’ names or the companies they work for will be shared, except to say that the event was hosted by Rob Beeler, Chairman of AdMonsters and Andy Evans, Former CMO of Sovrn.