ExchangeWire has learnt that a group of top UK premium publishers have appointed Improve Digital to roll out a new publisher exchange proposition. Those involved will be made up of the following UK publishers: Future Publishing Group, News International, Hearst and Trinity Mirror. The initial launch will be focused on monetising Netherlands traffic, which will act as a testbed for the new initiative. The new (as yet unnamed) exchange will be powered by Improve Digital.
ExchangeWire has previously taken a strong position on premium publisher exchanges and has argued in numerous forums that European publishers need to ensure their inventory and data is priced and valued appropriately by the buy-side. With the entry of Facebook into the RTB market, premium publisher inventory pricing is in danger of being eroded by an avalanche of cheap long tail Facebook impressions.
In an interview with ExchangeWire, Rob Brett, Head of Data Trading & Commercial Analysis at Future Publishing, and Adib Razzaq, Digital Integration and Automation Manager at News International, discuss the new proposition, the motivation behind the move and whether more of these types of initiatives could be in the cards.
Why create this entity? Why now?
RB: Premium content publishers have global inventory, but this is fragmented from a buy perspective. Improve Digital’s platform can provide buyers with access to premium inventory and increased reach. Why now? Technology is driving price down, we hope that the new proposal will increase value for both advertisers and publishers.
AR: Non-UK inventory is a secondary focus for most publishers, and certainly for News International. New ways of increasing the revenue and yield of our non-domestic inventory is welcomed and this appears one method of doing so. Working with a technology platform with specific goals, developing simple impressions to create an attractive package of inventory with extra layers of data, as well as making it easy to buy, should all add up to an increase in the value exchange for the advertiser. The aim is to see this mirrored for the publisher.
Will this operate as a proof of concept before rolling out across other markets?
RB: Yes, obviously if this works in the Netherlands it could work in other countries.
AR: The results in the Netherlands will help us formulate what else may be possible.
What are some of the challenges you see right now in monetising premium?
RB: Primarily visibility. We understand that we are visible in the SSPs, but not as a direct source. This will hopefully lift the profile of this inventory and improve yield.
AR: Premium inventory suffers the same as any other inventory – price depression, and digital display advertising is in danger of becoming a DR channel and forgetting the extremely high-quality content that is delivered to our users. Buyers don’t appear to see the value of environment and content when they can buy clicks, data and retarget.
Are private exchanges a fallacy?
AR: Fallacy? Probably not. Panacea to publishers’ digital revenue issues? No. As a channel to increase CPM’s across non-guaranteed? Sure. It will require a high amount of work, at least initially, to take more revenue from the agencies. Certain advertising against particular content across specific inventory will be more predisposed to it doing well from private marketplaces; others less so. A lack of understanding and/or technology may also present a challenge to publishers in taking advantage of private exchange deals.
Will the buy side be able to value premium? Have you seen evidence of this up to now?
RB: From Future’s perspective yes, the US market is seeing huge increases in SSP revenue and RPMs. We believe this is a combination of data being used to buy, analysis of performing sites, uptake on SSP’s – effectively more people bidding in the auction.
AR: If the inventory is accessible and packaged in the right way, then yes. Premium for one site can be wholly different to another. The Sun’s HPTO’s are the most impactful and engaging way to reach the audience, ergo premium inventory. On the other hand a display banner campaign running in the business section of The Times is also premium for that audience, given its exclusivity. How this is communicated to agencies will have a huge influence on the perception of what is premium.
How will you manage yield across different publishers?
RB: While it will be for each publisher individually to set and discuss pricing with Improve Digital, we have some different solutions to test which will allows us to ensure the minimums appropriate for each publisher are hit. Publishers need to better manage unsold inventory, if a publisher’s specific minimum is not achieved, different use of the advertising space will be considered, be it content marketing, house marketing, private market places, etc.
Will you be welcoming additional publishers to the exchange?
RB: This is something for us yet to decide, but I would say yes. If you can increase the amount of premium ads into the mix, then absolutely. We are all acutely aware automated trading is here to stay, this is just about getting the value we deserve.
Why was Improve selected to power the exchange?
RB: As the initial test market is the Netherlands, a Dutch-specialist SSP seems the logical choice. As everything is supposed to be automated, Improve will be playing a critical part in getting the concept and inventory onto the radar of the buy side. The more advertisers that are aware that this premium, brand-safe and non UGC inventory is available – the more value we can expect to drive.
Could there be more of these types of initiative from publishers? What could be next?
RB: I think so. We are all premium publishers, so we can learn from our experiences to ensure we get the value we deserve. Good content is expensive to produce, and as an advertiser I would want to be branding in this, and the inventory should be valued accordingly. This concept is about putting premium inventory into the SSPs, which is what SSPs and demand side have been asking for. So can the SSPs drive more value from premium inventory? We will wait and see.
AR: Agreed, and to add to that, premium content publishers now have huge tech platforms to contend with, with large amounts of data and little or no content whatsoever. The ecosystem will only survive if revenue flows to those that produce high quality content and bring engaged users to that content, whatever the device.
Was this exchange created as a response to the growing power that the buy side operators seem to have in the automated trading space?
RB: Not really, it’s the buy side that we want to appeal to, we want an exchange that increases value for our buyers, and at the same time, increases returns and value for publishers.
AR: We want to appeal to the buy side by offering more than that which is currently available. This should see an improvement in publishers returns and value as well.
This type of publisher exchange will be the big trend in the European market over the coming months, as the sell side looks to reposition its offering in the new automated ecosystem. ExchangeWire will be doing a number of posts on the evolution of the publisher trading desk in the coming weeks, with a focus on the big European publishers.Global Desk Editor