Experts Predict: Publisher Monetisation Progression in 2018


The world for publishers has changed over the last year with a focus on quality content and ways to unlock new revenue streams. In a series of features reflecting on the past year, and looking ahead to what we can expect in 2018, ExchangeWire invites over 100 thought leaders from across the industry to share their views. In the latest installment of the series, experts predict how publishers will continue to maximise revenue in 2018.

Programmatic relationships will be centered around demand-path optimisation

“In 2018, publishers need to prioritise user experience and put the reader first. Creating amazing content continues to be at the forefront of this. User experience and personalisation, especially on mobile, will be critical to keep readers engaged and spending longer periods of time on their pages. Publishers will reduce resources on external distribution platforms and focus on ways to reclaim audiences. Building loyalty and improving brand reputation will be more important than ever. Operations and sales teams will need to work closely with content teams to ensure that user experience and revenue management go hand-in-hand. Operations teams will prioritise resources against threats that take away from both user experience and revenue performance. Finally, programmatic relationships will need to be centered around demand-path optimisation (DPO) to ensure unique demand sources, transparency, and trust in the buying process.”

Vipul Mistry, Sr. Director of Business Development, Intermarkets

Publishers need to provide fraud-free, viewable, and brand-safe inventory

“Trust and transparency will be integral to the success of publishers in 2018 and will influence every facet of the industry, including, hopefully, becoming a key buying metric. Trust and transparency have always been values of The Telegraph; and in 2018 we will be pioneering customer-centric, data-driven quality journalism and championing transparency in the supply chain. All publishers will need to lead the way in providing fraud-free, viewable, and brand-safe inventory. We’ve already seen the start of this with the launch of The Verified Marketplace earlier this month, a joint venture between The Telegraph and two other publishers. But this is just the beginning, and will likely lead to many more acts of publisher collaboration over the next year.”

Dora Michail, Managing Director Digital, The Telegraph

Publishers will gain more control with new header-bidding wrappers

“Publishers will gain more control over their programmatic yield with a new wave of header-bidding wrappers entering the market, which allows publishers to close a second-price auction based on first prices from all demand partners. This, in turn, leads to closer ties between buyer and seller. A growth in first-party data: GDPR is (obviously) going to have a big impact on the industry and the availability of third-party data. This will, in turn, help publishers with comprehensive first-party data become more valuable. I think that we’ll start to see smarter use of branded content next year, potentially with advertisers starting to target different pieces of branded content based on audience data.”

David Hayter, Programmatic, Data & Technology Director, Shortlist Media

Ads.txt & GDPR will be a big focus for publishers in 2018

“The last 12 months have witnessed the biggest changes in publisher monetisation models since the inception of RTB. The waterfall of yesteryear has been flattened and we are slowly getting closer to the utopia that is true holistic yield management capabilities for publishers, be it at the header or ad server levels. With the unified auction (direct, ad net, and programmatic competing equally) theory now universally accepted as best practice, the debate is now firmly around the auction mechanics that sit at the heart of decisioning itself: the first- vs. second-price clearing model. Going into 2018, we are going to hear a lot more about ads.cert, ads.txt, the first price, take rates, and not only from those on the sell side, but also the spotlight will start to move towards those in activation. Publishers will be faced with myriad vendors purporting to offer server-to-server solutions that offer benefits above and beyond that of client-side header bidding. They will be tasked with navigating new contracts that pass GDPR liability back and forth – and all this in the face of uncertainties around the one currency that has made scaled monetisation a reality thus far in programmatic: the cookie. However, one thing is for sure, smart publishers are entering 2018 bullish: many have their direct sales teams trained in the art of programmatic selling; ads.txt is enabling them to hit back at fraudsters; GDPR will sit them firmly in a position of power, due to their direct consumer relationships; and SPO efforts being driven from the buy side are getting them closer to the demand and the ad budgets that have been sucked up for too long via opaque take practices, AKA the ‘ad tech tax’.”

Paul Gubbins, Independent Ad Tech Consultant

Publisher consortia will use programmatic platforms to better manage inventory

“Staying ahead of the competition is a key business strategy, but that proves difficult when your competitors are Google and Facebook. Currently, it is estimated approximately 85% of all digital ad spend goes to these two players. Publishers will need to work together to wrest back control. We are already seeing players, such as CNN, taking the reins of the digital publishing alliance Pangaea and newspaper rivals the Guardian, News UK and The Telegraph announcing plans to pool their video inventory into a verified marketplace run by Unruly. Others will most likely follow suit in 2018. Consortia have traditionally been used by publishers to sell their ‘remnant’ inventory programmatically. However, next year, we expect a greater move by consortia to using programmatic platforms to better manage, optimise, and deliver all digital inventory. By partnering with other media owners, publishers combine their datasets to provide more accurate, more powerful audience targeting across their own sites. By using this volume of data, and the scale that programmatic platforms offer in consortia, media owners should attract more brand spend away from the duopoly and towards their own digital properties.”

Bill Swanson, VP EMEA, PubMatic

Publishers will take control of their programmatic business

“We will see a convergence of themes following through into 2018. Publishers and brands will have a greater appetite for strategic control of their programmatic business, and ad tech providers will be forced to accommodate the growing demand for transparency. This trend will be further accelerated by incoming data regulation that requires a mechanism for user consent – and which clearly places the judgment of value and trust in the hands of the consumer. Those businesses that have invested in quality and trust will be in the strongest positions to establish a clear value-exchange.”

Daniel Spears, Programmatic Director, Guardian News & Media

Quality content will help publishers monetise their audience


“Within the next year or two, a majority of publishers will have established a direct relationship with their audience as the main priority of their websites, behind showing ads of course. This will start with email: spend more than 30 seconds on CNN.com to see the future in action. This is to mitigate the impact of Google and Facebook continuing to capture all of the digital ad dollar growth, and starting to eat into existing ad spend with publishers. For publishers, having Google and Facebook as their most important traffic source, and their biggest competitor for advertising dollars, is unsustainable. Producers of quality content like investigative journalism, for example, will transition to subscription business models, monetising their audience directly. Many low-quality content publishers will survive, albeit with ad-saturated pages and no brand recognition, further pushing audiences who care about quality into the arms of ad-free subscriptions.”

Keith Sibson, VP of Product & Marketing, PostUp

Publishers need to adjust compensation options for user access

“It’s been a tumultuous year in digital media, borne out by the recent layoffs at Buzzfeed, lower-than expected revenues from Vice, and Mashable’s sale at just 20% of its previous $250 million valuation. But it has not been all doom and gloom. The NYTs boosted revenue through rising subscriptions, Medium changed direction to launch its paid membership subscription program, and the political landscape drove revenue spikes for the likes of Vanity Fair and The Washington Post. It’s clear that to ensure sustainability, publishers must be thinking more broadly about their efforts to generate revenues in 2018 – and consider providing their users with multiple content compensation options including ad-based, direct payments or subscriptions. Publishers must take a step back to evaluate their respective monetization strategies – not just in how content is delivered to users, but also in the means by which they can fairly compensate publishers for access.”

Ben Barokas, CEO & Co-Founder, Sourcepoint