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How publishers can help tackle online misinformation

Ben Erdos, November 22, 2022

Key Takeaways:

  • Collaboration is key to tackling online misinformation
  • Publishers need to leverage their close relationships with key audiences to boost media literacy
  • High-quality levels allow publishers to stand out against fake news
Facts matter
Photo by The Climate Reality Project on Unsplash


Over the last few years, the world has seen a significant growth in online misinformation, and many people will have been directly affected by it.  

While there has always been misinformation online, the explosion of “fake news” in recent years has spilled over into the real world and caused genuine public harm, with events such as the January 6th Capitol riots proving that ideas percolated online can have disastrous effects on civil society. 

While online platforms and public bodies such as the European Parliament and fact-checking organizations, such as Media Bias/Fact Check or the BBC’s Reality Check, have led the way in tackling misinformation, the truth is its effects filter throughout the entire online ecosystem. This has led to some high-profile cases of advertisers being caught off-guard, unknowingly funding sites run by climate change deniers, anti-vaccine groups, and extremists.

Publishers often believe that, as long as they uphold their own standards and produce quality journalism, they will stand apart from disreputable publishers and won’t be affected. But the truth is that the continuing spread of false, or misleading information online, can directly impact your bottom line — an estimated $2.6 billion of ad spend is wasted on fake news publishers a year. Adjacent to this, audiences are increasingly losing faith in publishers of all kinds, with 55% of US consumers saying they had little to no trust in the news media.

Clearly, publishers need to take a more active role in tackling online misinformation. These are the steps we believe every publisher should be taking in order to stop the spread.

Maintain high standards

We’ve previously spoken about the importance of maintaining high levels of quality for publishers. If you are to stand apart from less reputable sites, you need to do more to publish quality content — everything on your site needs to be of the highest standard.

Don’t be afraid to go back to basics — ensure you are staying within Google’s guidelines (both for content and site experience), review editorial policy, and create a seamless onsite experience for your audience. This needs to be an ongoing process; quality is not a one-time deal. 

One benchmark you can use to measure the quality of your site is Google’s Core Web Vitals (CWV). With its metrics on content loading speed, interactivity, and visual stability, optimizing for CWV is an effective way to ensure a high level of site performance is maintained.

Keep your audience close…

With the amount of misinformation online, it’s no wonder audiences are distrustful. Publishers need to be part of a wider effort to increase media literacy and trust globally, and in order to do this, you need to foster a closer relationship with your audience.

Opening channels of conversation, via social media or mailers, is a good starting point. First-party data, collected with informed consent from your audience, can provide the rich insights needed to strengthen those core relationships.

This not only ensures content can be better tailored to your audience, but the increased trust allows you to better inform and educate, increasing media literacy within your audience, and therefore the wider ecosystem.

Another important factor is transparency in your editorial process, content partnerships, and teams. For example, having meaningful bylines on articles and well-rounded author pages will provide a foundation for trust, and can help strengthen this relationship.

…And your industry partners closer

Fighting online misinformation is not a simple task, and is one the entire industry needs to unite behind. As a publisher, the partnerships you make can be powerful — you need to ensure that those you work with are similarly committed to tackling online misinformation. Collaboration within the industry is critical for ensuring that ad spend doesn’t fund illegitimate publishers. 

If you would like to know more, feel free to get in touch.

What can publishers learn from Wordle at the NYT?

Naomi Rabbie, November 8, 2022

Key takeaways:

  • Though Wordle at the NYT is grabbing headlines, publishers have used games to draw in audiences for years.
  • For a successful game strategy, publishers need to listen to their audience.
  • Like every method to diversify revenue, publishers need to ensure they have the resources to implement it successfully.
Wordle on NYT
Photo by Nils Huenerfuerst on Unsplash

Who would have guessed that a simple text-based puzzle game would be such a runaway success, resulting in one of the world’s largest new publishers purchasing it for more than $1 million?

In late 2021, UK software engineer Josh Wardle made a simple, yet addictive, online word game based on the board game Mastermind. Quickly, it became an overnight sensation, reaching 2 million players globally by the first week of January 2022. By the end of that month, the New York Times (NYT) announced it had purchased the game, stating that it would continue to be free to play Wordle.

Though the price tag for the game raised eyebrows, publishers have always sought to use games to draw in audiences. For over a hundred years, print newspapers have populated their pages with crosswords, Sudoku, word searches, and other mind-boggling puzzles. The NYT was no stranger to this, having previously found success with Spelling Bee, another word game, as well as the New York Times Crossword app.

Gaming is a rapidly growing sector, due to be worth $320 billion globally by 2026. While much of this is powered by PC games, and console games, social/casual games such as Wordle are driving the majority of this growth. Clearly, there is potential for publishers, but can gaming be turned into a source of revenue? And what approach should publishers take?

Starting Words

First, let’s ask a simple question: is it worth it? If we go back to the NYT, Wordle has clearly had an impact on its audience. While the game is free to play, the NYT highlighted that the game brought tens of millions of new users to its site, and drove an increase of 387,000 new digital subscribers in the first quarter of 2022 alone. 

As marketing budgets begin to tighten due to the worsening financial situation, and the cookie deprecates, publishers are rightfully looking to diversify their revenue streams. Gaming certainly represents another channel to be explored. Whether you think that you’ve found the new Wordle, or are going to put your own spin on a classic, this is what you should be considering before taking the next step:

Resources

As with any new revenue stream, a gaming offering can take time and talent to implement. From the technical implementation to updating content, publishers will have to harness the specialist talent they have at their disposal, or hire new staff with the appropriate skill sets. This can take time, creativity — or in the case of the NYT, the ability to buy a ready-made proposition.

Audiences

If your already existing audience has no interest in a game, then implementing it may not be the best idea. Without the support of your loyal, regular site visitors, adding a gaming channel will not lead to long-term success. You need to harness first-party data, email feedback, and social media interactions to discover what your audience actually wants before taking the plunge. 

Monetization

Ultimately, adding a gaming channel is a chance to create a new revenue channel, but you need to have a clear vision of how exactly this will be monetized. Will it be behind a paywall? Will it be ad-supported? Will current subscribers have access, or will they have to pay more? Again, the needs of your existing audience should be front and center in your decision-making. There is no right answer, and hybrid approaches prove fruitful, like the one employed by the NYT.

Considering incorporating gaming into your site? Be in touch if you want help deciding if gaming could be right for you. 

Three steps publishers need to take to make quality a habit

Adi Pinco, August 31, 2022

Takeaways:

  • Quality should be at the core of everything a publisher does – from content and ads to website performance and beyond.
  • Whether an ad model, subscription model, or a hybrid, audience loyalty and growth hinge on the quality of the onsite experience.
  • Quality isn’t a ‘one and done’ deal; it’s an ongoing process.
making quality a habit for publishers

While we’re all living differently with varying lifestyles and budgets, one constant remains true for most — the importance of quality.  No one wants their groceries to go off after a few days or for holes to appear in clothes after just a few washes.  We examine, we touch, we compare, and we deliberate all in order to find the best quality we can afford.

The same goes for publishers. Audiences want to visit websites that run well, look good, have great content, and that, ultimately, they feel they can trust.

As we approach uncertain economic times and the specter of recession looms, it is natural that publishers will be beginning to look at where they can save money in order to weather the storm.

But any publisher willing to sacrifice quality is setting themselves on a path for disaster. Quality should be at the forefront of every decision that a publisher makes, and without the constant drive to maintain a high level, standards will slip – and with it – profitability.

Here are the steps you can take to ensure quality stays high:

Back to basics

First things first for publishers is making sure they stay compliant with Google’s rules. Simple stuff, we know, but the loss of revenue if you are found falling foul of their rules can be hugely impactful. Better safe than sorry, we say!

The other two essentials are maintaining high-quality ads and content. Every publisher knows that content forms the backbone of everything they do — it is ultimately why audiences visit. Audiences can see through click-baity content and loyal visitors may desert you. And while the extra revenue from high-traffic posts will seem like a positive in the short term, it is not an effective long-term strategy. Keep content at a high level and true to your niche.

When it comes to ads, publishers need to make sure they are safe, relevant, and do not overwhelm users. Advertisers also expect high-quality traffic from their ad investments, so ad placements and types need to be well-designed, with invalid traffic kept to a minimum.

Looking under the hood

Henry Ford said, “Quality means doing it right when no one is looking.” For publishers, this means making sure everything behind the scenes is as optimized as possible so the user experience is seamless. No one likes a slow-loading site, and few visitors will return if they have a bad experience their first time.

One way to ensure that website performance is kept at the highest quality is by enhancing its Core Web Vitals (CWV). Set out by Google, CWV consists of three core metrics — how long a main page takes to load, the visual stability of pages, and the time between a user’s first interaction and a browser processing that action. Focusing on these metrics will help you boost the quality of your site.

Again and again and again

Did you know as soon as workers painting the Golden Gate Bridge finish a fresh coat they have to start all over again? Quality is just the same. The job is never done. 

Quality should become not only a strategic decision, but a habit. Publishers need to be constantly ensuring high levels of quality are maintained, making adjustments where needed, and enhancing the onsite experiences. 

Ultimately, slipping standards lead to slipping site visitors, which lead to slipping CPMs. Putting quality at the core of your strategy, even as economic forces make things hard, will not only help ensure survival but will help you come out the other side stronger.

Wondering how you can make your site the highest quality it can be? Why not speak to us and find out more?

Attack of the 50 foot Ad Blocker: 4 ways publishers can beat ad blockers and regain their ad revenue

Ben Erdos, August 22, 2022

Takeaways:

  • There are four ways publishers can beat ad blockers and regain ad revenue: Server Side Ad Insertions (SSAI), subscription models, becoming a member of the Acceptable Ads Committee, and maintaining transparency with audiences. 
  • Publishers need to take existing audiences into consideration when rerouting ad blocking methods.
  • Ensuring online ads are high quality is essential for publishers looking to break through ad blocking ice.

No matter how well optimised a website is, how well placed the ad inventory is and how much care has been taken with website UX, there is always one stumbling block standing between publishers and ad revenue – ad blockers.

Since their inception way back in 2002, ad blockers have been a thorn in the side of publishers and brands alike. Nearly half of internet users claim to use an ad blocker – resulting in a huge amount of wasted spend and lost revenue. With budgets tightening as the economic situation worsens, recovering that lost spend will be vital for publishers looking to continue to grow.

However, all is not lost. For publishers looking to regain revenue lost to ad blockers, there are several tactics that weaken their grip. Let’s explore these:

 

Act natural

Server Side Ad Insertions (SSAI) are a technical workaround that helps to trick ad blocking programmes. Essentially, SSAIs let publishers place ads on-page via their CMS, weaving it into the fabric of the web page itself. Ad blockers look for signals that an ad is starting and move to block them. But if an ad is baked into a webpage they are unable to detect them.

If SSAIs are the route to go down, there is one thing to keep in mind: audience reaction. Remember, they have made a choice to install an ad blocker;  they may not react positively to finding ads once again, and bounce straight off your site.

 

Building a wall

There are numerous subscription models that publishers can choose from, and each can recover lost revenue. From the hard paywall favoured by the likes of the New York Times or Financial Times or a more flexible option that allows paying readers to view without ads, paywalls can be tailored to your needs. 
You need to take into consideration your already existing audience, your plans for growth and what other content types you can supplement it with. Find out how to build a subscription model that works for you and your audience in our deep dive into the subject.

 

Raising the standard

The Acceptable Ads Standard is a certification put in place by the Acceptable Ads Committee that helps publishers to white list ads that are non-intrusive. A number of major ad blocking applications – including AdBlock, Adblock Plus, uBlock, and Crystal – acknowledge this whitelisting and will allow these ads to still show on webpages. Essentially, if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.

Not every blocker accepts these standards however, and many sell themselves on their avoidance. Smaller publishers may also be asked to pay for membership to become accredited, so it may not always be cost effective.

Education, education, education

Sometimes it is worth remembering that online advertising isn’t just a relationship between publishers and advertisers or brands – audiences are the most vital part of the system. After years of data privacy scandals and intrusive pop ups it is no wonder that many are no longer keen to be exposed to advertising online.

Transparency with your audience on why the need for advertising is vital. This could be as simple as a pop-up to any visitor using an ad blocker that explains why whitelisting your site helps you retain an important source of revenue so that they can continue to see great content.

The Coalition For Better Ads, an industry group drawn from the ranks of advertisers, publishers, and internet technology providers, advocates for better audience education as the key driver to decrease the number of consumers using ad blockers.

While ad blocking software is still available, publishers are going to have to figure out how to either avoid them, work around them or get their audiences to switch them off – or maybe a combo of all three. While, as an industry, publishers may not be as reliant on digital advertising as they were previously, the potential lost revenue will sting in the coming years.

What publishers need to remember however is that ad blockers emerged because of the consumer exhaustion with seeing inappropriate, repetitive or invasive ads. As an industry, publishers need to continue to work together and with advertisers to ensure that online ads are as high quality as possible. If we can win back consumer trust, we may banish the need for ad blockers altogether.

 

Worried that your customers are blocking you out? Seeking extra revenue for your ad efforts? Get in touch with our team if you’d like to talk more about how to maximise your ad revenue..

Implementing a subscription model – what should publishers consider?

Adi Pinco, July 20, 2022

Takeaways:

  • Diversifying revenue streams is essential for publishers to expand on offerings and create a balanced subscription model
  • Website optimization is vital for publishers that want to convert flyby users into loyal brand users
  • Publishers need to communicate with audiences to understand better what loyal users are looking for when it comes to subscriptions and contextualized ads
Photo by ConvertKit on Unsplash

Like everyone else, we’re pleased that the coronavirus rollercoaster seems to be coming to an end (touch wood). For publishers, however, the ongoing unreliability of ad budgets has left them wondering if there is another way to gain the stable revenue needed to keep creating great content. The majority, it seems, have settled on subscriptions.

Subscriptions have become a part of all of our daily lives. We have music subscriptions, TV subscriptions, grocery subscriptions – even clothes subscriptions. While the declaration that we now live in a ‘Subscription Economy’ might be overblown (I’m not sure I need new underwear sent via subscription), the options are, essentially, endless.

But subscription models aren’t as simple as building a paywall, sitting back, and waiting for the money to roll in. Publishers need to ask themselves some serious questions before diving headfirst into the world of subscriptions:

What are your aims?

The New York Times’ recent proclamation that it had reached 10 million subscribers will have been a vindication of the subscription model to some publishers. But the cold truth is that the hard paywall model implemented by the NYT and others such as The Financial Times probably won’t work for many publishers.

When deciding if and how to implement a paywall, publishers first need to ask themselves what their aims are – audience growth, for example, can be stunted by the implementation of hard paywalls.

A soft paywall, on the other hand – one that partitions some content but leaves some free to read – can offer both a solid user base and help turn first-time or fleeting users into paid subscribers. Alternatively, paywalls that reward subscribers with bonus content can reward your most loyal visitors while leaving others to explore the rest of the site.

Whichever path you take, you need to have a clear vision of long-term goals and factor in how a paywall can get you there.

Is your website optimized?

No one likes a slow website. Many of us are still scarred from the agonizingly slow days of dial-up and are relieved those times are behind us. For all publishers, keeping their websites as fast and responsive as possible is a priority. But when users are paying to use your service, your website has to work perfectly.

With frameworks like Google’s Core Web Vitals providing a clear set of metrics relating to speed, responsiveness, and visual stability, poor site performance should be a thing of the past. While it can seem basic, optimizing these pushes up a website’s CWV performance and ultimately keeps loyal users coming back.

Are there other options?

Everyone knows not to put all their eggs in one basket – and in the same vein, publishers should be wary about banking solely on subscriptions? Audio and video, for example, have captured eyes and ears worldwide – especially during the last few years. The barrier to entry for those mediums is also getting lower all the time, allowing publishers of all sizes to add their voices to these new spaces.

And while the whole point of subscription models is to lessen reliance on advertising, publishers cannot simply dismiss it altogether. Online advertising is continuing to mature, with expanding safety and suitability options giving brands more confidence to invest, while cookieless targeting solutions are providing a new way to reach consumers when third-party data is phased out.

Diversifying revenue streams shouldn’t be binary – various different content types can be balanced to enhance a subscription model.

What does your audience want?

Any subscription model will fail if you don’t consider one key thing – your audience. Publishers need to listen to what their audiences actually want and whether they’d be willing to pay for it. 

Diving into the data and examining audience journeys can help determine the right balance for your audience. Reaching out and asking them for input can also be powerful. They may be willing to pay for new forms of content a publisher does not currently offer – such as audio or video – or they may be willing to pay micropayments for newsletters or certain columns. Conversely, they may be simply happy to view more advertising on the site but not pay a subscription at all.

Finding the right solution will involve trial and error, but by listening to audiences, publishers can make small adjustments to strike the perfect balance instead of wholesale changes.

Laying the foundations for a hard paywall? Looking to entice users with exclusive content? Get in touch with our team if you’d like to talk more about how subscriptions can work for your site.

Listen up!: Finding the right digital audio ad

Adi Pinco, July 11, 2022

Takeaways:

  • There are three main ways digital ad space can be purchased: manual ad insertion, dynamic ad insertion, and programmatic ad insertion.
  • Manual insertion is the traditional way to purchase ad space and, until recently, has been used for the majority of ad placements.
  • Dynamic ad insertion is the most popular way digital audio ads are placed and offer greater targeting options.
  • Programmatic insertion is in its infancy but offers more personalized messaging thanks to better targeting.
digital audio ads
Photo by ConvertKit on Unsplash

Like a lot of people, we feel lost these days if left commuting without our favorite podcast, or winding down at the end of the day without Alexa playing the radio in the background, or if on the treadmill without our well-curated gym playlist. Digital audio has become a staple of our daily lives.

Brands have taken note of our growing love of digital audio, with increased spending over the last few years on all areas. Highly effective due to its personal nature, and with endless creative possibilities, the growth of these formats has been music to many advertisers’ ears.

But like any other advertising channel, brands diving into digital audio need to buy their advertising slots in an effective, scalable, and context-appropriate manner if their campaigns are going to grab the ears of consumers.

For those still struggling to get their heads around the world of digital audio ads, let’s look into the three main ways that space can be purchased.

1. Manual ad insertion 

This is the traditional way to purchase ad space, especially for podcasts. Usually, brands will negotiate directly with publishers or podcasters. Ads are then ‘baked’ into the audio, meaning they are part of a single audio file that cannot change. Hosts or artists can read these ads out, blending seamlessly into the content.

Until recently, a majority of ad placements were run using this method – in 2019 52% of podcast ads were purchased manually. The method also chimes with consumers, with the often personalized tone, familiarity of a host’s voice, and naturalistic insertion leading to a 71% brand recall.

The downside is that these kinds of placements can be taxing to implement and lack true scalability. As the market for digital audio continues to expand, these individual insertions will be time-consuming for advertisers and may cause brands to miss out on potential audiences. 

2. Dynamic ad insertion 

Dynamic ad insertion (DAI) is currently the most popular way that digital audio ads are placed, seeing explosive growth during the pandemic. Second best to manual podcast insertion in 2019 with around 48% of placements, it now accounts for 84% of podcast ads.

In short, DAI differs from manual insertion in that publishers mark spots within an audio file where ads can be inserted. Advertisers are then able to serve ads the moment audio is downloaded. It’s basically a win-win for brands and creators – ad messaging can be kept up-to-date while back catalogue can continue to be monetized.

DAI gives advertisers greater targeting options, meaning audiences to be found via genre, geotargeting, and even specific episode titles. Data signals can also be harnessed with DAI to serve ad messaging dependent on variables such as time, or even weather data. The use of audience data overlays from third- or first-party data is also possible.

Despite this, murkiness about the true measurability of DAI hampers its effectiveness. While advertisers can see downloads of a podcast, whether an advert was actually listened to remains somewhat a mystery.

3. Programmatic insertion

Programmatic is still very much in its infancy within the digital audio space. Though effectively used on many music streaming platforms – Spotify has Private Marketplaces (PMPs) and Programmatic Guaranteed (PG) buys available to advertisers – the podcast space is slower on the uptake. Only 1.7% of podcast revenue was generated through this buying method in 2021 (compared to 67% for display advertising back in 2019).

Its growth in the space could lower the barrier for entry for smaller brands and creators alike. More personalized messaging can also be served into the ears of listeners thanks to better targeting abilities.

There are however currently big question-marks over the brand safety solution in the audio space. While targeting via show type or description is possible, the ability to screen on an episodic level is not yet effective enough – the recent Joe Rogan vaccine denial scandal would give any advertiser cold sweats. As the technology develops and industry-wide safety standards are implemented, programmatic will start becoming a real contender in the digital audio space.

Any further questions on audio ads? Want to get further into the details on programmatic? Or do you have any other publisher-related questions? Get in touch with our team.

Building an ad tech strategy: 3 elements publishers must master

Adi Pinco, April 28, 2022

Takeaways:

  • Publishers should explore different inventory allocation opportunities to determine which mix best aligns with their business model.
  • Yield management strategies need to be employed to maximize revenues.
  • Publishers are responsible for complying with policies and data protection regulations.
ad strategy, ad tech

Building an ad-tech strategy is perhaps the most challenging aspect of being a publisher. A simple Google search will reveal thousands of ad tech companies, each claiming to offer the best monetization methods and strategies. It’s easy for publishers to quickly become overwhelmed and get lost in a sea of advice and recommendations. 

The result is publishers with overly complicated or underperforming tech stacks, misconfigurations, policy compliance issues, and many other problems, all of which amount to lost revenues and other consequences. 

Creating the right ad-tech strategy is a lot like cooking. Just as you balance flavors to suit your tastebuds, you need to find the right ad-tech mix to achieve your business goals.

In this post, we’ll cover the ingredients you need to make your ad-tech stack sizzle. With the right in-house expertise, you can follow it and create a workable, revenue-generating machine. 

1. Supply allocation 

When it comes to allocating inventory, publishers have several options. How inventory is divided among demand sources can significantly impact revenue, so publishers must do this with great care. Since publishers have different business models and strategies, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach. Publishers should evaluate various opportunities and determine which types of deals are most beneficial.

Let’s look at some of the most common types of deals.

Private marketplace 

Private marketplace deals (PMP) are invite-only auctions in which a selected group of advertisers get bidding priorities before inventory is made available to all other advertisers. Publishers determine minimum costs, and the advertiser with the highest offer wins.  

Direct deals

Direct deals are struck between sellers and buyers without ad exchanges or intermediaries. CPMs are pre-negotiated and higher than open market rates because deals are for premium inventory.

Programmatic guaranteed and preferred deals

With preferred deals, publishers sell premium inventory to a preselected group of advertisers at fixed prices. Advertisers bid in real-time, and the winner is determined by the highest bid or the advertiser that offers the pre-negotiated price. Guaranteed deals are similar but come with a fixed number of impressions. 

Remnant inventories

Remnant inventories are suitable for open auctions as real-time bidding is open to many advertisers. Demand will vary, but publishers can still get an acceptable price for unsold ad inventory. 

2. Yield management 

Yield management is a variable pricing strategy that enables publishers to sell inventory for the best price. Publishers usually alter prices based on demand, demand sources, seasonality, or user behavior. Yield management allows publishers to maximize fill rates and earn the highest CPMs possible. 

Here are a few ways publishers optimize their yield management strategies. 

Demand partners 

Publishers need to think carefully about the demand partners they work with, adding them to tech stacks to test their value. Some supply-side platforms (SSPs) and demand-side platforms (DSPs) have commitments or relationships with agencies to provide certain opportunities for buyers. Other demand partners might specialize in specific geo-locations or verticals, which can benefit publishers.

Header bidding 

Header bidding, which occurs outside of ad server auctions, gives advertisers a ‘first look’ at a publisher’s inventory, allowing them to choose high-priority impressions. Impressions are auctioned to all partners simultaneously, and the highest offered price determines the winner.

Varied ad formats

Some ad formats are more valuable to advertisers than others. To maximize profits, publishers should offer a variety of traditional and non-traditional ad formats, including video, application, interstitial, native, and anchor or sticky ads. Advertisers will pay a premium for ads that provide a better return on investment (ROI), resulting in more revenue for the publisher. 

A/B testing 

Every yield management strategy should include an A/B testing component. Publishers can test new technology, ad formats, header bidding solutions, and more against what they already use to determine which mix provides the best yields. 

3. Stay on top of everything!

The ad tech industry is no longer the wild west it once was. Today, organizations such as the IAB have been working to clean up the ad supply chain and restore confidence for both publishers and advertisers. Publishers that follow the rules, implement privacy policies, cookie compliance, and data protection measures can capture the revenue that would otherwise be headed toward non-compliant publishers.  

Traffic monitoring (trust & safety)

To instill a sense of trust and safety for advertisers, publishers need to monitor their traffic and understand their traffic sources. Publishers that don’t do this consistently will undoubtedly suffer from invalid traffic (IVT). Those with high IVT rates will see revenues and reputation diminish, and persistent IVT can cause publishers to lose access to Google products and other third-party partners. 

Policy compliance 

The ad tech industry and supply chain have suffered due to poor business practices and malicious actors. Nowadays, reputable programmatic platforms require publishers to meet standard compliance terms. For example, many platforms, including Google, won’t monetize publisher content that promotes illegal activity, including harmful or derogatory content, sexually explicit content, and much more. 

Data protection 

Data protection regulations vary by region and country. They include laws such as the EU’s GDPR, California’s CCPA, and Brazil’s LGPD. It is a publisher’s responsibility to make sure they comply with local laws and properly obtain user consent to collect data. 

Should you whip up your own ad tech stack?

As we mentioned earlier, it depends. Does your team have the right ingredients – the required knowledge, experience, and development skills?

While we encourage you to explore your options, we also know that sometimes publishers can be the most successful by focusing on the business activities they do best and allowing an expert like Total Media Solutions to do what it does best – provide publisher revenue management services.  

If you don’t want to waste more time or miss out on monetization opportunities, reach out to us. We’ll get you cooking in no time!

The four most important SEO strategies for publishers in 2022

Naomi Rabbie, March 16, 2022

Key takeaways:

  • Preparing for MUM might not be required today, but it will keep you ahead of the game.
  • Make increasing page speed a priority and evaluate your site speed routinely.
  • Leverage Google’s tools for the best chance of earning a spot in Suggested Clips.
  • Refresh old content to build on the wins you previously had. 
MUM, Google, BERT, algorithm

There’s no denying that Google is the king of the internet. As such, all of its subjects, a.k.a. advertisers and publishers, must abide by the rules to court favor with the king in an attempt to win a coveted spot on the first page of search results. That, of course, is no easy feat. Landing a spot on page two is still a good consolation prize, but any further down is the equivalent of being sent to the Tower of London with a fate similar to Anne Boleyn.

Alas, for you publishers, the way to curry favor with the king and remain in its good graces is to focus on SEO strategies that meet its ever-changing algorithms. So, what does the ruler of the digital land have in store for us as we look at the year ahead? Google is flexing its mighty tech muscle, building on its AI and natural language processing (NLP) capabilities and focusing on how to provide internet users with better, more relevant sources of information. 

In this post, we’ll unpack the treasure chest of what Google has been working on so you can adjust your SEO strategy and prepare for tomorrow and the years to come. 

Google MUM is coming

Last May, Google introduced its new AI algorithm called MUM (Multitask Unified Model), which is built on top of its already in use algorithm BERT (Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers). According to Google, MUM is 1000 times more powerful than BERT and takes a radically different approach towards serving users’ implied search intent by understanding context, concepts, and how topics intersect.  

No one knows how MUM will affect search results. Google has been vague about that so far and about when it will be released, only saying “months to years.” At this moment, you can’t truly create a strategy to beat this algorithm, but you can start producing content that reflects the way this future algorithm will prioritize and display results: based on intent questions.

To put this in more concrete terms, Google gave an example of a person who, after hiking one mountain, wants to know how to prepare for a hike on a different mountain. Google posits that the user currently needs to perform several searches to find out about all aspects of their query – elevation levels, trails, temperatures, gear, etc. With MUM, all of those underlying non-verbalized questions would be answered with one result.

The key takeaway here is to think like a user and create content that answers more of their questions. 

Focus on improving page speed

Google cares about your site’s speed – a lot. A significant part of its last update, Core Web Vitals, focused on speed: how long it takes the largest page element to load, how elements shifted on a page while it was loading, and how quickly elements responded to clicks

You can quickly find out your scores with Google’s PageSpeed tool, and if pages are slow, there could be many culprits. Here are a few of the more technical but quick tweaks you should consider:

  • Minimizing HTTP requests 
  • Minifying files
  • Using asynchronous loading for JavaScript and CSS files
  • Deferring JavaScript loading
  • Using a fast DNS provider
  • Compressing files and reducing image sizes
  • Switching hosting providers
  • Using a CDN 

The list goes on and on, but the point is there are lots of ways to address site speed and eliminate the issues slowing your load times. 

Optimize for Suggested Clips

Video consumption is off the charts these days, and Google offers plenty of video results when users search. According to a global survey conducted by Statista, over 27% of people watch more than 10 hours of online video per week, while another 15% watch 7-10 hours, and 18% watch 4-7 hours. Chances are, you already know this and have prioritized creating video content.

So, if your written content isn’t landing you in the top ten results, try optimizing your videos to give them the best chance of appearing in Google’s Suggested Clips. Using the new structured data types, Clip Markup and Seek Markup, you manually tell Google which timestamp and label to use to create key moments and increase your chances of appearing in the results.

Refresh old content

Experts will always encourage you to create evergreen content, but the world moves fast, and things change quickly, meaning what you thought was evergreen has now fallen out of favor with Google. But all is not lost with those pages because refreshing them with updated content can restore them to their former glory. Google loves ‘fresh,’ and this is one of the quickest SEO 

strategies you can implement.

The best way to get that shine (and ranking) back is by refreshing old content. One of the best tactics is to look at the top ten Google results for a topic or keyword, put on your sleuthing cap and uncover what makes those pages rank. It could be the structure, keywords in the headers, optimized images, new data, or other factors. Take what you learn and apply it to your own page. After all, you already invested in producing this content, so giving it a refresh builds on that equity.

SEO is never done

SEO is like a castle’s defenses – there’s always work to be done, and you can always improve your site’s SEO. Thankfully, today we live in the digital age, and there are countless tools at your fingertips to help you.

Remember that these days, SEO is not just about adding keywords to your content, titles, meta descriptions, and alt tags – although all of those will help. Modern SEO is about thinking of the needs of your readers, prioritizing their experience, and answering the questions they are asking. 

If you prioritize those elements in your SEO strategy, you’ll be well on your way to becoming internet royalty – or at least snagging a top spot alongside other royals in Google-land.

If you need advice about SEO, monetization, or any other aspect of your publishing business, reach out to us.

About the author Leah Grantz is the Marketing Manager at Total Media Solutions. You can find Leah on LinkedIn or reach out to her via email to discuss content and SEO strategy!

5 marketing trends in adtech for 2022

Nadia Ozeri, March 3, 2022

marketing trends 2022, VR, AR, 2022, digital marketing,
Image courtesy: Pixabay

2022 is a year of big changes. Covid changed our lives, not only in the way we communicate with one another but also in how we use technology. Marketers face a challenging year, juggling emerging technologies and changes to online tracking while trying to meet the shifting moods of pandemic-weary consumers. The metaverse has been a hot topic of conversation recently with Microsoft and Facebook both making claims. The metaverse doesn’t quite exist yet. However, the hype still matters, and soon will likely change how we consume content, audio, video, mobile, and gaming. 

1. Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR)

AR and VR are exciting technologies for marketers to tap into because they focus on imaginative and interactive experiences. In the future, these technologies will be used to market products and services, and change marketing forever. Several verticals have major potential: from virtual real estate, with virtual property showcases, staging, and more, to the travel industry where you can receive a virtual tour of a hotel before you book your vacation, to the beauty industry, enabling you to try out lipstick colors and clothes before you buy. Although the metaverse is still in its infancy, there increasingly will be tools that allow marketers to connect with consumers in these emerging digital spaces.

Brands like TOMS Shoes, TopShop, Oreo, Sephora, and IKEA have already successfully used these technologies for marketing purposes. IKEA uses AR to help customers design their own space, Say Hej to IKEA Place. 

2. Increasing mobile gaming advertising 

Globally, there were an estimated 3.24 billion gamers in 2021 – no surprise there. Furthermore, according to Adjust data insights, gaming accounts for 50% of total industry ad spend. These spaces have been transformed into effective advertising platforms due to the success of the gaming industry as a whole.

But what about mobile gaming as its own entity? There were approximately 477,877 mobile gaming apps available on Google Play in the first quarter of 2021 – an increase of almost 12% from the previous quarter. Moreover, a report from GlobalData found that after reaching $98 billion in 2020, mobile gaming is expected to reach $272 billion by 2030.

As mobile gaming advertising becomes more competitive, your creative campaigns need to reach the right audience, at the right time, and in the right place. By leveraging the power of programmatic marketing, you can scale appropriate ads to the users that you want to reach. A successful campaign will rely on this and can help achieve impressive ROI in 2022.

Example: Mobile advertising in action 

Anzu designed its in-game ads to appear more organic to users. In Trackmania, for example, they appear as billboards around the titular tracks. Anzu partnered with brands like Samsung, Microsoft, and Vodafone on these ads. Example: Vodafone appearing in Anzu video games: 

Trackmania Multiplayer Session World Premiere @Gamevention #DIGI1 2020

vodafone, anzu, gaming, advertisement,  billboard,

3. Alternative targeting solutions  

After Google postponed the phase-out of third-party cookies to 2023, advertisers, adtech companies, and publishers are expected to implement new ways of tracking consumers and targeting ads in the next 12 months. However, even if Google sticks to its current plan, the future of cookieless browsing is likely to emerge slowly and incrementally.

As third-party cookies will no longer be supported in 2023, marketers will be testing alternative targeting solutions, such as people-based targeting, throughout 2022. Prior to cookies being banned, companies that can leverage and expand upon your first-party information should be vetted

Let’s have a look at Contextual targeting for example. Internet marketing started basically with contextual targeting until third party data was the shiny new revenue toy. Now, with the phasing out of the cookie, contextual targeting is likely to rise again and be the popular strategy for publishers, advertisers, and consumers. This is a great opportunity for you as a publisher to implement and integrate contextual advertising into your marketing strategy.

At the moment, the advertising industry is at a turning point, where organizations must take advantage of the opportunity to be more transparent with their audiences. We must ensure that new identity solutions put consumers in the driver’s seat so they can decide when, where, and how their data is used. 

Example: Contextual targeting used 

Kitchn is already doing it. This online daily food magazine started implementing contextual targeting. I saw an ad for a pizza cutter while reading, “How To Make Awesome Pizza at Home.” This is an excellent example of contextual advertising in action:

4. Video marketing 

The data backs up my claims, even though they sound exaggerated. Search engine giant Google has announced that YouTube reaches more 18-34 and 18-49 year-olds than any cable network in the United States. Facebook reports that video posts receive six times more engagement than photo or link posts on average while Twitter has seen an increase in video views by over 160%. 

In other words, if you don’t incorporate video into your marketing strategy, you’re missing out on a huge opportunity to connect with your audience and build trust. Video is vital for creating customer relationships since it puts a human face on the brand, which builds trust and loyalty.

It appears that short-form content is on the rise and won’t slow down anytime soon. Instagram Reels, TikTok, and YouTube Shorts are among the most popular channels for video content today. With their ability to capture attention and lead to stronger engagement than other content, you can use video marketing to take center stage in your marketing strategy for  2022. 

Example: Make TikToks not ads 

#TikTokmademebuyit is influencer marketing at its best!  In August of 2021, TikTok’s #TikTokMadeMeBuyIt hashtag, used by influencers to show off Amazon purchases they found on TikTok, had more than 4.1 billion views—check out this video (don’t mind the spelling mistake in the title though 😉…). 

@heartdefensor

amazon keeps taking my money 🥲 levitating bulb lamp with wireless charger link in bio #amazonfinds #amazonmusthaves #tiktokmademebuyit

♬ Spongebob Tomfoolery – Dante9k Remix – David Snell

Amazon even started a page called “TikTok Amazon Finds”

5. Programmatic audio is about to get big

As a brand’s primary outlet after being dominated by visual media for the past decade, audio advertising has emerged as a significant medium. Through its capability to reach highly targetable and mobile audiences in brand-safe environments without the presence of screens, it enables marketers to evolve their omnichannel strategies naturally.

eMarketer predicts that listeners will spend an average of 97 minutes with digital audio per day -nearly a half-hour more than the average user will spend on social media (70 minutes). As opposed to their visual equivalents, audio ads are delivered one by one to consumers while they are not typically connected to a screen, such as when listening to a podcast or a playlist during a workout. Audio ads provide premium environments and are an effective way to fill otherwise unfilled gaps in the user’s buying journey.

Example: Audio ads in Newsweek

According to the 2021 State of audio AI consumption report, the average LTR (= listen-through rate) in programmatic advertising, was a whopping 96% or 105.8 million ads listened to. Programmatic audio offers remarkable granular targeting capabilities. Media buyers can tap into a range of advanced audience segmentation parameters, including location, point of interest, device, weather, user, agent, format, genre, dayparting, mood, and more. Through this channel, the ability to engage a user in the right place, at the right time, and within the right context becomes just that bit more accessible.

Conclusion 

These are some of the trends that I’m following this year. I think the advertisement industry is going through major changes while the primary focus is on the metaverse. It’s the beginning of a new marketing strategy that we will need to get familiar with and used to.

About the author Nadia Ozeri is the Director of Buy Side at Total Media Solutions. She is an expert in connecting advertisers to ad technologies. You can find Nadia on LinkedIn or reach out to her via email if you’ like to pick your brain about ads.

6 publisher trends that will dominate 2022

Steve Myslinski, January 19, 2022

Key takeaways:

  • Publishers will look to diversify revenue streams further with commerce and interest-based newsletters.
  • A first-party data strategy is no longer nice to have but a necessity.
  • Demand for audio content will continue to grow.
2022, publisher trends

Life and business are in flux as we enter a third year of pandemic existence. While the Omicron strain threatens the routines we were just getting back to, 2022 doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom, especially for digital publishers who are used to adapting and evolving.

This year will see the continuation of several trends that have been building steam; some were spurred into action because of the pandemic and others because of technology and consumer demands (we’re looking at you, cookie deprecation!). If necessity is the mother of invention, this is a prime time for publishers to reinvent themselves.

Below are the six trends that we predict will lead the publishing industry this year.

1. Content-commerce collaborations increase 

Even before digital consumption dominated daily life, publishers used multiple revenue streams to support their business, including ads, advertorials, and subscriptions. Although advertising still generates the most revenue, publishers are embracing new revenue streams. According to Digiday, 64% of publishers rely on direct product sales as a revenue stream, and 72% say that affiliate marketing generates a part of their earnings.

Public trust in social media is at an all-time low. Consumers are spending more time on the open web, opening the door for publishers to leverage the trust they already have with audiences to sell them products. Although reports indicate 94% of publishers use affiliate marketing, we expect to see publishers produce more content that includes product recommendations from affiliate programs they are a part of and more direct sales deals with brands.

2. Diversified monetization strategy

According to eMarketer, digital advertising will continue to grow but not at the crazy record-setting pace of 2021. The pandemic taught us that no business, publishers included, should have all their revenue-generating eggs in one basket (or two when we consider commerce trends).

For publishers that haven’t yet jumped on the newsletter train, now is the time. Newsletters can help publishers develop deeper, direct relationships with readers. While that doesn’t offer an immediate financial payoff, a dedicated readership is attractive to brands that can advertise in it or sponsor it. In fact, the Washington Post was able to amass such consistent readership and a 40% open rate with their coronavirus newsletter, Slack, Salesforce, and Goldman Sachs all became sponsors.

Subscription models will continue to make a strong showing, but some consumers report feeling fatigued will all the content available on the open web, further noting that they prefer content-specific newsletters instead.

3. Consumers want to listen, not just read

Between audiobooks and podcasts, audio has captured consumers’ attention, or ears as the case may be. Edison Research found that some 80 million Americans listened to podcasts weekly in 2021, a 20% increase from 2020. Publishers can use audio to connect with audiences at times when users want to consume content but can’t read, like when they are driving.  

Top publishers including The New Yorker, The Economist, and The Atlantic all offer readers narrated articles, not in place of written content but in addition to it. Publishers interested in this booming trend can partner with a service to create narrated content versions (like we do) or monetize their audio content through revenue-sharing agreements with audio apps such as Audm.  

4. Capitalizing on a first-party data strategy

With the demise of the cookie looming on the horizon, current privacy regulations, and consumer-initiated tracking prevention, publishers need to reassess their data collection strategies. This isn’t news, but smaller publishers have been slower to implement strategies. We expect more of these publishers to adopt a few tried and tested collection methods this year, mainly because they are quick and easy to implement.  

People are motivated by value and trade-offs. Publishers can use premium content or exclusive promotions to incentivize audiences to share at least some data like an email address. Piggybacking on that, as logins will become more commonplace, so will simplified registrations and logins. Giving users the ability to sign in quickly with a social media or Google ID will cut friction and give publishers access to more data.

5. Readers influence content production 

Competition is becoming stiffer across every industry. To create brand loyalists, businesses are becoming more customer-centric, offering products, services, and solutions that speak to customer needs. Digital publishers are also taking this approach, analyzing traffic and data to see which stories get the most clicks and using that to inform their content strategy and production. With publishers now accumulating more first-party data, making those content decisions is even easier.

A number of publishers have been using questionnaires to gather information about what piques their audience’s interest, and we expect to see more publishers implement this tactic along with other engaging formats such as quizzes and polls. As a small example, a publisher could poll readers to determine how interested they would be in audio content before allocating a portion of their budget to creating it.

6. Continued focus on UX 

We mentioned that businesses are becoming customer-centric, and Google is no different. However, for Google, customer-centric, at least partially, equates to serving users content that delivers a great user experience (UX). 

Google will continue to ramp up its Web Vitals program, which means publishers will need to find ways to improve their sites, and those that have been slow to change will need to kick change into high gear. We expect to see some major site redesigns that improve page load times, stability, navigation, and the ad experience consumers see. We don’t know if Google will add new signals to its algorithm, but it’s best to optimize for the current signals, so should new ones be introduced, the workload is achievable. 

Looking at the year ahead

The reality is that no one can predict the future, which is both daunting and exciting. What publishers should do is prepare for knowable situations like the need for first-party data and the eventual loss of cookies. Beyond that, diversifying revenue streams with audio, newsletters, advertising and commerce can future-proof a company as much as possible. In the end, the advice is the same: test new strategies, evaluate what works, and optimize along the way.

If you have questions about how to implement any of these trends, get in touch with us.

About the author Steve Myslinski is the Senior Director of Sales for EMEA at Total Media Solutions and brings years of experience helping publishers realize their true potential for monetizing their inventory.

Starting out as an engineer in the automotive industry, before getting his MBA and joining the adtech industry, he provides a unique approach to sales with an analytical and problem solving style to addressing a publishers needs.

Find Steve on LinkedIn or reach him ">by email.