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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!

Gated online community: How publishers can build a wall that works for all

Ryan Rakover, March 22, 2022

Key takeaways

  • Login requires authentication which requires a publisher to be secure 
  • Logged in users allow you to build your first party data *always with user consent
  • Login helps grow a publisher’s offering into a community 
Image courtesy of William White on Unsplash

Are your users ready to be authenticated? 

As publishers grow their knowledge on first-party data, they are in turn learning a lot about their users for the first time. Publishers are seeing how to build back the bridges to their communities. Not just capturing data points to pass on or as an answer to the deprecation of cookies but in the roadmap of building the experience their users want.

Publishers have begun to become more engaged with their users and open to new methods. Having users log in is a great way to gain greater insight from their users and widen a publisher’s offerings. However, is it that easy to do? What kind of additional responsibilities does a publisher take on? In turning their domain into a walled garden is there additional consent required from casual users turned logged-in users? 

How a publisher separates content impacts the user experience on the domain. A publisher can choose to lock content, differentiating the casual user from the logged-in user. It is crucial that a publisher understand and test how this change impacts user engagement. The underlying goal for a publisher looking to identify their users through login is to establish a unique community.

Through clearer audience identification, publishers can develop their domain in a responsive tone to their users. The amount of experiences publishers are able to offer is expanding all the time. Looking at how traditional content can be supplemented with video, audio, and the like it has never been more important for a publisher to know what content is in fact speaking to their audience.    

Why users and publishers benefit from having a login community  

A publisher’s understanding of their unique community will connect the dots of their users’ interests and behaviors. This greater insight into a publisher’s authenticated users will be under the publisher’s umbrella instead of third party vendors. This will allow for a publisher to be at the forefront of the experience their users are having. 

With a user account, a visitor creates a personalized profile on a website in order to tailor their experience with the web content. Accounts empower users to access exclusive offers, contribute to a community of fellow users, offer accessibility to support, and receive content recommendations relevant to them.

Publishers should not be afraid to experiment with new offerings. Using the login community of users, a publisher can try out areas of interest for their brand that they may not have thought appealed to larger audiences. For example, publishers could test hosting a podcast or selling products via affiliation campaigns to test the waters of new offerings. This added space of focused users can unlock new directions that a publisher’s original content may have sparked without them knowing.   

Publisher responsibilities

When a publisher decides to build a login it is important that there is clear user consent and the ability to change user choices in an accessible way. When the user has logged in, the experience should be safe and secure. A user has trusted a publisher with their personal information and how that information will be used will determine the future between the user and domain. Showing that the domain is responsive to user choices and selections will build user confidence and trust. In addition, it is important that the user has access to the data that is being collected and clear choices that are editable. 

Offering users a safe way to connect through personalization and community brings greater insight for publishers into what is working for users and what might be missing. With each step of added connectivity with users, publishers must use it and demonstrate added value with this personalization. Through an engaged user community, insights into what’s working and what’s not can help shift thinking to where it needs to be.

As privacy has taken a front seat, publishers are learning fast that it is easier to protect the users they have than to start finding a new audience. For the last several years the power of understanding a publisher’s audience was often at arm’s length from the publishers and siloed by third party vendors. Publishers are now back in control and each choice is valued and weighed by the user community. It is important for publishers to make sure the processes of data collection are clear and accessible.  

Conclusion

As publishers build out their roadmap towards the alternatives to third party cookies, building from within is the necessary first step. Establishing a secure authenticated users will be the foundation for a publisher’s brand’s next pivot. Publishers should remember to make the process simple, safe, and with value. Offering content behind a walled garden is more than an environment free from advertising, it’s an opportunity to offer a rich added level or unique content.

About the author: Ryan Rakover is the head of our Trust and Safety efforts at Total Media Solutions. One of the things Ryan enjoys the most in his role as a publisher’s strategic partner is the challenge of bringing policy from a place of rules and standards to delivering solutions to clients to improve their client’s bottom line. Find Ryan on LinkedIn or reach him by email.


Google is thinking of taking the F out (…of First Input Delay)

Ryan Rakover, February 23, 2022

Key takeaways

  • First Input Delay will be updated to Input Delay
  • The update will focus on the user journey rather than user moment
  • Expect more metrics to be updated 
  • CWV coming to desktop February 2022

What happened to the F?

Google is adjusting their Core Web Vitals (CWV) metrics to focus more on the user journey rather than just a moment within the user journey. Understanding what makes up a positive page experience has always been key to ranking high in Google Search and has been the North Star of the CWVs.  When setting priorities, publishers understand that speed is essential. When calculating speed it is critical to have picked the right “breathing” moments that the user may take – the moment content is either loading or ready for interaction. First Input Delay looks at the first loading event. The Input Delay metric will look not just at the first load but what comes next in the user journey. With this update Google is switching to evaluating more of the user’s journey rather than first arrival to a web page. The belief is that this approach will promote a better user experience and page experience.  

Last year (that would be 2021) Google released Core Web Vitals. This provided transparency for publishers on how their page performance is being “seen” by Google. The update was aimed at building publishers’ understanding about how loading, interactivity, and visual stability is measured/evaluated in Google’s eyes.  We covered this update on our blog last year (Understanding Core Web Vitals). At the time of the announcement Google made it clear that these metrics would be open to change, depending on how best to further the dialogue of helping publishers publish fast, secure, and reactive pages. 

What Core Web Vitals are doing to your page experience score

Lighthouse from Google continues to be the go to for publishers for understanding page performance. With the release of Core Web Vitals, Google integrated the scoring for Core Web Vitals into their transparency tool Lighthouse and Google Search Console, helping publishers see the impact of CWV as well as delivering insights into scoring. Since the launch of these metrics for mobile web in June 2021, publishers have been busy working to use this knowledge to make better page experiences for their users. 

The metric First Input Delay or FID measures how fast a browser can respond to a user interaction with a website. Playing a critical role in response time is a publisher’s content management system (CMS). However, the CMS provider usually has their own interests which are not always inline with Google’s. 

CMS companies offer a great advantage for small publishers but it is often delays in template optimisation and additional CMS features that keep publishers performing poorly.  At the time of the update this was one of many concerns from publishers. What could they do?  However, for the most part, the major content management systems – WordPress, Wix, and Drupal – released versions that score very high. This performance change has given Google the ability to expand their page experience score to look deeper into the user journey.  

What’s new? ID – Input Delay 

The main point to understand about this new metric is that it isn’t measuring a single interaction. It is measuring the collective interactions that are part of the user experience of the page. When a user lands on a page there are a series of events that are loaded. The updated metric will include those “first” events loaded, as well as those subsequent events needed for further interaction. 

In a blog post on Google’s web developer page the following four points were highlighted. The blog points out that these four points will help publishers to focus on the user journey.“These four points take the concept of FID and bring it to the bigger picture. The user journey does not stop when the first interactions are loaded but is only able to be seen in movement.” Towards a better responsiveness metric

  • Consider the responsiveness of all user inputs (not just the first one)
  • Capture each event’s full duration (not just the delay).
  • Group events together that occur as part of the same logical user interaction and define that interaction’s latency as the max duration of all its events.
  • Create an aggregate score for all interactions that occur on a page, throughout its full lifecycle.

LCP, CLS what can change next?

Core Web Vitals and their impact on search ranking is still yet to be seen. What is clear is that Google’s Lighthouse Audit allows a publisher to see under the hood of their domains. The picture isn’t always pretty, the years have brought a lot of legacy, plans abandoned, and an overall weight on current publisher offerings. Having publishers invest in balancing their pages benefits the whole ecosystem and promotes positive user experiences. 

Updates to the Update are expected to continue as Google (Chrome) learns more about the user experience. The expected roll out for Core Web Vitals on desktop is this month. It will be interesting to see what metrics may come into focus with desktop publishing. This update and the CWV initiative is challenging and asks the publisher to really sit in their user’s seat. What comes next we will have to wait and see. 

If you have any questions about Core Web Vitals and what you can do to improve your score, please be in touch. 

About the author: Ryan Rakover is the head of our Trust and Safety efforts at Total Media Solutions. One of the things Ryan enjoys the most in his role as a publisher’s strategic partner is the challenge of bringing policy from a place of rules and standards to delivering solutions to clients to improve their client’s bottom line. Find Ryan on LinkedIn or reach him by email.


References

Google Is Creating A New Core Web Vitals Metric, searchenginejournal.com

Towards a better responsiveness metric, web.dev

Feedback wanted: An experimental responsiveness metric, web.dev

Google Feb 2022 Update of Page Experience – What you need to know NOW!, webvitalsdev.com

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.

4 Reasons Why Blockchain Could Be the Answer to Programmatic’s Problems

Brian Blondy, November 18, 2018

Programmatic’s Problems

There is plenty of buzz in the programmatic industry today about integrating blockchain technology into the ecosystem.

Blockchain is most often explained as a continuously expanding list of records, or blocks, connected by encryption that is stored across a distributed matrix of computers globally.  Blockchain’s distribution across a grouping of computers links together a ledger of all of the transactions that occur within a particular blockchain.  The idea behind a chain of computers is to distribute information across many computers rather than on just one, to increase security and decrease the likeliness of a hack against one machine.

New entries into a blockchain are created by data miners who are incentivized to be the first to solve complex mathematical puzzles for writing new transactions into the blockchain.  The first to solve the puzzle receives a financial reward, commonly paid in BitCoin, as a reward for their effort.

The advantage of blockchain is that it is secure and its records cannot be altered without causing all of the previous records across all of the computers in the blockchain to be modified as well. The longer the blockchain, the more secure it becomes.  Therefore, the likeliness of the chain itself being modified at all decreases due to the strength of the blockchain’s global structure across many linked computers.

Growing interest of its applicability is due in large part to its proven ability and success in serving as the public transaction ledger for managing crypto-currencies like Bitcoin, as well as potentially providing its structure and versatility for non-crypto currency use cases such as for art auctions, banking transactions, and environmental issues.

Many believe that blockchain’s potential viability in supporting the programmatic industry is rooted in its value in addressing some of the most significant weaknesses in the programmatic industry today – ad fraud, lack of transparency and diminishing profits.

Here are four reasons why blockchain is considered a valid solution for making programmatic transactions more secure, profitable and transparent for both publishers and advertisers.

 

Improved Security in Transactions

Blockchain can prevent ad fraud by securing financial campaign transaction with the use of 256-bit encryption, ensuring that only the ad inventory that was sought to be purchased in the end is.

The programmatic industry needs a system of checks and balances to ensure that every company involved in the campaign transaction is aware of the actions of each actor involved.

When a programmatic transaction is made a message is passed to the network to approve or disapprove the legitimacy of the deal. Programmatic ad buyers are understandably interested blockchain technology because it will enable programmatic transactions to become more transparent, and increasingly more trustworthy, especially so when transactions are undertaken with third-parties who are not directly related to the core buyer and seller.

 

 

A blockchain provides all parties an open and decentralized ledger that all parties can verify at any time.  While it is possible for nefarious actors to write lies into a blockchain, no one is incentivized to do this due to a large amount of computing power needed to solve mathematical puzzles for validating and creating new records (ledgers) in the public blockchain.

 

Greater Confidence via Transparency

Greater Confidence via Transparency

The emergence of blockchain in the programmatic industry has the possibility of improving the relationship between buyers and sellers in the programmatic supply chain, in addition to sharpening industry standards and increasing security.

Publishers and advertisers alike are currently frustrated with the lack of transparency that takes place behind the scenes of an ad buy. Ad fraud is rampant in the programmatic industry and is estimated to have cost publishers $1.27b annually, and conversely, a recent report by AdLedger titled, “Blockchain & Advertising Special Report,” says ad fraud is especially rampant for advertisers, costing $19b in 2018 alone on the buy-side.

Most ad fraud commonly comes from the following three scenarios:

  • Bots – Automated programs that produce false website impressions which as a result increases the real web traffic received and the ad revenue they earn.
  • Domain spoofing – Content owners mask the real identity of their website by claiming that they are a more popular domain. Domain spoofing causes advertisers to pay for impressions that never appear on premium websites.
  • Human fraud – Click farms employ people to click on advertisements, engage with websites and fill-out forms in order deceive advertisers that the ad engagement is happening when it is not.

In all three scenarios outlined above, it’s clear that advertisers appear to be the ones suffering most from ad fraud. According to a 2017 study by Fraudlogix, an ad fraud solutions specialist serving global DSPs and SSPs, an evaluation of 1.3 billion random ad impressions over 30 days found that 247 million of the monitored impressions, roughly 19 percent, were found to be either fake or bot-generated. Despite the optimism, figures released in March 2017 point to ad fraud costing advertisers $16.4 billion in wasted ad spend globally during the current calendar year, a number which amounts to a total loss just short of 20% of the whole digital ad spend worldwide in 2017.

 

Increased Profit Margins

Increased Profit Margins

Blockchain’s value comes from bringing transparency to all parties within a public transaction. As a result of this transparency, both publishers and advertisers can reach more sound evaluations about their margins and determine which vendors are providing the highest financial value relative to their cost.

As of today, an ad buy passes through several sets of go-betweens (and sometimes more than several) before it reaches the publisher and consumer. When a publisher reviews their finances about their monetized impressions, it is quite common for a publisher to only yield 30% for the impression after all of the actors involved in the programmatic food chain have taken their share.

In order to address the consequences of ad fraud, both publishers and advertisers have begun using third-party verification services for verifying ad delivery. Agencies are pushing these fees onto publishers, who as a result raise CPMs to compensate for the increase in expenses.

Third-party verification fees vary in price depending on how many products an advertiser chooses wants to use. Commonly an advertiser will choose to use a combination of tracking, anti-fraud and viewability products, which can add up to nearly $2 per CPM. Not surprisingly these expenses are passed along to publishers, who as a result are seeing less profit due to the sunk cost of doing business in the programmatic industry. For further information about third-party verification fees, AdWeek recently published an excellent in-depth discussion about these so-called ad-tech taxes, see the article here.

Blockchain’s digital ledgers will reduce some of those inefficiencies by de-intermediating the market for advertisements, radically reducing ad spend waste by exposing unnecessary third-parties from being involved in the transaction.

 

display and video 360

 

Growing Appreciation and Adoption 

The emergence of blockchain in the industry has the possibility of improving the relationship between buyers and sellers in the programmatic supply chain, thereby sharpening industry standards, increasing security and reducing unnecessary third-parties from the transaction.

In July 2018, the IAB Technology Laboratory, a non-profit research and development consortium that produces and provides standards, software, and services to drive growth of an effective and sustainable global digital media ecosystem, announced details about its Blockchain Working Group pilot program to demonstrate the applicability and value of blockchain technology for programmatic advertising.  Partnered with leaders from across the supply chain, FusionSeven, Kochava Labs, Lucidity, and MetaX, the group is striving to test and evaluate the how Blockchain can address the primary pain points in programmatic “from data discrepancies to supply chain transparency.”

Additionally, the Adledger “Blockchain & Advertising Special Report,” found that a substantial majority of ad executives believe that the future of the programmatic advertising industry will eventually be linked and secured by blockchain technologies. The report surveyed 100 senior advertising executives about blockchain and its importance in the programmatic industry. When asked whether they believe that Blockchain is the future of programmatic advertising, more than 70% of the executives responded that they either “Agree” or “Strongly Agree” with the statement.

Blockchain’s central benefit is its ability to provide transparency and accuracy in its reporting, and there is a growing sentiment among advertisers that blockchain has the power to improve the industry. “ The AdLedger report found that 31.3% of marketers think blockchain can solve the industry’s problems, while 37.7% say maybe and 13.4% say no.

Blockchain Optimism about blockchain is now evolving into actual use. Toyota and its ad agency Saatchi & Saatchi recently ran a trial with Lucidity to test whether a blockchain-based technology system would yield better programmatic ad campaign performance.

Not surprisingly the campaign resulted in a 21% better performance with blockchain than without by tracking and excluding suspect websites and bot fraud from the campaign.

Beachfront, a leading ad tech provider for video publishers, has also begun integrating cryptographic and blockchain based technologies into its ad platforms to enable better targeting for ad campaigns, in addition to offering post-campaign verification for video ads across all devices (desktop, mobile, connected TVs).

Beachfront’s cryptographic and blockchain technologies create a detailed and permanent record of each campaign which allows for publishers to provide evidence of ad delivery, which audiences received the impression, as well as enabling advertisers set-up more precise targeting and optimization for their campaigns.

Blockchain’s central benefit is its ability to provide transparency and accuracy in its data, and there is a growing sentiment among advertisers that blockchain has the power to improve the industry. According to the AdLedger report, 31.3% of marketers think blockchain can solve the industry’s problems, while 37.7% say maybe and 13.4% say no.

Just over 50% think blockchain will reduce the number of intermediaries in the supply chain, with 34.8% saying maybe. More than a third, or 39.4%, agree and 32.4% strongly agree that blockchain is the future of advertising.

 

Concluding Thoughts 

The emergence of blockchain in the programmatic industry offers a compelling case for improving the relationship between buyers and sellers in the programmatic supply chain. As a result, blockchain could effectively assist in improving industry standards, increasing security and reducing unnecessary third-parties from the transaction.

Proponents of the technology may very well be correct in believing that blockchain’s viability in supporting the programmatic industry would effectively address three of the most significant weaknesses in the programmatic industry today – ad fraud, lack of transparency and diminishing profits.

Though for blockchain to be considered a viable measurement and validation tool, it needs to be universally adopted by both sides of the programmatic ecosystem as a recognized standard. Perhaps a critical mass of adopters will emerge in 2019 and create a new status quo for how the industry self-regulates itself.

Where things stand today, it easy to see why blockchain is considered a valid solution for making programmatic transactions more secure, profitable and transparent for both publishers and advertisers.

There is plenty of buzz in the advertising industry about integrating blockchain technology into the ecosystem, and we are expecting the conversation about the technology to grow louder and the integration of the technology to begin to scale in 2019.

Introducing the new Total Media logo

Brian Blondy, July 30, 2018

 

 

 

Dear Valued Total Media Blog Reader,

 

We are proud to announce that we launched a new logo today, marking the most significant change to our visual identity in 13 years. Founded in 2005, we have grown to become one of the most trusted companies in the programmatic industry.  On the eve of our upcoming website launch as well as our planned corporate presence at DMEXCO in September 2018, the refreshed logo pays homage its previous iteration while simultaneously pointing the way toward the next chapter of our evolution. The new logo aims to visually express our focus on expanding our ability to deliver a full spectrum of technologies, media and services across our evolving portfolio to both publishers and advertisers.

2013-2018 logo

Our legacy logo, unveiled in 2013, has been refreshed to now anchor the word ‘TOTAL’ in a bright and dynamic RGB color spectrum. The inclusion of the stylistic roots of the previous logo, as well as the addition of color, is meant to visually convey our mission, maintain historical continuity while at the same time, present a stunning visualization of the evolution and totality of our expansive portfolio for both publishers and advertisers.

“Our mission as a company is to provide the highest level of interaction between our clients and media platforms by providing expertise and access to leading partners and services,” said Sivan Tafla, CEO of Total Media. “We believe that our new logo will act as a welcoming and trustworthy signpost to both publishers and advertisers, new visitors and existing clients alike, who are seeking core technology platforms, holistic monetization, actionable data-insights, first-class consulting, and value-added services.”

 

 

The new logo has been rolled out across our digital and physical properties around the world and is currently the foundation of a stylistic re-design of our new website for better serving the needs of publishers and advertisers worldwide. The new site is scheduled to be unveiled in early September 2018. New marketing materials will use the refreshed logo going forward.  Existing materials will continue to use the current logo during the transition period. We appreciate your kind support.

 

Would you like to schedule a meeting to meet with us at DMEXCO?

 

Brian Blondy is the Marketing Manager at Total Media.  You can contact Brian by email at brian(at)totalmediasolutions.com or on LinkedIn

 

Here’s How Google Blocked 1.7 Billion Bad Ads in 2016

Brian Blondy, February 15, 2017

google ADX

In 2016, Google aggressively policed its ad ecosystem, DoubleClick ADX, by identifying and blocking 1.7 billion ads that violated its advertiser policies.

Google has sought to clear any and all ads which demonstrated intent to deliberately deceive users, contained malware or redirected users to 3rd party app stores.  The blocking of nearly two billion ads effectively doubled the amount of flagged violations Google handed out compared in comparison to 2015.

Announced in a self-published report outlining its push to purge non-compliant ads from ADX, Google disclosed that they have stopped 80 million deceptive ads, 112 million malware ads and 68 million ads for unapproved pharmaceuticals.  In addition, 7 million ads attempted to outsmart Google’s detection system and 23,000 mobile advertisements used redirects to a third-party app store.

In the fight to maintain a standard of ad quality, Google has had to adapt and constantly improve its ability to identify malicious advertising which often goes undetected by Google due to geo-targeting, dayparting and network targeting. 

Google Blocked 1.7 Billion Bad Ads

Ben Erdos, VP Platforms & Services at Total Media, commented that bad creatives have far reaching effects throughout the internet beyond breaking Google’s rules for the ecosystem.

“Malvertising is a threat to users because it erodes faith in the advertisement itself and it is a threat to the user’s technology, their identity, and their hardware. Specifically, it can download spamware, ransomware, and malware. Such occurrences create enormous risk throughout to the lowest scale to users, in addition to draining bandwidth, and data plans later on,” said Erdos.

As gatekeeper of its own buy-side and sell-side platforms, Google stands to benefit from aggressively pursuing non-compliant advertisements on the buy-side to maintain publisher confidence that the delivered ads are of the highest quality.

Though despite Google’s best efforts to combat bad advertisements, the industry operates mainly through tags and that any nefarious party can manipulate the ADX auditing systems by rotating in bad adverts within already approved adverts, thereby modifying the ad rotation after the fact.

Ad fraud happens when Google’s automatic auditing process eventually approves acceptable advertisements for ADX and then an advertiser decides to add in new third-party tags on their own ad server into the already approved creatives.  

Google’s interest to push advertisers to adhere to their policies within the ADX ecosystem provides publishers and advertisers a high level of certainty and trust that the ecosystem is solid and a safe environment for all.

Though the reality is that the chances of stopping more fraudulent advertisements would amount to an extraordinary amount of additional measures and resources throughout the auditing process for Google, whom are already doing an exceptional effort as compared to their industry counterparts.

Additionally, a bad advertisement is most often flagged through an SSP rather than from publishers themselves reporting a malicious advertisement.  As per usual, AdX will stop the bad ad before it is published or is running for a significant amount of time.

Publishers need not worry if they see a bad advertisement published on their website.  As a first step, a publisher can send an ad’s click-through URL to the AdChoices program in order to work with the website’s official Google contact to report and address the issue.  

In our experience, once a bad advertisement is reported, Google will take swift action to take down the advertisement.

If you require your company is looking for advertising solutions for maximizing your marketing activities such as DoubleClick Bid Manager (DBM), DoubleClick Campaign Manager (DCM) or DoubleClick Search (DS), you can send us a message here.

Brian Blondy is the Marketing Manager at Total Media.  You can contact Brian by email at brian(at)totalmediasolutions(dot)com or on LinkedIn