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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!

How publishers can take advantage of first-party data

Ben Erdos, February 10, 2022

This article was originally published on New Digital Age on January 12, 2022.

Written by Ben Erdos, Chief Services Officer at Total Media Solutions.

Ben Erdos, New Digital Age, Chief Services Officer

The past year has been eventful in digital media; particularly around privacy as regulation tightens and Google reiterates its intention to phase out third-party cookies. 

The good news is that publishers can position themselves in a way to make the most of these changes. With no single scalable identity solution yet available, first-party data has come to the fore. But, what makes it so valuable? 

Getting closer to audiences 

Publishers are increasingly seeing opportunities from deeper, more holistic relationships with their audiences. A greater understanding of what current users respond well to can help  publishers adapt experiences accordingly and even reinvent themselves in line with those preferences. Not only that, but more detailed information can highlight demographic gaps, provide more insights for user acquisition strategies, and help publishers expand their offerings in a way that caters to untapped audiences.

Critically, first-party data will also act as a life-line for publishers who need to maintain their advertising revenues going forward. In a world where third-party data is unavailable to marketers looking to reach their audiences, they are increasingly reliant on data publishers themselves can provide to compare with target profiles. 

However, success in this depends on publishers creating the conditions for a reciprocal situation where their audiences are comfortable trading data for better experiences. Not only that, consumers need to clearly understand what information they will be sharing and what they get in return. 

How to make it meaningful

With the introduction of GDPR in the EU in 2018, the publishing industry had to adjust to creating frameworks to gain not just consent from its users, but meaningful consent – that is, consent in which a user actively opts into the collection of their data.

As we move to the post-cookie world, meaningful consent will only become more important. By collecting data in a way that is clearly defined, publishers not only stay on the right side of regulations but also gain user trust. Audiences don’t want to feel pressured into giving their data and want to know how exactly their data is used – a clear on-page design can assist this.

Take, for example, the current cookie consent forms that are required on every site currently operating in regions that adhere to GDPR. Though the temptation may be to add logos, push users towards certain choices and obscure the finer print, having a clear, simple form ensures meaningful consent and establishes trust. As a result of these efforts, users will feel secure to share more data with publishers and a more mutually beneficial relationship can exist.

Third-party data is on its way out and has already been phased out in many cases, which means publishers should start reaping the rewards from first-party data strategy now. It will mean they are in a strong position to secure advertising revenues when the transition away from third-party cookies takes place fully. And a renewed prioritisation of meaningful consent for data exchange can redefine the relationship with audiences in a way that opens up greater opportunities for both parties. 


Curious to learn more and see what strategy suits your site best? Reach out to us here:

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