This post is by Sam Finlay, head of Digital and Custom Solutions at Time Inc. UK.
If there was one theme to emerge from my day at the Digital Media Strategies conference held last month it was that premium publishers are seemingly getting their swagger back, realising they hold real value in today's digital advertising ecosystem. The unique premise that there is no scarcity of supply in digital inventory is now being challenged more than ever as clients and agencies seek transparency, quality and engagement.
Watching sessions involving speakers from Enders, New York Times, Johnston Press, Taboola, Omnicom and Mashable left me with the impression that there are five strong reasons why premium publishers have good reason to be cheerful:
1. Trading automation: once feared for its impending crushing of ad yields, automated trading is quickly growing beyond performance campaigns and into branding. This is where premium publishers can offer the relevant environment with the trust and loyalty of its audience who have an affinity with their brand. Douglas McCabe, CEO of Enders, reiterated research from the AOP which showed advocacy, engagement and direct contact were far higher after seeing ads across original content sites than portals or social networks. If Automation efficiently delivers these benefits to a wider selection and greater volume of clients, then this can only be a good thing.
2. Viewability and fraud: now that we know a significant amount of the abundant supply of digital inventory is useless, clients are rightly expecting controls and transparency over where their money is going. Premium publishers are well set to capitalise. With direct control over their inventory we can ensure we are well placed to offer the premium, in view quality ad sites that clients are demanding.
3. Audience data: if every year has been the year of mobile in recent times, then maybe 2015 bucks the trend in being the year of the data management platform. Every publisher has one and are now realising that they have a unique valuable asset to deliver even better campaigns for clients than ever before. The data they hold is unique and as valuable for targeting campaigns as it is for providing granular insights on a client's audience. DMS15 saw the main players in the market represented at some stage in this ever critical element of the publisher's tech stack.
4. Video: the one area where there clearly isn't an oversupply is video. Premium publishers are more than ever, seeing strong growth by creating and distributing more and higher quality video. Their brands deliver expertise through their video content giving engagement and brand perception uplifts for advertisers. Publishers may also benefit from the rise of programmatic video, which negates the need to be one of the major video players in order to access demand. Meredith Kopite Levien, EVP of the New York Times, recognises video as the next major battlefield for advertising revenue as TV spend moves across to digital platforms' giving premium publishers a huge opportunity if they can get it right.
5. Branded content: one of the most valuable offerings premium publishers have held for years is the creation of engaging content that is relevant to their audience and written in a style and tone they recognise and welcome. Tech platforms' attempts to get in on the act by creating 'native' exacerbates the premium nature and unique offering premium publishers hold. Going further, many like Time Inc. UK and the NYT are actively offering bespoke content for clients' owned and earned channels outside of the traditional media solution, which is an obvious way that premium publishers can play to their strengths.
One panel debated whether the rise of publishers delivering quality branded content and engaging with automation leaves agencies without a role? "Traditionally agencies have been more transactional and now are very much more consultative with their clients' claims Will Smyth, Chief Digital Strategy Officer, EMEA, Omnicom Media Group. "If agencies, brands and publishers work collaboratively with each bringing its expertise to the table then everyone can benefit and take learnings going forward to continually improve their offering."
With premium publishers seemingly getting a foothold into the digital ecosystem as it matures it's clear we have a lot to offer. No doubt the landscape will evolve and the real winners will be those who can maximise the core values of their brands, content and audience across the most prevalent device of the day.