As the legacy digital advertising market continues to be disrupted, the challenges for digital publishers continue to mutate and evolve. It is critical for publishers to closely monitor all aspects of this ongoing disruption and to determine how to best address them. All this whilst continuing to grow revenues and maintaining the value, relevance, and integrity of their properties.
This article endeavours to provide a detailed analysis of the problems and solutions that any publisher needs to understand to confront these complex challenges and ultimately thrive.
Problem #1: Dependence on Google DFP
Google’s DFP is an excellent supply-side platform. However, it is very complex and unfortunately provides very limited transparency thus limiting publishers' ability to better manage their destiny.
Key indicators signalling a publisher over-dependence on Google DFP, include:
- Do you know the advertisers who are buying your media inventory? Moreover, can you estimate the price that the advertiser is ready to pay?
- Do you have reason to believe that the shift from a second-price auction to a first-price auction has given satisfactory incremental revenue?
- What is the likely revenue impact if advertisers don't buy your media via PMP?
- How do you trade media and audience and hence accrue revenue from both?
- If your rich content is published with various contexts, what are the steps taken to make the bid request brand safe?
Problem #2: Deprecation of third-party cookies
Google has announced that its Chrome browser will drop support for third-party cookies. Already, unfortunately for the publisher, the issue is much larger. For instance, Safari, in default mode, does not support third-party cookies beyond a time window. This means that exchanges, DSPs, and trackers that rely on third-party cookies will cease to deliver audience tracking or targeting. Many of the universal id systems that operate in this environment will also cease to work.
The situation will be further complicated as key device manufacturers (i.e. Apple, Google, etc.) decide to hash their device id at the API level thus rendering the device id anonymous. This will make user targeting for web, mobile web, and app almost impossible.
Problem #3: GDPR and other privacy-related issues
User privacy concerns are being addressed at the international level by accommodating European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). This is just the beginning of complex regulatory and data privacy regimes across multiple jurisdictions. The US is beginning to release privacy regulations at the state level. This started with the release of the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) in 2020. Australia, India, Japan, Malaysia, Thailand and many other countries are beginning to formulate and implement similar data privacy policies. Meeting this multitude of compliance and regulatory requirements is a daunting task for any publisher that will resonate in a number of ways:
- Up to now, most digital publishers considered themselves to be global internet businesses operating under a relatively open regulatory framework. With the changes, all publishers will need to reconsider their data compliance from a regional perspective.
- In the opaque Google world, where user data is always hidden from publishers, meeting new and enhanced data compliance standards will be almost impossible.
There are limited choices for publishers. The publisher cannot rely on Google anymore. They must gather, manage, and monetize their own first-party data if they are to meet ever more complex privacy regulations and to prosper in the new digital ecosystem.
Problem #4: Other critical issues that may have gone unnoticed
- Google's switch from a second-price auction to a first-price auction has not given the publisher the revenue boost that was promised.
- Facebook’s newsroom provides publisher partners with some new revenue but significantly reduces brand equity and the value of their digital properties since the publisher loses the user a relies ever more on Facebook's distribution channels.
- Google search currently gives 30-50% of organic traffic to source publishers. Should Google forward the search to a Google newsroom the publisher would lose both revenue and visitors. Google is already directing mobile traffic to Google Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP).
- In the legacy programmatic value chain, where everyone involved acquires a % of spending, no one has any incentive to increase the publisher share of revenue and hence this continues to shrink.
It’s one thing to understand the complex challenges. It’s another thing to address, resolve, and implement solutions to these challenges and be fully prepared to confront ongoing disruption.
If the publisher considers these complex challenges from an audience-centric perspective the entire solution can be considered strategically. The CDP can store all user data by automatically collating data from CRM, website user tracking, auction logs, etc. while the ad server, exchange, consent gateway, audience activation, etc. can be considered activation channels.
From that rationale, we can conclude that the publisher can take control of their destiny in a disrupted digital advertising market by adopting three simple steps.
Answer #1: The publisher needs to own and manage their own Customer Data Platform (CDP)
- Users consume most of their content from publisher properties. Therefore, the very best user profiling can be achieved by the publisher who owns these properties. Using a CDP, a publisher can readily capture user data, analyse this data, and make it accessible to the media buying process.
- A CDP can capture a wide variety of user data thus providing advertisers with meaningful and effective audience targeting.
- A CDP can host a variety of AI algorithms for improving effective Cost-Per-Mille (eCPM).
- A CDP can be connected to processors, multiple consent gateways, exchanges, and bidders to manage data privacy in all its varieties and contradictions.
Answer #2: A publisher needs to integrate directly with an exchange
- An integrated exchange eliminates the need for third-party cookies.
- An integrated exchange enables publishers to constantly reach out to advertisers thus ensuring the best possible revenue scenario.
- An integrated exchange exposes programmatic auction data to the publisher which provides buyer price transparency and the details of interested buyers.
- An integrated exchange will work in tandem with Google DFP to provide a viable alternative to the Google ecosystem.
- An integrated exchange in conjunction with the publisher’s CDP will effectively work together to eCPMs.
Answer #3: As with traditional media sales, develop a direct relationship with leading advertisers to drive high-value PMP campaigns
The publisher needs to connect to the advertiser and/or its agency to drive high-value in-house PMP campaigns and reduce reliance on low-value programmatic campaigns.