Regaining Control

Over the last ten years many publishers have pushed digital inventory into the open market to get some yield from buyers using programmatic buying. There have been many studies and analyses that show that the publishers are getting less than half of the money that marketers spend here with the rest going to the agency, their trading desk, the ad server, the DSP, the SSP, the exchange, etc.  

There is so much garbage display advertising inventory that exists only because of programmatic buying. The click bait sites that tease out visits from social media that make you click 327 times to see the “30 celebrities from the 1980’s who didn’t age well” article. This cheap advertising inventory will always win in an open market price war unless a whitelist or blacklist is used. Any clicks on the ads are usually accidental and drive the machine learning optimizations to put even more advertising inventory there.

Hearst just announced that they are launching their own platform, Audience Select, to help smaller marketers buy Hearst inventory directly. There are many reasons why this is a good idea for both the publisher and the marketers.

Hearst will benefit first and foremost by directly selling this inventory and garnering a higher yield for it than they would in the open market. It creates a new pricing tier and reduces the amount of inventory sold in the open market. The long-term impact of that could be elevating the CPM on the inventory they do push into the open market. They will also spend less labor hours on manually putting these deals together and managing them. Sounds like a win/win/win.

Marketers will benefit by securing better quality, brand safe inventory than they get via other display platforms. We call it “visits with intent”. “Visits with intent” are more considered page views with real content with meaning or consequence. People who deliberately visit a page for relationship advice, recipes, home décor ideas—all the types of content Hearst publishes. This is better inventory for brands to be in. The other benefit for marketers is to incorporate their first party data into decisioning.

This is a great move for Hearst and we should see more publishers launching their own platforms. Smaller publishers will be challenged on how they can participate. A good option for them is to do something like the BPA is doing with their BPA Media Exchange, a vertically focused private marketplace for B2B marketers and publishers. Full disclosure: I’m vice chair of the BPA and have been involved with this project for three plus years.

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