Will Audience Data Save Publishers’ Ad Revenues?

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Will Audience Data Save Publishers’ Ad Revenues?



In this post Ashu Mathura, Product Director Data Management Platform, outlines several of the key obstacles facing publishers today and how data can be used to bridge these challenges.


In part one of this two-part series Ashu explores the threat of ad blockers and how publishers can deal with the ad blocker threat while remaining cautious about over-stating the actual risk they pose to publisher advertising revenues. In part two (view it now), Ashu identifies four primary challenges facing publishers and their potential solutions, focusing in particular on the many benefits to be leveraged from a cohesive data strategy.


First up? Let’s take a look at the ad blocker threat and how it will shape publisher data strategies moving forward.


Ashu Mathura

Dealing with ad blockers


Back in the ‘good old’ digital advertising days, advertisers wanted to have more pixels available for their ads to increase visibility and impact. Over time, the relationship between number and size of ads, viewability, publishers and advertisers evolved to the point that we’re at today.


After taking a back seat for a long time, the audience has also joined the discussion and through the installation of ad blockers on their devices, begun to re-shape the way business is done. This has set-off alarm bells throughout the industry and is being heralded as the latest industry-wide threat to publishers.


Bad timing for publishers


For publishers, already working to re-position themselves to serve advertiser’s viewability needs, the rise of ad blockers is difficult and has distracted from other key challenges publishers have been wrestling with. The threat from ad blockers is considerable, but I believe it will ultimately prove to be less significant than many of the other areas currently being overlooked.


Overlooked risks


In response to the sudden rise of ad blockers publishers have gone to war. Their responses typically fall into three basic categories, most of which revolve around blocking ad blockers, but could this actually ultimately do more harm than good?


The typical approaches being tested by publishers:

  • GQ magazine, Bild and The Inquirer (among others) are blocking people who use ad blockers from accessing their content. They use a popup asking readers to disable their ad blockers or pay a nominal amount to read an article.
  • Forbes has a message on its welcome pop-up asking people to turn off their ad blockers in order to access the site, but still allows people to access their content.
  • Other publishers simply show a message above their content, asking people to turn off their ad blocker or white list the publisher while still allowing access to the content itself.


In my opinion, publishers fighting ad blockers are resistant to accepting the reasons motivating people to install ad blockers in the first place and the numerous motivations that remain outside of their control. Therefore, publishers are fighting the wrong battle and setting themselves up to lose.


A focused strategy for combatting ad blockers


To battle ad blockers, publishers should:

  • Leverage audience data to better target ads and show more relevant advertising to a more specific audience.
  • Use DMP data to better understand their audience and shape their content delivery to match.
  • Limit the number of ads on a single page and also limit the number of ad vendors on a single page. This is valid for both small and large ad units.
  • Set a mandatory frequency cap of 3 – 5 impressions per session. For this to happen, publishers need to make their website responsive and allow the content to flow around ad content. The majority of the websites have ad units that need to be filled, otherwise the website will show blank spots. If there is no ad available, the ad unit should disappear and the publisher content should look nice, versus loading ‘low-quality, low relevance’ ads to fill the ad space.


The common thread that connects these solutions is the collection and activation of publisher data. The key way forward for publishers to battle ad blockers while also tacking other major threats is to implement, integrate, and launch a strong data management strategy and platform while also focusing on mobile (smartphone and tablet) content distribution.


If publishers have not done so already, 2016 is a pivotal year as the window to get these tools in place and to start collecting the data is rapidly closing and with it key value for advertisers. If publishers have already put these steps in motion, 2016 and the first half of 2017 should be spent taking a careful look at how to maximize the value of their data while putting it to work for them.


In part two of this series Ashu outlines the four key challenges for publishers today and how they create four key opportunities for publishers to defend and grow their advertising revenues.


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