Ian Hocking, vice president of digital at South China Morning Post, is on the offensive with advertising revenue losses.
“Ideally, we shouldn’t just try to deal with a decline,” he told attendees at the INMA Virtual World Congress on Monday. “We should be really trying to drive revenue.
Nicki Purcell, CEO at Lifeblue, a digital strategy consultancy, moderated Monday’s module, Advertising in Crisis: Navigation and Uplift. Purcell, former chief digital officer at The Dallas Morning News, agreed with Hocking’s proactive approach: “This is a real opportunity for publishers to ‘clean up’ and ‘optimise’ their ad inventory — both direct and programmatic. Even though they should have and should be all the time, the critical time is now to get the most out of the ad inventory and revenue that a site can enable.”
April showed a significant decline in all advertising demand. It seems that the marketplace is based not just on what’s really happening, but on the sentiment around it, Hocking said.
“The decline in yield started before the decline in bids, which makes me think there was a sentiment that the market was going to start getting soft and so people started bidding lower before the market dried a little and people started bidding less genuinely,” he said.
Addressing points made in earlier sessions of the Virtual World Congress about some publishers removing some low-yield supply out of the marketplace, Hocking believes this is actually an effort to concentrate bids on higher yield impressions because they are more competitive. He added that this is unlikely to drive the yield back up.
Publishers should be looking at pricing right now, taking advantage of bid data available from Google, and analysing downstream auctions to really understand who’s bidding, who’s winning, and who’s not. Companies should not only think about ad formats they are presenting but how they perform in different markets.
Focusing on advertising efficiency is the biggest thing publishers can do right now to make an impact on their business. The average Web site is inefficient when it comes to advertising, sometimes dictated by the newsroom or marketing teams. Open up a consultative conversation with those individuals and try to improve the ad experience.
Matt Prohaska, CEO/principal at Prohaska Consulting, mentioned the big — at least in COVID’s early days — topic of brand safety. The “original curse” of automatically blocking hard news from some ads had no ill will in its beginnings. But when most content is about a pandemic, it quickly escalated to become a big problem.
“Fortunately there’s been a crusade by publishers, industry trade groups, media buyers, and large agencies,” Prohaska said. “We should remove a lot of those restrictions that were unnecessary. We’re in different times. Originally created to do good, they have been throwing a lot of babies out of the bathwater.”
News media companies closing in on the days of third-party cookies (which will be discussed at today’s Virtual World Congress session: Smart Data in the Shadow of the Cookiepocalypse) are going to need to toggle back in forth between deterministric data (where someone has identified themselves and the publisher knows exactly who they are) and probabilistic data (where they don’t know who is logging in). Those that aren’t quickly transitioning to more deterministic data will struggle.
“What that means is that a lot of publishers we know are trying to fight a good fight with a lot of fingers tied,” he said. “Our concern is if that if this isn’t rectified quickly, we’ll see an advertising shift and a readership shift, which none of us want.”
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