There’s a love-hate, mostly hate, with publishers when it comes to programmatic advertising on their websites. The overriding sentiment of publishers is that they don’t want it, but it’s considered “table stakes” and it’s a revenue line, so you take it. Newspapers especially so. Magazines, a lot less so, except if you’re one of the big ones like Meredith or Conde Naste.
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Here’s the thing; programmatic may be costing you more than you’re making or could make, in revenues.
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Programmatic is a losing proposition 
Our dislike of programmatic might be somewhat obvious. But we have good reason to be. This middleman technology has been more trouble for publishers than the FAANG gang. As they broker ads more revenue is stripped away from publishers and a numbers game is played, which creates a virtuous cycle where the publisher always loses.
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But they can’t easily be tossed aside. They’ve become part of the media ecosystem. But there are other inherent dangers to publishers using programmatic services;
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  • Brand Safety: programmatic services have failed brilliantly at controlling fake news, hate material and other nasty ads from leaking into publishers sites. The best is Google AdSense who has, admittedly, done extremely well in policing bad content.
  • Bogging: It’s what we call the challenge of publishers having several programmatic companies feeding ads into a website. It bogs down the page load and can create great annoyance for readers.
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Leaving aside programmatic
This is easier for magazines than newspapers, but even newspapers can do more to reduce programmatic and win back revenues. But it takes a solid approach championed by executive management and good positioning by the sales and marketing teams. In every case where we’ve implemented this strategy, the publisher has increased revenues and gained greater advertising client loyalty.
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First is to focus on quality and brand safety. Secondly is to create a suite of digital products (always better when integrated with print) that is simple to understand. Less is more. More revenue, more clients.
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Understand the value of your readers and subscribers/members. Respect them, they’ll respect you, be more loyal and are more likely to click on ads that aren’t moving constantly and jammed in their faces.
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You may want to try an approach that slowly moves away from programmatic. Other tactics are finding near-competitors but not direct ones, to share digital ad revenues. Not likely, we know, but still.
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It takes from 3-6 months to see this strategy work. Over time, it may not become a significant differentiator, but for now it is. We can’t tell you how many agencies have jumped at the chance to go back to their clients with “brand safety” on their lips. Agencies win, publishers win, advertisers win and so do your readers.
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If you’d like to learn more, just reach out to us. Conversations are free.

About the Author Giles Crouch

Giles is managing partner of Ekspansiv, a global digital business advisory firm to news media companies . A polymath with over 20 years experience in the digital world, Giles brings together marketing communications, digital anthropology and digital behavioural economics for client projects. He has extensive experience with news media and publishing. Giles is also regularly interviewed by media regarding technology and industry trends. He has completed over 300 digital research projects for clients around the world. Giles co-founded the Ice Awards, an advertising creative awards program in 2001. His clients have included, newspaper, magazine and book publishers as well as pure-play digital media companies. He occasionally works as interim CIO or CDO and senior marketing guidance.

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