What's A Pub Supposed To Do?
I wrote yesterday about TechMedia Network (TMN) rolling out a new native ad offering. The company claims to be one of the largest publishers in the technology and science world, boasting an audience of over 72 million -- ranked fifth globally and third internationally in tech media reach by comScore.
TMN's unveiling of their native ad offering highlighted the mess of trading options for sellers. Do you stick with the tried and true of direct sales? What about the tried and true with a spruce of new in programmatic direct, like what AOL, Yahoo, and Microsoft are gearing up to offer?
Alternatively, pubs could go the way of News Corp., pooling their inventory into a private exchange. Or several could get together -- like those in Denmark or the Czech Republic have -- to create a consortium.
But what TMN did was different than all of that. The company went with native ads for direct deals and launched their own content discovery platform. And TMN did all of this expecting to reduce the amount of inventory they'll trade via real-time bidding (RTB).
Mike Kisseberth, the company's chief revenue officer, doesn't think that taking some inventory out of exchanges necessarily equates to less investment in programmatic. "By bringing the [native program] into the mix, we create scarcity in the programmatic [inventory]. Hopefully, that will drive up CPM," he said.
In theory, it should. But isn't one of the biggest issues in the RTB/programmatic world that the supply isn't meeting the demand?
I pressed Kisseberth on the topic, but he wouldn't say that they are investing less in programmatic. In fact, he said one thing to suggest otherwise.
I asked him why TMN decided to go with the "premium native" offering instead of doing what News Corp. did, or what AOL, Yahoo, and Microsoft are planning to do. He answered by saying that something like that will "absolutely be part of the process." He added, "We're putting more and more…into the programmatic world, but first you have to develop them."
But you need scale for programmatic, and scale and native don't seem to be very meshable at the moment. That's especially true for the way TMN is doing native. The company is going to use their editorial leadership to guide the ad creative. While an excellent idea for a native offering, it's not scalable.
Because TMN's native offering is for their premium inventory, I don't see how a private exchange can be in the cards. I'm not saying Kissberth was lying to me -- he knows his company's game plan better than I do -- but if all they have left is remnant inventory, why not just continue trading it on an open exchange?
I guess the real question is: What's a publisher supposed to do? With demand for direct deals, programmatic direct, open exchanges, private exchanges, consortiums, native offerings, etc. all lined up at publishers doors, maybe that's the real reason demand is so far ahead of the supply.