Between a Rock and a Hard Place
Larry Allen is all too familiar with the current pain that publishers are feeling. The president of Yieldex says there is one thing that he is hearing more than anything else: Publishers need to be more accountable these days than they've ever been before. And many of them don't know how to make their own data more actionable in order to achieve that goal.
"So much more is expected of publishers today than ever before," says Allen, who previously ran network development at Tacoda and Platform-A. "It's not just about accountability, but everything else that is being demanded of the publishers we talk to has increased accountability built-in. It's become sort of a 'what else can you do?' situation for the larger budgets."
Jason Kelly, vice president of digital strategy and revenue management at Time Inc. Digital, says there is "no doubt" that publishers are being held to an increasing level of accountability. "We are absolutely in the era of 'do more with less' as we all face some degree of scarcity, whether it be time, people or dollars."
The economy plays a role, but perhaps more in terms of the increased ratio of budgets coming online, which begets more of this accountability, Allen says. "Can you imagine an advertiser demanding more and better creative elements from a print publisher?" Allen asks. "Digital publishers hear that every day."
This era of scarcity has resulted in pushing the limits across what Kelly likes to call the 5 C's of accountability: Capability, Creativity, Customization, Cost and Clicks - with increasing levels of expectations across each category. The economy is more of a catalyst affecting the pace at which we arrived here, and not the sole factor, he says. "Another factor is the significant investment in technology that to date has been made primarily by portals and ad networks increasing the bar across each of the 5C's," Kelly comments. "In response to this investment over the years, I do believe that publishers have significantly increased their focus on ways to leverage similar technology solutions combining this capability with great content and valuable audiences, [thus] creating accountable and addressable solutions for our clients."
One key area in which Kelly says publishers are being pushed very hard is in regard to creativity and customization for clients. "All, of course, on a reduced cost basis," he adds. "We often get the request to come up with the 'never-been-done-before' solution which is, in fact, a great aspiration and one that we embrace, but when that request is also combined with the need to provide it faster, cheaper and in a more complex manner, it undoubtedly stresses the system." Time has launched a branded network - Time Axcess - with the goal of providing clients with easier activation of audience solutions across its entire network of brands.
"The level of sophistication rising from the various data providers enriching publisher inventory is adding a new level of complexity, making this data overload even more challenging to manage," Allen says.