Who Said Publishers Don't 'Get' Tech?

It’s not your grandfather’s, or even your dad’s, publishing company any more. Publishers are now embracing technology and learning to unleash new solutions that can give them a leg-up on monetizing their audience relationships and contextual value. 

Despite this, skeptics continue to relish throwing FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) in the path of progress. They are the vocal minority that feed outdated perceptions about the relationship between publishers and technology, and make noise with public statements against the programmatic future of advertising.  Often, cynics will point to a visible yet relatively isolated example to make their specious claim, using just one piece of evidence e.g. “ is not doing programmatic.”

Let’s be clear, there are exceptions usually defined by vertical content category leaders.  Sports content, for example, exhibits a different set of characteristics that allows for a hybrid strategy leading into a programmatic future.  The narrow access and exclusive rights associated with some coverage (like the NBA, Final Four coverage, NASCAR, etc.) can mean that the scarcity of advertising inventory changes the strategy.  However, as we recently saw with the Super Bowl, the unexpected is where programmatic solutions lead to an advantage for the content owner.  Who could have predicted the traffic spikes and shift in viewership that would come from the blackout in the New Orleans Superdome? More importantly, who is prepared to capitalize on the dynamic nature of today’s media consumption?



Programmatic is not just experiencing a temporary surge in growth, it is here to stay. Forrester and IDC’s research indicates that one third of all ads will run over programmatic in 2016.  In fact, today’s successful publishers all share in regard to programmatic buying?

They focus on benefit, rather than getting in the weeds. When the printing press was introduced, it revolutionized the publishing industry. Whilenot everyone in the print business needed to understand exactly how it worked, they did need to know how to leverage the technology. Applied in today’s context, most publishers now understand tech sufficiently enough to realize that they don’t need to become a technology company, but they do need to enlist the right tools to remain relevant. Ad tech gives publishers the ability to automate a growing share of their buying strategies and partnerships, freeing them up to focus on their core purpose: creating high-value consumer content connections.

They learn from other publishers that are doing it right. Examples abound of those new publishers who are figuring it out: From AOL and Facebook to customers we work with like Business Insider, to well-established brands such as Ziff Davis, and even P&G, who rather than fighting progress, are (in a few instances) effectively building to their custom requirements with partners and/or their own devoted technology team.

They think strategic partnerships rather than “client-vendor.” Although many publishers now accept that tech is an integral part of their present and future, there is often concern about creating an economy of scale.  Publishers need more than an outside vendor; they need to build smart partnerships that will empower them to put a strategic platform in place, enabling them to answer the additional questions that arise down the road, such as: How do I institute the right controls so I’m not exposed to channel conflict, to erosion of margin, or opposition?

They realize that people + technology are complementary. The old guard has supported the Luddite claims that technology is “anti-people,” which has kept the remaining publishers sitting on the sidelines. Far from being mutually exclusive, progressive executives like the CRO at Hearst, Kristine Welker (a customer) and Meredith Levien, the CRO at Forbes (who works with a competitor) understand how  critical thinking, traditional media competence, and working with consulting can be enhanced by tools to create a winning combination.

In today’s media environment, publishers who take a holistic view of direct and discretionary sold inventory will stay ahead of the curve.


1 comment about "Who Said Publishers Don't 'Get' Tech?".
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  1. Romain Job from Smart AdServer, March 15, 2013 at 5:31 a.m.

    Great post Kirk, I agree that publishers definitly need more than a vendor.

    "most publishers now understand tech sufficiently enough to realize that they don’t need to become a technology company"

    My experience shows that many of them are willing to invest in tech, but can not do it today (too expensive apart for Facebook & co...).

    Then I'm really curious about what will happen in the publishing industry around the data management system (Big Data clusters, eCRM, etc.). Will they build their own infrastructure or buy?

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