We are wired to ignore others and listen to our own gut. Then we make an active choice to act on what we “hear” -- or actively ignore our own instincts and live with, and learn from, getting burned.
The advice I have dispensed in this column to premium publishers these past 10 years has been fulfilling for me to give -- and generally ignored. That’s not surprising. What I do find perplexing is how so many people in this business of premium publishing ignore their own guts.
Each time a C-suite executive at a premium publisher visits her own site and sees another low-priced, cheaply produced ad running on her professionally produced pages of content, she ignores her own gut. That executive knows these discounted ads bring down the value of her site, the way a trailer home parked between million-dollar houses would bring down the property value of a neighborhood. Still, publishers actively choose to ignore this feeling in return for open RTB revenue.
The arguments that “some revenue is better than none” and “users benefit from highly targeted [shitty-looking] ads” are old and tired and not worth taking on anymore. Instead, I will offer more meaningless advice that could help premium publishers -- and will be universally ignored again:
Premium publishers should abandon the IAB. The IAB is driven by the agendas of companies that devalue premium publishing. Your dollars are funding your own funeral.
Premium publishers should join Jason Kint’s organization Digital Content Next (formerly the Online Publishers Association). Kint appears to care genuinely about the prosperity of premium publishers, and understands how to achieve it.
Jason Kint should then change the name of his organization again. I hate that new name. It should be changed to The Association for Premium Publishers (TAPP).
TAPP should create a set of guidelines that members must embrace. These guidelines should include a universal agreement by all members not to serve any ads that expand beyond their designated space, any ads that pop over or under content, and any ads that auto-play. All TAPP members must agree to serve one single display advertiser per page view (multiple units are OK). These guidelines should also include a universal agreement not to run any pre-roll video ads longer than 10 seconds.
TAPP members must turn off all open RTB advertising. This rule will keep membership low, and the value high. Now it’s up to Kint and the premier membership of premium publishers to flood the market with valuable research that shows that branding occurs online when premium sites are restructured to deliver it.
I am not anti-programmatic. I am anti-cheap, shitty ads running at dirt-cheap prices on content pages that professional editors, designers and journalists create.
I am not anti-private marketplaces. I am anti-carving up premium inventory into complex targeting buckets, because the math doesn’t add up to greater revenue. This extreme targeting overshadows the inherent branding value premium sites “can” deliver.
I am not anti-premium publishers. I am just not going to sit quietly by and watch this industry ignore its collective gut and burn to the ground.
This post was previously published in an earlier edition of Online Publishing Insider.
Publisher: USA Today (app) -- and then the landing page for this "ad"