Data management and data security are major imperatives for digital publishers

Marketers are increasingly moving away from buying digital ad placements

August 7, 2012

By Richard Mullins, director at Acceleration

Marketers are increasingly moving away from buying digital ad placements but rather moving towards buying opportunities to engage against a specific audience in real time.

This means that the imperative for publishers today is to understand the value of their audiences to advertisers so that they can better monetise their businesses.

They are increasingly beginning to realise that what they are selling is not just an ad placement or a generalised audience, but the opportunity for marketers to engage with the people they want to reach.  As marketers focus their efforts on the value of audience engagements, so must publishers begin to engage with their audiences at a deeper level.

As a result, publishers need to know more about their audiences than ever before. It’s not enough to offer click-throughs and impressions – marketers want to know that they are speaking to people with the interests and demographics that match their target audience.  So, publishers are spending more time and effort than ever on trying to understand their audiences.

Reader registration, paywalls, social media engagement, and tracking of user profiles via cookies are all among the tactics they are using to understanding who is active on their Websites and what their potential value to advertisers might be. This information and understanding is the product that they are selling to their advertising customers.

For publishers, the challenge is not just gathering this information, but also securing and protecting their data. Data is the oil of the digital marketing world – the commodity that everyone from agencies to ad networks to marketers wants to own and control.

Publishers need to minimise their deliberate sharing of this information as well as protect it from unscrupulous third-party data providers who collect it for their own ends. This is easier said than done in a world where most sites have opened themselves up to a range of widgets and services from third-party companies.

Nearly every widget on a publishing site – social media chiclets, comment plug-ins, third-party ad servers – is openly or secretly collecting user data for reuse.

Publishers that are not wary and careful face enormous leakage of value from their businesses.   But those that learn to control their data and put a value on it can maximise the value of their inventory and sell through more advertising.

Already, we’re seeing savvy marketers who measure value down to the per-customer level, spend less on ad exchanges than you’d expect, simply because they get better value per Rand spent and per user from publishers who can offer them targeted audiences.  The future will see innovations such as automated, real-time trading and bidding by agencies and advertisers for the most attractive audiences.

Publishers have two options: to allow themselves to become commoditised by the buyers of digital ad inventory because they don’t control their audience data, or to turn audience data into a competitive advantage. They need to be thinking about the data management and security investments that will allow them to control the oilfields of the digital market world.