Shift to quality audiences and environments will be good news for high-class publishers

For the past decade, publishers have been under siege.

December 11, 2012

By Richard Mullins, director at Acceleration

For the past decade, publishers have been under siege. The Web has fragmented their traditional markets, broken their traditional business models and made their landscape even more competitive than it was before.

They’re competing in a world of high editorial production costs, low advertising rates and users who expect to access their content for free. Their advertising clients have learnt how to minimise the costs of delivering their content to their audiences by bypassing the traditional publishing value chain.

We are however starting to see the tide turn for publishers because they have one critical competitive advantage: their ability to build and sustain a high quality audience that can be tracked and measured in an accountable manner. This is an advantage that both publishers and marketers are beginning to appreciate more and more.

From the marketer and agency’s side, many brands have directed their spending to channels such as ad networks and owned media in a bid to deliver their message to the audience at the lowest possible cost. Many of them are starting to wonder about whether they are getting value for the money they spend.

They are questioning the quality of the audiences and the engagement they are getting from some of these environments. As a result, they are slowly beginning to move back to publishers who they know have proven histories in building quality audiences, and who have the data and processes to help their advertisers maximise their return on investment. This is driving the current development around Online GRP’s in the industry.

On the publisher’s side, meanwhile, we are seeing publishers begin to regard their audiences and the data associated with their users as their most important competitive advantage. There is a steady shift in the publishing world from allowing data and revenue to leak to data aggregators and ad networks, towards taking control of it again.

To take advantage of this shift in the market, publishers need to invest in the technology they need to manage their audience data and control it. After all, it’s not good enough to build up a quality audience through providing quality content unless one is able to leverage the audience data to sell advertising inventory.

In addition, publishers need to invest in revamping less than optimal technology and processes to ensure that they have the right foundation for growth. They need to put the right technology stack in place to drive audience engagement and to provide their clients with differentiated audiences.

These investments clear the way for publishers to use their data to personalise content for their audiences, increase engagement, and ultimately, turn this engagement and understanding of the audience into more ad sales at higher value.

The shift in the market favours stable and qualified publishers who are able to offer long-term value. Those that seize control of their data and learn how to maximise its value have a bright future of better ads sales and higher circulation. But those who do not take the opportunity face relentless commoditisation of their ad inventory.