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Publishers of all sizes are under a lot of stress right now. They are expected to be resilient to market upheaval, flexible enough to adapt, and prescient enough to stay ahead of impending market changes. 

Alongside the looming third-party cookie deprecation and its potential impact on ad revenues, publishers in 2022 are expected to keep up with, and prepare for, the latest announcements from Google and international regulators — all while exploring the potential of new “post-cookie” audience targeting solutions. 

To complicate matters, the digital advertising landscape is becoming more and more complex, with a bewildering number of advertising technology (adtech) vendors either launching, merging, or devouring one other on a regular basis. Similar levels of M&A activity are emerging in the publishing industry itself, heightening the anxiety of many small- to mid-sized publishers.

Research has shown that publishers’ margins will come under threat in the next 24 months, but there’s also a chance for them to take greater control over the process. So, how exactly can publishers navigate the chaotic marketplace and explore the variety of innovative monetisation options available to them?

Here are a few key areas to consider.

One Partner, Many Streams

One impact of the adtech market space’s complexity is that publishers are looking to rationalize their adtech partners. At the moment, the reality for many publishers is they’re having to juggle demand from multiple supply-side platforms (SSPs). That’s before you get into the gnarly question of whether the ads being hosted are actually helping the publisher’s property from either a financial or consumer perspective.

In the past, SSPs and advertisers have generally considered publishers as a means of delivering an ad to an end-user, with little consideration for the publisher’s own experience. In 2022, publishers are demanding more.

Publishers have historically considered one adtech partner as one revenue opportunity. Today, however, publishers want partners who can offer access to multiple revenue streams and can help them to monetize emerging opportunities. 

Play the Game

Perhaps one of the more interesting revenue diversification opportunities available to publishers is the ability to leverage the surge in consumer interest in gaming — both from a content and an in-game ad perspective.

Since the first lockdown in the UK, gaming and metaverse audiences have exploded. There are an estimated 3.24 billion gamers worldwide, playing games on either consoles, desktops, laptops, or mobile devices. For publishers keen to provide advertisers with scale, repeat visitors, and an engaged audience, introducing advertiser-sponsored gaming into your content mix is an interesting avenue worth exploring. 

“Instant gaming” companies can build white label gaming experiences and portals for publishers, who can then offer an immersive gaming experience to their audiences in-site. For a publisher like The New York Times, its acquisition of Wordle has enabled the publisher to drive valuable increased engagement and dwell time. Tying this into an SSP platform allows for in-game display ads with high cost per mille (CPM) to provide the strongest yields.

Sound and Vision

Another shift in digital advertising throughout the pandemic and subsequent periods of lockdown was the sharp upward trend in viewer interest in digital video.

TikTok, in particular, made huge gains in users and brand awareness, doing a lot to popularise the short-form video as a media format. As a result, digital video ad spend is continuing to grow and will eat away at traditional online display and TV ad budgets. This trend is prompting many publishers to produce their own video content, adapt their video players, and generally evolve their video offering to better match consumer and advertiser demands.

Likewise, the audio podcast format also exploded in popularity during the lockdown period and now represents another exciting channel for publishers to explore. Podcasts not only offer new ad revenue opportunities but also a way for advertisers to reach fully engaged audiences.

Publishers Strike Back

There is a growing industry recognition that publisher experience is a pivotal part of making sure that all parties in the media love triangle – advertisers and consumers included – all receive some satisfaction.

Being stuck in a hugely complex ecosystem means publishers can’t focus on their core proposition — delivering a quality media experience to the end-user. Creativity suffers as they struggle to fill the pipeline, resulting in low-quality placements and shrinking real-time bidding (RTB) returns.

In summary, publishers should seek to refine their advertising ecosystem this year so that it only includes partners who can: a) help leverage multiple revenue streams, and; b) support them in experimenting with emerging channels, such as gaming, video, and podcasts.

Disclaimer: The views, opinions and ideas expressed in this post belong to the author/s and do not necessarily reflect those held by State of Digital Publishing.

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