bRealtime Blog

A Recap of the bRealTime Publishing Summit

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This article is written by Kelli O’Donnell, Product Marketing Manager, CPXi

 

On March 24th, bRealTime hosted our first bRealTime Publishing Summit at Google’s NYC offices as part of the Certified Publishing Partner Program, in which bRealTime is an inaugural member, the half-day event revolved around publishers, and the opportunities and challenges they face is today’s digital ecosystem.

 

MITIGATING FEARS AROUND HEADER BIDDING

One topic that popped up repeatedly in the panels was header bidding. Header bidding is taking the publishing world by storm. Eric Requidan of InterMarkets pointed out that whereas only 30% of publishers had header bidding solutions last year, there is a lot of opportunity for growth in 2016 and beyond. For publishers, this is an exciting new revenue opportunity. But as header technologies start to spread, publishers are plagued with a new set of complications.

 

First of all, publishers receive calls from about 60-70 tech companies a week, and Brian Kroski of American Media pointed out that many have similar header bidding pitches. Vendors are virtually undifferentiated from each other, and this is confusing for publishers. So what’s the remedy? William Ammerman concluded that tech vendors need to know specifically how they differ from their competition and be able to tout their unique demand. Vendors should go into pitches armed with case studies to mitigate the fear that they have “unfair advantage” over other providers. Flaunting demand and knowing the competition is beneficial to the vendor and publisher alike. If a publisher has full insight into the vendor’s competition, it helps the publisher put parameters around the vendor. In turn, this allows publishers to better categorize the vendor’s business and conclude if it’s a good fit.

 

Additionally, header bidding’s lack of unified reporting is an issue that frequently goes unnoticed. Publishers are so focused on header bidding’s technological challenges, like proper integration and managing latency, that they let metrics fall by the wayside. To correct for this, publishers have to be more strategic about A/B testing. Panelists discussed the importance of establishing an A/B process before even testing, as this assures truly transparent analytics. Publishers should also consider a process that makes their data easily accessible and digestible. While this seems simple, proper testing will become increasingly difficult as header bidding continues to grow and evolve. It will require intentionality and focus, as publishers’ priorities will be redirected elsewhere- like to choosing the right header bidding partners.

 

HOW TO OPTIMIZE USER EXPERIENCE

Although header bidding took center stage at the summit – quite literally – panelists also touched on other publisher pain points. Namely, publishers struggle to create an effective user experience (UX) on mobile. Emry Dowinghall of Studybreak Media spoke to this point, saying it’s a pressing challenge for his team to drive yield while also looking out for user experience. A suffering mobile UX means publishers may lose viewership to social networks, which are known to better monetize content. Mobile is likely harder to monetize because the demand just isn’t there yet. And there isn’t the demand because publishers have yet to “rethink the geography of the page.”

 

Old-school display formats are being replicated on mobile, and revenue is suffering. Publishers are using formats that aren’t translating well on smaller screens, when they should be focusing on innovating new ways to engage their audiences. So what does this look like? The panelists think there is a lot of opportunity for creative geo-targeting, since according to Felix Zeng from Weather.com, “you can’t carry a desktop around with you, but you can with a mobile phone.”

 

The conversations about mobile drew from similar themes as the ones around ad-blocking. At the core of each is a misunderstanding of actual consumption habits. Users are blocking ads because, simply put, they don’t want to see them. So knowing why users don’t want to view specific advertisements becomes crucial for both advertisers and publishers. James Russo of Turner believed the answer to ad-blocking was two-fold: the industry needs to be more sensitive to the changing viewing habits of users, and the sophistication around data and selling needs to improve. But ad-blocking may also stem from a misunderstanding of the industry’s business model. Many users don’t realize that blocking advertisements inhibits a site’s ability to make money. And if websites can’t make money, the content can’t exist on the page.

 

Panelists discussed different ways of correcting for this wrong, like conveying information to the masses. Or – and this was the more favored idea – reducing ad-blocking can stem from better advertisements. No-brainer, right? However, innovating current ad layouts is no small undertaking. The panelists agreed that a major challenge for users is that they have a “crappy advertising experience.” Strategically listening to customers becomes key. This process will likely be time and resource-intensive, but it’ll be essential to the health of your webpage.

 

THE VIEWABILITY DILEMMA 

And that brings us to the infamous topic of viewability. If advertisements aren’t being seen, advertisers are paying for non-existent impressions. This, in itself, has caused a conflict in the industry at large. But Alex Andreyev of Gravity Media laments, viewability is just a distraction. Agencies spend so much time finding the discrepancies in viewability measurement that they get distracted from more important KPIs. Is the “view” really the end goal, or should advertisers be focusing more on the action or the sale? If it’s the latter, advertisers should think more about how to create ads that are engaging and “clickable.” This seems to be a reoccurring theme with ad-blocking and viewability. And this begs the question, according to another panelist from the event, “are we structured right as an industry?”

 

When asked this question, the panelists took a dangerous pause. One panelist even warned outsiders to reconsider their adtech career paths. And while the panelists were all realistic about the storms ahead, none thought the industry was doomed. bRealTime’s Brian Weigel assured the audience that viewability and ad fraud will move to the back of the spectrum as trust in the marketplace grows. Sure, header bidding is gaining force, and there are continued rumblings from mobile, ad-blocking and viewability. But these challenges are all opportunities for innovation. And thankfully, publishers can see the sunshine (and revenue) through the adtech clouds.

 

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To see more photos from the event click here