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The analytics-powered publisher

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By Maxime Agostini, Senior Director Product Management, Verizon Media

Programmatic was supposed to automate the buying and selling of ads. Insertion orders were on their way out and soon enough, publishers would see their inventory gobbled up by advertisers with fully automated machinery in between. However appealing this vision was, needless to say it did not happen. Insertion orders still exist, even though they are slowly evolving and morphing into flavors of deals that require just as much tending as direct campaigns. Publishers realized they could not trust the open market to appropriately value and purchase inventory, and buyers realized that it would be suicidal not to pay attention to who they are buying from and what exactly they are getting.

But in this semi-automated world, publishers need a whole new set of tools to support them. This goes far beyond standard reporting; advanced analytics and insights are the cornerstone for greater success. Verizon Media is proud to launch Verizon Media Ad Platforms: Analytics Insights and Reports to help publishers connect the dots between data and revenue.

Let's take a look at how analytics impacts their monetization challenges: better manage demand, better manage supply, better manage yield.

Better manage demand

The number one priority for a publisher is to have the right demand on board, and then to maintain and grow those relationships. Engaging with buyers is first about finding the right inventory and the right audience for their campaigns. Buyers expect to understand where they are buying, the audience segments they reach, and have assurance of inventory quality. These buyer conversations are critical to successful relationships and require a full mastery of the publisher data.

But all too often, problems arise the moment a deal is closed. Buyers usually don't know why they cannot spend more with a given publisher or on a given deal. They lack the breakdown of how their bids compete with the rest of demand. Basic technical errors can prevent delivery of a campaign for days, missing out on crucial short-lived dollars. A publisher's analytics platform needs to be able surface all the blockers and guide the publisher through their resolution.

If analytics can be the core of a healthy and successful buyer relationship, it also plays a part in scaling up the number of partners a publisher can source for demand. Deal discovery platforms to connect publishers and advertisers can complete the picture and maximize publisher reach.

Better manage supply

A sustainable buyer relationship can only be as successful as the inventory and audience are valuable. Publishers need to constantly keep an eye on the quality of their inventory (viewability and completion rates, CTRs) and the value of their audience (demographics, geo). The sales strategy needs to be compatible with the value of these assets. Providing appropriate insights is critical for efficient monetization.

Optimizing supply also means troubleshooting bugs or errors as soon as possible. Small issues can mean large missed opportunities; having alerts and notifications can lead to precious percentage points of revenue growth at the end of the year.

Moreover, analytics should also be leveraged to grow supply. By combining traffic acquisition and editorial production with ad monetization, publishers can go from merely profitable to immensely successful.

Better manage yield

With the right demand in front of the right supply, the publisher still needs to pay great attention to pricing. There is such a variety of selling methods and preferred conditions that publishers get it wrong more often than not. Priorities, private deals, specific floor prices and other waterfalling options have an impact on yield that is rarely understood and even less so measured. In most cases, publishers can grow revenue by up to 20% with a systematic approach to yield.

The publisher platform should provide pricing algorithms to assess the cost of preferred rights, to manage reserved buys alongside programmatic. We have seen publishers perfectly satisfied with a private deal with a partner until the day they realized that they were leaving thousands of dollars on the table every day by selling lower than the open market could have paid.

A consistent and efficient floor strategy remains a rarity and very few publishers have the right tool to make it evolve in the right direction. Some of it can be automated, but much of it comes from having the right data-minded yield manager using the right price simulation solution.

Combining artificial intelligence and relationships

At the end of the day many of the aforementioned tasks can still be automated with the proper models and anomaly detection engines. Publisher platforms should provide automated ways to surface deal blockers, inventory issues, shifts in buying patterns or price inconsistencies. Pricing decisions should rely on machine learning models of how the market will react.

In all those cases, data can only get us halfway there, it is up to the publisher to decide how much margin they want to make on their direct sales, and to manage agency relationships in a professional manner. From editorial content to traffic acquisition, most strategic decisions remain human ones -and likely always will-, with insights serving as a continually guiding light.

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