who you calling premium?

It’s a term often used in digital and yet its definition lacks consensus: so, what constitutes premium? Traditionally speaking, a premium publisher in the digital sense is the online representation of a high street publishing brand, such as a well known magazine title or popular newspaper. As established media properties, these premium publishers have enjoyed strong audiences and hefty advertiser revenues. For advertisers, the proposition has become more interesting with the advent of digital marketing, where the ability to exploit end user data has resulted in better and better audience targeting mechanisms.

The digital shift within advertising propelled many tech companies to start extracting learnings from an individual’s online behaviour to decide which ads to show them. With data technology companies trading audience metrics through programmatic, the challenge for traditional premium publishers became how to assert their brand value and differentiate their audiences as “premium” in an increasingly cluttered digital ecosystem.

In today’s world, brands can connect to thousands of publishers and their audiences in real time. This unprecedented access to scale means premium publishers have had to up their game to set themselves apart: offering brands a more unique, relevant and measurable audience. Advertisers are also increasingly granular in their data, prompting premium publishers to increase the value of their audiences and advertising space when negotiating their trading currencies.

2015 is proving to be the year where premium publishers are having to prove their mettle within the programmatic marketplace. How a publisher can define their offering and trade that as premium has evolved, particularly across the following areas: 

  • Publisher alliance groups

Competition for the same online audiences has catalysed the convergence of business strategies and the formation of strategic alliances. Groups like Pangaea, Association of Publishers (AOP), La Place Media and Audience Square are setting the tone, allowing advertisers to bid on their shared audiences, helping them achieve higher yields for previously un-optimized ad space. Advertisers have an increased probability of reaching the same user, and just as relevant an audience, across these sites. Alliance groups also promote sites that are competing across niche vertical segments to access premium marketing budgets. These groups are likely to promote a less fragmented market by developing “walled gardens” as a means of maintaining a controlled approach to audience and inventory allocation. While these alliance groups are proving to deliver higher ROIs for advertisers, their extended effectiveness is yet to be measured in a way that proves they are not just mimicking the behaviour of the traditional network models. 

  • Measuring Premium – An algorithm of its own

Plenty of 3rd party data companies now provide advertisers with audience targeting programmatically. These companies have built their own targeting algorithms that use historic user browsing behaviour to sniff out relevant audiences across the web. But it’s publishers that have the edge here, especially those who have access to 1st party user data, typically supplied by the user via subscriptions or purchasing habits. Access to specific user information allows publishers to increase the value of their ad space for advertisers targeting a specific audience. Measuring the effect of a publisher’s ad space in relation to the impact on a brand’s campaign performance is taking an algorithmic form of its own. So we see that today the value of premium ad space is measured through a combination of elements, a non-exhaustive list including high quality and relevant content, creative advertising solutions, viewability, security, fraud and the quality of audience.

The relevance of each element is dictated by each advertiser’s campaign goal and so the value of premium ad space is increasingly tied to a combination of fluctuating real-time components. The traditional idea of premium, where a publisher can rely on its brand reputation, has been made redundant by the granular online world.

  • The rise of publisher trading desks

The supply side of programmatic is slowly adopting a demand of its own. Online measurement tools and strategic alliances are leading premium publishers to define their premium value by the types of advertising brands they seek. By offering access to premium audiences and innovative cross-device advertising space, these publishers can influence the way advertisers share their budgets. The problem for publishers in programmatic advertising today is that they often find themselves last in the queue in the buying ecosystem. What the publisher trading desk can do is give premium sites a chance to promote high ROIs to advertisers, optimise yields and maintain control, while bridging the connections between advertising brands and their relevant audiences. The impact of this will be that Real Time Bidding (RTB) will not only help publishers monetise their inventory, but that the allocation of said inventory will be closely matched to relevant brands and their budgets, similar to that of Private Marketplace (PMP) deals.

It’s clear to see that the value of premium inventory in digital advertising is transforming. Premium publishers are having to compete in a space where the quality of their online audience is likely to be shared by new and niche publishers. Increasingly, online measurement tools are placing more pressure on publishers to retain their audiences whilst providing relevance and quality to advertisers. The online value of premium is now evaluated on the basis of a combination of fluctuating factors in real-time. Given the fast paced and unpredictable nature of publishers’ audiences, particularly across devices, premium publishers are having to adapt and ensure they are in the driving seat when attracting audiences and brands. The smart publishers are those taking control in the buying ecosystem by offering an environment where advertisers can trust the value of what is really their most premium asset: the audience.