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How to play outside the duopoly’s publishing rules

Today, the word ‘publisher’ encompasses a wide group of publications. From traditional print publications such as The Financial Times to digital-first publications like Wired and even the consumer-generated content website Medium. This evolution towards digitally-native content has boosted the two largest publishers; Google and Facebook. These two ‘publishers’ dominate when it comes to the number of viewers and readers, which in turn lures hordes of advertisers chasing users’ attention.

Together Facebook and Google dominate the advertising space, especially when it comes to size of audience and, most importantly, revenue. Despite the pandemic’s challenges these two tech titans – the duopoly – have thrived. For Q4 2020 alone, Facebook’s revenue hit $28.1bn and Google achieved $56 billion, 81% of which is due to advertising.

So, how can other publishers compete against Facebook and Google’s stronghold on digital advertising which corners over two-thirds of the market? In short, the answer is: don’t. But that doesn’t mean you have to give up. Instead, publishers should focus on their own unique value-add.

Play to your strengths

For publishers, opportunities lie in creating value in ways the dynamic duopoly can’t by having high-quality content, a strong ad offering and a higher degree of brand safety. As more time is being spent on mobile devices, accelerated by the pandemic, publishers can differentiate from the duopoly with these elements which provide engaging content without ad cluttering.

The sheer size of Facebook and Google’s walled gardens are their weakest link as advertisers are unable to stand out against the rest of the competition, which is plentiful. Facebook is estimated to have nearly 9 million advertisers alone. So, how can an advertiser even stand out in such a crowd?

I believe that while publishers may have smaller audiences in comparison to the duopoly, their audiences are highly-relevant and actively engaged with the content published within their apps. These audiences make it easier for advertisers to capture the attention of users and build long-lasting relationships. The starting point of effective monetization.

Publishers from digitally native The Next Web to traditional publisher The Observer should be encouraged to know their smaller audiences provide something outside the tech giant’s reach. A strength which digital publishers within the gaming industry have recognised and made a success of by playing to their own rules, though more on this later.

Quality content builds a brand-safe environment 

Discounting Google and Facebook, publishers invest significant time, money and effort in generating high quality curated original content that is properly researched to engage audiences. In contrast, the duopoly relies on user-generated content, which varies greatly in quality and is entirely unpredictable.

This unpredictability renders Facebook and Google’s platforms less brand-safe, as advertisers have less control and visibility over where their adverts are placed. This lack of control can lead to adverts placed alongside violent or inappropriate content, or content which does not reflect the brands’ own views. Especially on open, social platforms such as Facebook, where users can upload content, including sensitive videos, without the approval of the host.

In contrast, independent publishers generate content in line with their strong content strategy, which provides publishers insight into the type of content their ads will be displayed with. This minimises the risk of ad misplacement and creates a truly brand-safe environment.

Brand-safety is becoming increasingly important for digital-first publications, not just to protect advertisers from appearing next to violent content, but also due to the real risk of content going viral within minutes. A small mistake could lead to severe reputational damage.

Own your content and customize

Publishers also have the advantage over the duopoly when it comes to customization, which can generate meaningful and memorable campaigns for advertisers, as publishers can design proprietary ad experiences.

Interactive ads that prioritize user choice, such as Video Chooser, can create an uplift in memorability by 300%. A major differentiator to the duopoly’s standardized offering which falls victim to standardized, cluttered ad formats. Publishers can also offer custom formats and takeovers which will help brands’ advertisements stand out so users will notice them, rather than just view them. This stand out feature allows publishers to ensure brands build affinity with users, rather than simply ‘filling an advertisement space’.

Enhance your niche

A growing area of mobile publishing is gaming, which plays by its own rules, thanks to the varied demographic it captures, multiplied by more time spent in-game each year.

Gaming publishers offer advertisers something unique: full-screen ad opportunities which seamlessly embed into games at logical pauses within play, such as between levels. These ad formats have 100% share of voice and unmatched viewability, a shining example of small publishers offering something the duopoly can’t, through amplifying their niche.

Taking on the all-encompassing duopoly is rightly frightening due to their sheer domination in digital advertising. Publishers should look to play to their strengths by identifying their differences to the tech titans. This will empower publishers to not only enhance what they do best but attract the right audience and advertisers to generate meaningful revenue. My message to you is, keep fighting and don’t give up.

Raphael Rodier
Global Chief Revenue Officer, Ogury

Ogury is a global leader in mobile brand advertising. Ogury is an international organisation with 400+ employees across 11 countries. Ogury Advertising Engine is an integrated stack of technology designed and optimised for branding campaigns on mobile. It uses safe data to deliver relevant ads in a brand safe and fraud-free environment. The 1500+ advertisers working with Ogury constantly receive superior performance and effective protection.