There are signs that publishers are cutting ad counts to protect reader data
In print, more advertisements generally mean more money. That legacy thinking has dominated digital publishing for a long time.
But there are signs that publishers are cutting ad counts, rethinking their approach to optimal ad space in the age of first-party data.
- At a recent conference focused on the future of publishing technology, senior digital staff at both the UK’s Independent and Telegraph newspapers said that they have been reducing the number of ads appearing on their web pages.
- Conference organizers Press Gazette, cited the long awaited demise of third-party cookies and the much discussed imperative to develop first-party data as a key driver for the publishers’ rethink of their approach to online advertising and reader data.
- Increased government scrutiny and the threat of tighter data regulation are also seen as a factor for tightening up internal rules around ad display. A 2021 Information Commissioner’s opinion report on data protection and privacy pushed the industry to move away from ‘fundamentally flawed approaches’.
- The Independent’s chief data and marketing officer, Jo Holdaway, warned conference attendees to avoid ‘falling foul’ of the UK data watchdog and said that her organization was auditing its adtech partners for compliance, making sure that they are delivering in a responsible and accountable way.
- She acknowledged that cutting ad counts does involve educating commercial teams and addressing the fear of revenue loss. But, she explained, putting less ‘weight on the page’ improves site performance and values user data.
- With performance improvements and by amending pricing strategy, she believes fewer advertising partners will be required to deliver targeted revenue. She said:
Better engagement figures, better [user experience], more engaged readers coming back to the site, and you could probably make more revenue that way.
- The Telegraph has also been reducing the ratio of digital ads on its pages. Karen Eccles, MD of digital, partnerships and innovation at Telegraph Media Group said cutting ad counts improves user experience, but also helps build a direct relationship with the advertiser.
- For her, one advertisement on the page, well targeted using first-party data, is worth five times more than being one of five ads competing with each other. She explained that in looking at the numbers around ad performance, putting additional ads on the page decreases overall yield.
- Eccles highlights the importance of understanding what a quality advertising experience means to the reader and to the advertiser. She says if publishers can be brave, reducing ad counts will pay returns. She said:
I think letting the controls for monetisation sit with the open marketplace, we’re just not going to see the returns as publishers from that.
Data for small publishers
Speaking at the conference for the Spectator magazine, CTO Peter Barr-Watson said that there is a misconception in the publishing industry that data is something only larger publishers should be taking seriously.
The smaller companies out there – the SMEs if you like – perhaps don’t take data as seriously, from what I’ve seen. And they need to. You need to be coming up with this data strategy for your own business moving forward, and acting on it sooner rather than later…Data isn’t just for the big guys.
This piece was originally published in Spiny Trends and is re-published with permission. Spiny Trends is a division of Spiny.ai, a content analytics and revenue generation platform for digital publishers. For weekly updates and analysis on the industry news you need as a media and publishing business, subscribe to Spiny’s Trends weekly email roundup here.