Advertising Guest Columns
4 mins read

Publishers: Stop relying on standard content taxonomies

The deprecation of the third-party cookie is forcing publishers to rethink the business models that they’ve been using to monetize their compelling content.

Contextual advertising is one approach that is resurging. However, to truly reap the full benefits of today’s contextual advertising, many publishers would be better suited with a custom content taxonomy.

Standard taxonomies are too broad

Using rudimentary, standardized content taxonomies like IAB, IBM or Google forces your unique editorial content into a broad, third-party structure. Those standard taxonomies cannot fully encompass the most accurate categories for your unique content nor your advertisers’ messages.

The IAB taxonomy, which powers the majority of programmatic contextual targeting, only has around 700 broad categories of content topics. For example, within the IAB taxonomy, there are only three content taxonomy IDs for “fitness and exercise” – fitness and exercise, participant sports, and running and jogging. If you are a fitness-focused website, your content is much more nuanced. You and your advertisers would be better served with a custom content taxonomy that includes terms like Peleton, yoga, six-pack abs, pilates, weight training, leg day, etc.

A marketer who is selling an ab roller will be much more enticed by the potential ROI of targeting your readers who are specifically reading about six-pack abs than using the IAB taxonomy to target anyone interested in “fitness and exercise.”

This more granular understanding of your readership also fuels a powerful first-party data strategy that will be critical as publishers prepare for the long-term future without third-party cookies. Understanding which of your users are enthusiasts for yoga versus Peloton will help you shape other advertising and monetization strategies. For example, you could launch a targeted yoga email newsletter that Lululemon could sponsor or know which of your readers may be interested in paying to subscribe to exclusive Peloton-related content like interviews with their favorite instructors.

Building custom content taxonomies

To determine if a custom content taxonomy is right for your media organization, you should conduct an audit of your editorial content and advertisers’ needs. This helps you understand if and how much your needs deviate from what’s in the standard taxonomies.

How much of your content fits fine within an existing taxonomy’s categories? What categories would you need to create to better represent your content and improve your first-party data collection? What categories would empower your advertisers with more precise contextual targeting?

Do you cover seasonal events or breaking news topics? Custom taxonomies empower publishers to seamlessly add new categories as they arise. For example, a review site could add “Black Friday” as a topic in October or November. The fitness site can add “HIIT workouts” as they begin to gain popularity.

Based on the answers to these questions, you can determine if the investment of time and resources to build a custom content taxonomy will lead to a positive return for your media organization in the long term.

Reaping the benefits

Publishers with niche content and the ability to execute on direct sales efforts are often the ones who will reap the most benefits from a custom content taxonomy.

Having a more granular and customized taxonomy is the backbone for better content classification. This bolsters publishers’ first-party data collection and contextual strategies, which fuels demand for ad inventory, higher click-through rates and CPMs.

Custom content taxonomies will help shift programmatic budgets to direct buys. The IAB Content Taxonomy can be targeted programmatically, while custom taxonomies can only be targeted directly. Advertisers are more motivated to buy direct if they can precisely target their specific message in a privacy-safe manner. A more specific understanding of the topics that readers care about based on a custom taxonomy empowers advertisers to reach the right person, at the right time, with the right message based on contextual signals.

The next-phase of digital advertising

The next-generation of digital advertising is upon us as the entire ecosystem rethinks operations without the third-party cookie. Advertisers and consumers expect a certain level of personalization that cannot be achieved by bucketing content and advertising messages into a couple of hundred broad strokes keywords.

Rather than reverting to the same contextual advertising from decades past, now is the time to ready your publication with the infrastructure like a custom content taxonomy that is required to lead to future success. 

Hersh Patel
CEO and Founder, Hindsight

Hindsight powers solutions for both advertisers and publishers with its proprietary last-mile contextual dynamic creative optimization (DCO) technology. This technology goes beyond traditional contextual advertising to leverage contextual learnings to make smarter, intuitive ads. Last-mile contextual DCO enables advertisers to not only place ads near relevant content, but allows the ads themselves to adapt to appear native to its surrounding content. Hindsight helps publishers leverage unique article identifiers to create contextual engagement experiences within content to increase revenue and pageviews. To learn more visit:

Hersh Patel cofounded Hindsight in 2017 to help publications figure out how to effectively place ads as cookie-tracking is phased out by the major internet browsers. Its software is used by sites like FOCO and FanDuel to place ads based on the content of the article, rather than the reader’s data history. With Patel as CEO, Hindsight has raised $1.3 million.