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Q&A – Sovrn //Signal, boosting publisher earnings through improved ad viewability

Sovrn describes itself as more than an advertising technology company—it’s a publisher advocate. The company provides tools, technologies, and services to unique publishers, helping them grow revenue and audiences, as well as giving publishers access to a large data commons that provides powerful insights. WNIP caught up with Hillary Major, Manager of Market Development at Sovrn, to find out more about //Signal.

Disclosure: WNIP is wholly owned by Sovrn

What business problem is your company addressing?

Publishers don’t earn a fair share of the advertising value they create. Partly, that’s because value—as defined by ad buyers—is often judged solely on pageviews or clicks, which don’t take into account ad viewability, viewable time, or reader engagement enough. Additionally, many of our publishers have had bad experiences with unintelligent “ad refresh” programs, which historically have been quick ways to boost ad revenue at the cost of poor user experiences and coding headaches.

We also recognize that viewability is quickly becoming an old standard. Although the ad industry has codified viewability through the IAB, it has largely been a protective measure geared towards advertisers worried about the value of their spend. Again, while viewability is foundational to ad engagement, it ignores other valuable metrics.

I must add that, importantly, Sovrn has achieved the highest possible certifications in transparency and anti-fraud metrics from TAG, Jicwebs, and the IAB. Our company is founded on trusting partnerships, and those partnerships depend on our ability to identify and solve the many problems our customers face.

What is your core product addressing this problem?

We built Sovrn //Signal to help publishers earn a fairer share of the ad value they generate. //Signal tracks 45 distinct user actions to measure the activity and engagement of readers, and uses that information to grow publisher revenue, improve publisher viewability scores, and help publishers monetize more effectively while retaining a positive user experience and preserving their site layout.

//Signal tracks these events over time, and when a predefined event occurs it sends a signal that can do several things: it can reload any ad unit to show new, always-viewable advertisements, it can summon intelligent new whitespace and sticky ads, and it can reload these new ads as well.

//Signal brings publishers a new, 100% additive revenue stream that doesn’t require engineering resources or page layout adjustments. It’s integrated through a single snippet of JavaScript, which makes installation and updates incredibly simple. On average, it boosts publisher earnings by 10-25%, increases impressions by 20%, and improves the viewability scores that buyers track through their on-site creatives. In addition, //Signal earns publishers more money with fewer ad units. And because we’re always working to improve our products, the //Signal of the near future will be able to do much more.

Can you give some examples of publishers successfully using your solution?

Seattle Times; Star Tribune; Reach (formerly Trinity Mirror); Immediate Media; Reuters; Active Interest Media.

Seattle Times is a perfect example. This news media company serves the Northwest US region with thoughtful, independent journalism that is dedicated to the highest standards. The title sees 29 million monthly pageviews and 70 million monthly ad impressions, making digital advertising a significant area of opportunity.

In December 2017, Seattle Times launched //Signal across their website in order to increase revenue while preserving strong user experience standards. The //Signal reload application increased Seattle Times’ revenue by $30,000 USD.

Active Interest Media case study


//Signal is free to use when Sovrn is the only demand partner, which means it’s always easy to start earning the rewards you deserve. If you want more flexibility, you can license //Signal and leverage the technology across your full demand stack.

What are other people doing in the space and why?

Publishers have never had access to a product as powerful, accessible, and easy to use as //Signal. Because //Signal simultaneously tracks time, engagement, and viewability, it’s more than an ad reloading tool: it’s a way for publishers to earn a larger share of the billions of dollars in advertising revenue they help to create every year.

In addition, ad buyers are focused on viewable inventory. Because viewability is foundational to //Signal technology, we’re also helping publishers improve their viewability score—which can lead to even more buyer interest. That means //Signal is rewarding publishers for their hard work in multiple ways.

How do you view the future?

//Signal has incredible potential across a wide range of applications. In the future, we see ad buying as being based on the standardization of and trading in engagement and engaged time—//Signal has the capacity to move the entire industry forward.

For now, we’re actively gathering feedback and working with our publisher base to inform a strong, innovative product roadmap that will bring far more functionality in the future. We’re currently focusing on using //Signal to provide stronger analytics to our users.

It’s really important to note that //Signal is more than a revenue boost. It’s a better user experience, because publishers are able to avoid unpleasant ad clutter. It’s less engineering stress and resources, because it’s simple to deliver and install. It’s more time to focus on creating content. It’s the chance to hire more people. Ultimately, it’s a technology that epitomizes the Sovrn mission: help publishers do more of what they love and less of what they don’t.

Thank you.

Download WNIP’s comprehensive new report—50 Ways to Make Media Pay—an essential read for publishers looking at the multiple revenue opportunities available, whether it’s to reach new audiences or double down on existing super-users. The report is free and can be downloaded here.

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