Advertising Guest Columns
4 mins read

Redefining the Premium Web?

The term ‘Premium Publishing’ is ubiquitous but can mean different things to different people. Seedtag’s David McConachie examines what the term really means, and why it needs to be redefined if publishers are to succeed in generating the ad revenue their content truly deserves.

“Premium Publishing” is a phrase that’s been widely debated in the media industry for some time, but the understanding of what this actually means, can differ depending on who you speak with. Phrases including brand equity, reach, trust, quality content, and a general association with only the biggest publishers, are regularly discussed but ultimately it can come down to an implied quality that can’t always be quantified. 

We’re slowly moving away from the blunt “allow and block list” format that very crudely specifies whether websites should or shouldn’t be advertised against. These lists can make things incredibly difficult for brands and publishers alike, with an even bigger challenge for those that don’t fall into the top 200-300 biggest publishers. As an industry there is a need to define the parameters of quality and how this affects advertising environments. It’s crucial for all publishers to get their deserved share, when they are consistently producing premium content.

Redefining premium

Producing professional, trustworthy and engaging content – aka ‘the basics’ – remains a vital part of a premium publishers’ role. The size of the site’s audience can be deemed somewhat irrelevant in this scenario – the principles stay the same. 

These premium publishers don’t always come with a huge audience. Many of the smaller websites have a level of engagement that is truly valuable to brands looking to reach specific audiences. This is particularly pertinent as we move away from clicks as a metric, and more towards user attention, or engagement.  

Additionally, while the content may be premium, it’s vital that this goes hand in hand with an appealing advertising environment. Unfortunately, the way we have measured, targeted and displayed online advertising in the past has created a race to the bottom, and although metrics were put in place to try to measure the value for brands, this often falls short of showing the real value of online advertising.

The changing face of the web

The way that online advertising is regulated is changing dramatically, especially across Europe. The constant evolution of data protection laws, along with the abolition of the cookie is making it increasingly difficult for online advertisers to target on an individual basis. This is something brands and users became accustomed to over the years, but it was never necessarily best practice from a consumer’s perspective. 

Consumers often become disengaged with hyper-targeted ads. After all, we’ve all felt like we’ve been chased round the web by an advertiser after viewing a certain brand. Rather, ‘premium advertising experiences’ that go beyond simply being visible should be a priority alongside securing premium placements. Again, the shift in focus towards measuring attention, should result in better web experiences for consumers, and better results for publishers and advertisers alike. 

Brand Safety and Brand Suitability 

Positive and negative keyword lists have long been a staple for managing brand safety in online advertising. The idea behind this is to ensure that as an advertiser, you’re not appearing alongside any content that could potentially be damaging to your brand while just as importantly, being able to target the words and phrases that you do wish to associate with. 

This often blunt type of approach, however, can lead to missing out on opportunities that are actually completely brand-safe – even in the most premium environments. This type of targeting often doesn’t take the word’s context into consideration – the same can be said for language nuances and hundreds of other factors which fundamentally define what every individual article is about. 

One recent example came to our attention when we noticed a huge increase in pages being blocked for one of our advertiser’s campaigns. On closer inspection, we realized that due to the recent death of the Queen, a block had been put in place for any content that included “ER”. Any page that included these letters together was automatically blocked – even if it had nothing to do with the Queen’s death. This setup greatly limited the reach of the campaign, and could have caused performance to suffer. 

Naturally, publishers can’t manually go through each individual article and decide whether it’s safe or not for a particular brand to advertise against. Luckily, the advances in AI have meant that this is becoming more simple to achieve. Partnering with a company that offers an AI contextual advertising solution in addition to keyword elimination is vital to being able to offer value to advertisers. The onus is on both the demand and supply side to improve this vital area of digital buying. 


For publishers of all sizes, there is more to creating a truly premium environment for advertisers than just consistently delivering trustworthy, premium content. Ensuring the entire process from placement to targeting is aligned, while offering the best experience for readers, is the catalyst to driving higher levels of attention and value for both themselves and their advertising partners.

And for the demand side, many marketers could benefit from a fresh approach to what are often outdated and overly-restrictive site, and keyword, allow lists. Premium publishers exist in all shapes (genres) and sizes so the message to buyers is not just to block, but also to unlock the wider premium web.  

David McConachie
Director of Publisher Partnerships, Seedtag

Seedtag is the leading contextual advertising company in Europe and LATAM. With our AI technology based on Machine Learning algorithms, we power the most relevant and engaging communications in a privacy-first world through contextual advertising.