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How to streamline your digital publishing business in response to an uncertain economic climate

Published: 18 Jan 2023

If you’re predicting a tightening of purses or a squeeze on your resources and bandwidth, then you’re not alone. But what can be done to help publishers navigate a potentially tumultuous upcoming 12 months?

Below are a selection of helpful tips and ideas from our Associate partners to help you streamline your strategies, identify new avenues for innovation, and put your best foot forward for 2023.

Never doubt the value of quality content.

Sticking to the basics never did anybody any harm. Do not doubt that the fundamental value delivered by quality content, and the value of the audiences for it, will remain strong. In tough economic times, all smart businesses will keep a laser-like focus on core competencies. Advertisers and agencies are no different and they will look to tried and trusted partners to maximise the inevitable opportunities that will arise as others are distracted.

Ian Dowds, CEO, UKOM

Don’t fall into the trap of overly prioritising short-term wins.

Uncertain times call for focus and prioritisation. If resources are limited, it’s tempting to focus on maximising short-term revenue rather than longer term strategic priorities. It’s good to be agile and, if reward outweighs effort, a short-term implementation may make sense but in most cases committing resources to future proofing revenue streams, rather than tying up all of your developer resources on short term projects, will benefit the business more. Time spent on putting in place the right privacy measures; having a long-term data strategy in place (which goes across both the editorial and advertising sides of the business), and taking advantage of emerging growth areas for your business, will mean that you come out of any economic headwinds in a much stronger position.

David McMurtrie, Head of UK Publishers – Partner Solutions, Google

Focus on your core assets.

When times are tough, focus on the bottom line must be approached strategically. Publishers, just like any other company, must identify and protect the core assets that drive their financial stability. While essential functions will continue in-house, specialist resources can be outsourced to partners that can operate at the right price point and with minimal strain on resources. Recessions are a great time to focus minds and test innovations that bring much-needed incremental revenues. These tests can turn into major revenue streams and create a competitive advantage when the economic cycle eventually turns and publishers experience expansion once again.

Mattia Fosci, Founder & CEO, ID Ward

Take the time to ensure you truly understand your audience.

As we head into 2023, opinion on whether or not a recession is oncoming is still split. Some believe that we can achieve a "soft landing", while others say that a full-blown recession is all but confirmed. A softer than usual start on Q1 ad spend is providing an early signal that brands and agencies are being cautious and preparing for all contingencies. Against that general economic backdrop, the media and ad tech industry is dealing with its own uncertainties and headwinds. While publishers have some breathing space now that Google has pushed its timeline for deprecating third-party cookies to 2024, we believe that publishers should start diverting their attention—despite any pre-existing resource squeeze—into truly understanding their audience. At the same time, we also recommend looking beyond just the identity problem and into other pockets of opportunities. Ad avoidance continues to be a substantial revenue threat for the industry, with estimates of adblock rates ranging from 20%-40% depending on publisher geo and vertical. Utilizing the Acceptable Ads Standard to serve less intrusive advertising to opted-in users is a low-effort way of recovering revenue that's otherwise being lost.

Simon Burgess, Business Development Director, EMEA, Blockthrough

Concentrate on delivering greater addressability in advertising spend.

In the face of the recession, when advertisers need to justify every penny spent, publishers must demonstrate their value to them by creating an environment that enables better targeting, increased reach, and, most importantly, measurable outcomes.

Advertisers are looking for data-driven marketing - in particular, the ability to market to real people and measure real-world outcomes. Addressable marketing enables marketers to target their audiences as well as have better media accountability and measurement. These will provide better consumer experiences, create a holistic view of all touchpoints, and lead to greater media efficiency and ROI overall.

Luke Fenney, VP Addressability, Europe, LiveRamp

It’s all about accountability and efficiency.

In the current economic climate, publishers should be looking to do two things. First, it’s even more important they prove accountability during a recession. This means demonstrating brand building effectiveness to advertisers, in order to reassure that stretched ad budgets are being well spent. Second, publishers must look to improve efficiency – refining and automating internal processes as much as possible to ensure that busy, and potentially shrinking, internal teams can spend more time adding real value to customers, rather than carrying out repetitive internal tasks. This is good practice at any time, but faced with the current squeeze on resources, it’s absolutely critical.

Sean Adams, Global Insight Director, Brand Metrics

Streamline your tech stack.

Take a close look at all of your technology partners. Do any of them offer overlapping capabilities? If so, then now is a great time to start executing your demand path optimisation strategy by simplifying your tech stack, to enable greater productivity. This is the key to future-proofing your business. Ask yourself which of your current tech vendors are bringing the most value? Once you make that determination, you can eliminate fees, optimise your spending, and cut out unnecessary middlemen. Restart this evaluation process every 3 months to ensure your partners are still meeting your evolving expectations.

Marc Thomas, General Manager, EMEA, EX.CO

Invest in solutions that help you get the most out of your content and data.

Publishers must now turn their attention and look into how their businesses are operated and ensure they stand the best chance of weathering any potential financial storm. One area to look at is cranking up your Omnichannel Video monetisation. Buyers want premium content, and they want data. The other is looking at whether you’re getting all you can out of your audience relationships and data. Working with SSP partners and sell-side data activation solutions can be the key to succeeding in both areas and to securing revenue streams, now and in the future.

Jacqueline Boakye, Vice President Customer Success, EMEA, PubMatic

Trust your partners.

2023 will be a team game. When resources are constrained, and specialist expertise might not be easily to hand, it’s time to pull together. Lean into your tech partners, they’re there to support you. Create a clear, unified focus across your teams and get them all pulling in the same direction. Be honest about the situation with those around you, and ask for their help. You’ll likely be pleased with how everyone responds.

Stu Colman, SVP Sales Europe, InfoSum

Tap into your data – it’s never been more valuable.

The 'cookie-less future' is now. Users are taking control of their data by actively opting out of sharing their data with third parties, resulting in just 30% of the open web being addressable. It's time for publishers and advertisers to make the decision to invest in a first-party data strategy that empowers sales teams with a differentiated offering that respects user choice. Publishers are sitting on a data gold mine that's not only hugely valuable to advertisers but allows them to be privacy compliant in a world where 98% of advertisers are concerned about online privacy and identity changes negatively impacting customer and audience trust.

Emily Britton, Sales Director, Europe, Permutive

Maximise the value off your inventory.

With advertisers expected to cut ad spending in 2023 due to the current state of the economy, publishers should set their sights on untapped opportunities to maximise the value of their inventories and data. Today, publishers struggle to effectively monetise around 30% of their traffic because of cookie restrictions in Safari and Firefox. CPMs are up to 50% lower in these browsers when compared with Chrome, as buyers are not willing to invest much in unaddressable traffic. By leveraging alternative identity technologies, such as first-party universal IDs, publishers will help advertisers to effectively reach their audiences and will see their average Safari or Firefox CPM increase.

Jessica Werner, Senior Director of Publisher Development, ID5

Future-proof your ad monetisation strategy.

Be prepared. This isn't the first recession and it won't be the last. Choosing the right partners, in particular when it comes to attracting premium demand and generating high CPMs, will continue to be paramount to the maintenance of your business. The industry is shifting to a cookieless and ID-less world. Therefore, deploying cookieless data-driven tools that attract premium demand with strong audience targeting capabilities will be essential in boosting your ad revenue. During these challenging times, choosing the right partner that will help you future-proof your ad monetisation strategy will enable you to thrive while others struggle.

Russel James, Senior Publisher Development Director in Supply, Ogury

Adopt new technologies to help you make the most of your time.

During economic downturns, resources can be tight across the digital ecosystem. AI can be an effective remedy to this issue, automating menial tasks while driving efficiency. For publishers specifically, it frees up their time to focus on more strategic activity, such as investigative journalism or fostering deeper, more profitable brand partnerships.

Alongside increased efficiency, AI delivers improved returns for both publishers and advertisers as the technology drives more efficient media buying and less budget wastage. Quantcast allows publishers to segment, analyse and report on their audiences in real time and provides easily digestible results. Time is such a precious commodity in the current climate. AI makes the most of it.

Allan Tinkler, Head of Publisher Sales, Quantcast


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