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How would you suggest that publishers focus their prod dev

Twelve ideas to kickstart your product development strategy and drive new revenues

Published: 25 Mar 2022

Publishers are putting the focus on product development as they look forward across the next 12 months, according to the latest Digital Publishers' Revenue Index - conducted by the AOP in association with Deloitte. But what do the experts think is the secret to product development that drives revenue for your organisation?

Here are twelve ideas to help you revolutionise your product development for 2022 and beyond…

Break down organisational silos to allow for more informed decision-making.

Too often, Product and Commercial teams exist in silos, only coming together when there is a need to assign development resource. This can lead to inefficient planning, lack of flexibility and an inability to take advantage of commercial opportunities as they arise. Additionally, the user experience, and feedback collected through user research, can be forgotten in the trade-off between product development work and commercial opportunities.

To counter these challenges the organisational structure should balance the needs of these three groups, creating a regular feedback loop between Users, Product and Commercial teams, with a decision-making process which is not biased to one particular outcome.

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

Trial new first-party data strategies to ensure you're ready for the opportunities of a cookieless future.

Focus on both ID-based - such as publisher provided Ids - and ID-less - such as segment or cohort-based data activation - and ensure you are able to leverage your data across your key ad tech partners. Sell-side first-party data is going to become much more valuable in the near future, and there is a lot of innovation in this space, striving to help publishers increase the value of their inventory. Now is a great time to test and adopt first-party data-based approaches in order to be well placed to take advantage of the upcoming shift.

Joseph Merhej, Solutions Consultant Manager, Xandr

Strengthening your relationship with your audience should be a key focus.

For the first time in many years, the market again recognises the true value of publishers - unique, high-quality content and deep relationships with engaged audiences. Publishers should ensure that their product development helps reinforce this value and their ability to use it to generate revenue. That could be in the form of improving their ability to collect and leverage first-party data or building new editorial products to deepen engagement further, like podcasts or newsletters. These products, in turn, help support multiple revenue lines - advertising, subscriptions, events, affiliate and e-commerce whilst also reducing their reliance on the big platforms.

Anthony White, Head of UK Publisher Development, Passendo

Optimise your tech stack - and don't forget to AB test!

To drive revenue more successfully, Publishers should:

  1. Focus on their stack to optimize it using the latest prebid features, the latest prebid version, maximizing their setup, making sure each call contains all ID solutions, and start sending 1st party contextual information.
  2. A/B test is vital! Decisions should be based on A/B test results to avoid seasonality. I would probably focus on viewability to optimize the stack. Buyers will probably use viewability more and more due to privacy and identity.
  3. Lastly, focus on the user's session. Why? Because one user can trigger two auctions and another 100 auctions! That is why we recommend monitoring user sessions and optimizing each user instead of each call.

Loïc Pagny, Senior Technical Account Manager, Pubstack

Develop non-intrusive or ephemeral advertising formats - while still delivering impact.

For several months now, publishers have been facing considerable challenges: how to maintain their advertising revenue without collecting personal data in a world without cookies and IDs? How to monetize sites / apps properly while ensuring user retention? We believe that one of the keys to answering these questions lies in advertising formats.

With consumers spending more time on their screens than ever before, publishers should make sure they preserve the quality of their content consumption on digital platforms. They should offer formats that readers actually want to engage with, as in non-intrusive creative formats that give them control of how they want to see the message, or ephemeral advertisements that are easy to expand or close.

But these formats must also be visible, impactful and deliver the performance that advertisers expect. This subtle balance is pivotal for publishers. By adopting high-impact formats that respect user’s navigation, they can grow their advertising revenue while reducing advertising pressure.

Fabien Magalon, Chief Supply Officer, Ogury

The cookieless future is here now. Integrate first-party IDs to maximise addressability today and set yourself up for success tomorrow.

Many publishers miss out on the opportunity to better monetise almost 40% of their web traffic due to browsers such as Safari and Firefox already blocking third-party cookies. Studies show that CPMs are significantly lower in cookieless environments as users are unidentifiable. For those publishers that haven't included identity in their product development strategy, the upcoming deprecation of third-party cookies on Chrome will have a noticeable impact on revenue. By ensuring that their technology and pipelines can support cookieless identity solutions, publishers can maximise revenue opportunities in Safari and Firefox today, and apply the same learnings in Chrome tomorrow.

Jessica Werner, Senior Director of Publisher Development, ID5

Invest in the areas where you're weakest and make sure you can demonstrate your effectiveness.

Step one is to see which of the main revenue drivers you’re weak in and invest there. Advertising, branded content, ecommerce, subscriptions - it’s a four-legged table that should be in balance.

Step two is to look at what your business does well and then ask customers and vendors in each revenue area how to become the best.

Step three is: You need to prove it. Publishers need metrics their customers value and deliver them consistently and at scale, to prove their value against the competition (which may, in the case of branded content, be the marketer themselves.)

Lastly, work together. Many publishers are working against each other in traditional competition but in many cases, we see the value in doing what you’re best at and outsourcing or combining efforts to reduce cost and increase client satisfaction. Ask your most trusted vendors - who see everything your industry is doing - for advice. We’re here to help you in non-obvious ways as well.

Tom Jenen, CRO, Brand Metrics

Build agility into your strategy - you never know when you may need to pivot in response to new changes in the industry.

The most successful publishers we work with are those who are always flexible and ready to innovate. These publishers would never assign their entire development resource for a 6+ month-long project without preparing for the possibility that they may need to pivot, pause the project or take on additional work at any moment. Pandemics happen, privacy law changes, algorithm updates get implemented and tech vendors offer innovations all the time. No matter what you focus on developing, it's a good idea to dedicate 10-15% of your traffic and development resource to experimentation, A/B testing and reactive response to industry changes.

Additionally, product leadership should be invited to participate in commercial decisions and take part in assessment of potential tech partners. For a smooth partnership, it's important that product teams understand how the technology works, how it would fit with the existing ecosystem, and develop relationships with the vendor's tech team so that any issues or questions can be addressed quickly and efficiently.

Anya Libova, UK Publisher Sales Director, Taboola

Look to newer formats when developing content streams to stay ahead of the curve.

With media consumption shifting to mobile app and connected television, publishers have access to a number of different advertising formats. Newer formats, such as outstream video and native, provide a more interactive and accessible experience for consumers and a new way for them to enjoy accessing premium journalism. By developing content which both responds to–and is optimised for–these newer formats, publishers have the ability to attract marketers who are increasingly prioritising consumer experience. This enables marketers to get their message across effectively, and publishers to diversify their product offering for greater monetisation.

Sara Vincent, Senior Director, Strategic Partner Development, Index Exchange

Curate packages in line with advertiser and brand values.

As we look towards product evolutions that consider the true plight of responsible media, it is important to acknowledge that marketing strategies that place brand values at the forefront have increased in importance – especially when reaching younger audiences. With that, publishers should focus on curating packages in line with advertiser values (diversity, social initiatives, and environmental impact), as publishers that support and maintain responsible media practices demonstrate integrity and care for audiences by doing what they can to avoid potential damaging exposures.

Charlotte Raimondi, Sr. Director, Global Partner Development, Oracle Advertising

Collaborate more directly with advertisers.

A successful path to publisher revenue lies in understanding the different product layers you can provide directly to advertisers. There are new ways to edge in on OMP spend with standardized PMP deals, or safely connect and model datasets for tailored direct offerings. First-party data collected across all browsers forms the all-important foundation, of course - and in-depth insights are vital to give clients a reason to choose and rebook you.

As cookies deprecate, third parties will seek new ways to commoditise publisher data and content. To protect your revenue-driving potential, you must choose responsible initiatives and partners that won’t act as intermediaries, but instead enable safe collaboration with advertisers - collaboration that is grounded in privacy, consent, and transparency.

Alexandra Bannerman, Product Marketing Director, Permutive

Streamline the experience between platforms to deliver a more engaging user experience.

It’s crucial for publishers to diversify their revenue streams by testing ways to monetise their journalism, services, and entertainment. Trying new means of engagement beyond offers and events, like subscriptions, will help to unlock new revenue from readers.

In addition, today, users are accustomed to switching from apps, to social media platforms, to websites, and back again; publishers must understand how to streamline these experiences, and how each fits into their relationships with their audiences.

By building more direct relationships with their audiences and building more authenticated first-party data to share with brands, publishers can drive revenue and brands access more addressable audiences.

Nora Schwab, Director Publisher Development UK, LiveRamp

Have you developed new strategies to grow revenues and build deeper audience engagement? Enter the Product Development Team of the Year Award to demonstrate how you've nurtured deeper relationships between reader and content and to shout about your success! Find out more here.