Programmatic buying is quickly evolving, but each new integration has its own set of drawbacks.

Waterfalling helped publishers sell more of their inventory, but it wasn’t the best way to make sure publishers were making the most money. Header bidding has increased yield, but it slowed down page loads. Now publishers are moving to server-to-server connections, but there is concern that the tech vendors implementing the product will give themselves unfair advantages.

At Digiday’s Hot Topic Header Bidding event in New York City yesterday, we asked publishers what they see as the biggest barrier to adopting server-to-server connections.

Ashley McGee, director of programmatic and platforms at Tronc
My main concern is around trust and transparency. Do I have a partner that I trust enough that I can see who is truly winning [the auction] and who isn’t gaming the system? So it is in trust and reporting. I’m used to having control and being able to see what is happening. But I have heard with server-side there is more blindness for publishers and buyers. I’d like a partner I feel confident to take that leap of faith with.

Jarrod Dicker, head of ad products at The Washington Post
One of the bigger roadblocks is getting all of the SSPs to agree to play in the same playground. Many have their own server-to-server offerings, but since they compete on some level, there is hesitation to integrate within another vendor’s technology. This is why a lot of the focus for publishers is investigating whether it’s worth it to build their own and integrate the SSPs within our independent environment. This was the basis of our project Zeus.

Chris Douglas, programmatic coordinator at AARP
I am concerned about development resources. For a quasi-government publication, you need to have your ducks in a row on the costs and benefits. It’s about resources and understanding what the costs will really be.

Marco Samuel, programmatic account manager at IBT Media
We don’t want to replicate what Google does with AdX, who has opportunity to take the last price in the auction. It’s not that I don’t trust [vendors], but if they have a chance to bid last, they might take it. So we would only want to work with partners who have unique demand. If partners are only concerned with their own demand, I don’t have to worry about them jumping to the head of the line.

Julie Clark, vp of programmatic sales and strategy at Hearst
Are the third parties all going to cooperate with each other? It’s not a technical issue; it’s contractual issues that will slow down adoption. It’s unlikely that anyone wants someone else mediating them. Publishers need to work hard to encourage all third parties to work together to bring server-to-server to fruition. Third parties will have to get comfortable with a new level of transparency.

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