Best of the week: Publishers weigh in on mid-roll Facebook ads and earlier start times

You made it to the end of another week. Your reward is a roundup of a few of our best stories of the week, in easy-to-digest, bite-sized TL;DR form.

We spoke with publishers about reports that Facebook will start showing ads in the middle of videos. And we spoke with publishers who insist their reporters get an earlier start to their days. Publishers have also found a way to frack more traffic out of older content. And branded podcasting is having a moment — and will likely mushroom in 2017.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the media equation, an anonymous media agency vet tells us that pressure from holding companies and clients alike has lead media agencies in a “downward spiral” to prioritize cost above all else.

Mid-roll comes to Facebook
Facebook will start showing ads in the middle of videos and giving publishers 55 percent of all sales. Publishers told Digiday they were excited about the potential of mid-roll ads to help them create a revenue stream around Facebook video. But some sources were concerned that the ads would reduce engagement.

“I think it’s a shrewd move by Facebook to ensure only the most engaging content makes its way onto the platform,” said Joe Hyland, CMO of webinar platform ON24. 

Newsroom start times get earlier
Traditional newsrooms are catching up to their digital brethren with earlier start times. Staffers of The Boston Globe learned last week that as part of a newsroom reinvention, most of them would be expected to start work at 9 a.m. Such a rule would probably come as a surprise in many digital newsrooms, which aren’t influenced by legacy print schedules.

Business Insider’s Nicholas Carlson said he gets in at 8, and he’s not the earliest. “In digital, you might as well get going,” he said. “There’s no deadline. There’s always a deadline.”

Branded podcasting is about to get lit
Podcasting has always had a kind of old radio feel to it, and in 2017, that old time-y sensibility will only increase, as more brands tap podcast producers and advertising networks for branded shows. The move is partly the result of the success of GE’s “The Message,” a science fiction podcast that took home a Cannes Lion last year, and partly the result of brand advertisers’ interest in the high degree of intimacy and attention that podcasting offers.

“It is kind of exciting and hot right now,” said Matt Turck, the chief revenue officer of Panoply, the Slate Group-owned podcast advertising network, which earns as much as 25 percent of its podcast revenue from custom content.

Hack: Get new traffic from old content
Older, evergreen content has always been a nice traffic source for digital publishers. But two years after The New York Times identified archival content as an untapped source of traffic, several publishers have grown it into something substantial, with some now generating nearly 40 percent of their monthly traffic from old pieces. They’re doing it by updating their stories more frequently, often multiple times per year, creating new sections and contexts for their content, and disseminating it at strategic times via social media and newsletters.

“Betting exclusively on the news cycle is far too volatile a game to play, if you’re looking to drive sustained growth and loyalty,” said Neha Gandhi, Refinery29’s svp of content strategy and innovation.  

Confessions of a media agency vet
In the latest installment of the Digiday Confessions series, where we grant anonymity in exchange for candor, a media agency veteran with over three decades of experience in advertising lifts the lid on the murky world of programmatic margins. Pressure from holding companies and clients has lead media agencies in a “downward spiral” to prioritize cost above all else, this person tells us: 

You’ve said murky practices in programmatic media buying persist. 
On one side, there are kickbacks given by media owners to agencies. Over and above that, as programmatic trading increases there are opportunities that are being taken up on a regular basis. The client is getting what they’ve agreed for the money they’ve agreed, but agencies may well be negotiating that at a lower rate. When programmatic is half a percent, it’s not going to keep everybody awake at night. But when it is 50 percent of ad spend, this becomes a fundamental issue.

How are some of these costs being buried?
What an agency is potentially able to buy at and what they’ve agreed with the client they are going to buy at could be 40-60 percent different. That’s an awful lot of money over time. The worst kind of margin I’ve seen is a campaign reported at £1.20 ($1.45) when it was acquired at 30p (36 cents).

What are the driving forces behind this?
Media agencies are trying to make as much margin as they can because of the kind of profits they need to help support their [parent company]. At the same time, the client is putting downward pressure on their fees and commissions through procurement, which puts more pressure on the agency to find alternative ways of generating profits. It’s a downward spiral. The driving down of costs has reached a tipping point where value is falling at a faster rate than cost.

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