Digiday+ Research: Direct-sold ads lose favor with publishers, while programmatic ads make gains
This research is based on unique data collected from our proprietary audience of publisher, agency, brand and tech insiders. It’s available to Digiday+ members. More from the series →
As the economic ground grows more uneven, ad sales will play a significant role for publishers as they forge their path through a downturn. But how exactly will those ad sales break down?
For instance, it’s unlikely that direct-sold ads and programmatic ads will bring in revenue identically. To find out more, Digiday+ Research surveyed nearly 200 publisher professionals between the first and third quarters of this year, and found a difference growing between how publishers make money from direct-sold ads and programmatic ads.
Digiday’s survey found that the percentage of publisher pros who said they get a large or very large portion of their revenue from direct-sold ads has fallen significantly in the last six months, from 59% in Q1 to 45% in Q3. Meanwhile, the percentage of publisher pros who said they get a large portion of their revenue from programmatic ads has remained steady so far this year at 32% in Q1 and 30% in Q2.
While programmatic ads still make up a smaller portion of publishers’ revenues on the whole than direct-sold ads, publishers see potential in programmatic, Digiday’s survey found, which could affect how publishers prioritize their businesses through the end of this year and into next. For instance, the percentage of publishers who said they will put a large or very large focus on building the programmatic part of their business in the next six months has risen from fewer than a third (32%) in Q1 to 43% in Q3.
When it comes to direct-sold ads, on the other hand, the percentage of publishers who said direct-sold ads will be a large or very large focus for their businesses in the next six months has remained unchanged throughout the year, at 55% in Q1 compared with 56% in Q3.
Digging a bit deeper into how publishers manage their programmatic ads business, it turns out that the open market is the biggest source of publishers’ programmatic revenue — and it’s growing.
Digiday’s Q1 survey found that 46% of publisher pros said open market programmatic accounted for a large or very large portion of their programmatic ad revenue, which jumped to 52% in Q3. Direct-sold programmatic ads maintained a steady portion of publishers’ programmatic revenue, with about a third of respondents saying direct-sold accounts for a large or very large portion of their programmatic ad revenue in both Q1 and Q3.
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