Publishers, Fear Not the Age of the Machines

Paul Lentz is svp of the publisher platform of ShareThis. Follow him on Twitter @pclentz.

It’s the age of machines, and many publishers fear that the rise of programmatic buying can only lead to ever-declining CPMs. But programmatic buying is inevitable. Publishers should focus their efforts on making the system work in their favor. After all, it’s a participatory system; without sellers of inventory, there can be no buyers.

The first step is to advocate for a desired buying metric. The ability to pass parameters of value within these automated systems is key for publishers if they want to command higher CPMs. They need to get in front of the innovation and articulate their needs. Creativity, persuasiveness and collaboration are all needed to secure revenue in today’s market, whether it’s automated or not.

Measuring social quality is an easily automated tool publishers can integrate into RTB platforms. With it, sellers can set price floors and buyers can make bids on domain names and look at CTR on a larger campaign level. And by knowing the social quality of their content, those brand publishers that both buy and sell are better positioned to lobby advertisers for more means of differentiation — values that can be trafficked along with the standard values like site demographics.

Inventory fuels automated buying. Publishers need to learn how to automate their own value, migrate into new systems where they can and lobby hard where their value does not exist. Measuring their social quality can serve as a tool for publishers to distinguish themselves as leaders in shareable content and attractors of high referral traffic. Social acts, page views and incremental traffic have become the new monetizable value of an online publication or website.

This presents publishers with an opportunity to raise their CPMs based on factors other than just being a big, well-known media brand. Doors that previously didn’t even exist can now open to publishers of all kinds with social audiences.

Additionally, responding in real time and acting on what your audience consumes is hugely valuable. After all, it’s a means of driving engaged traffic. The emergence of actual metrics that provide real-time information enables publishers to make informed editorial decisions that lift engagement. Publications can also attract high influxes of viewers by using creative methods to respond to real-time events.

Publishers live and breathe by their site-specific, real-time tools like, Chartbeat, Omniture and Google Analytics. These tools provide insights on stories that are trending in social media. While this activity is difficult to predict, publishers can monitor in real time, promoting those trending pieces through the social channels where they are trending, and across the site to more of that potential audience.

Undoubtedly, programmatic buying has its downsides, especially for publishers who see an oversupply of inventory leading to forever-cratering CPMs. But as it encroaches on the ad world, more and more publishers should seize the silver linings where they exist. It’s time for publishers to slap on some creative and persuasive faces to fight for their place in automation’s electronic kingdom.

Image via Shutterstock

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