Publishers Need Programmatic Scout Teams

Eric Porres is chief marketing officer of Rocket Fuel, a marketing technology firm. Follow him on Twitter at @eporres.

If you’re staying awake nights worrying that data is hurting the publishing business, here’s some advice: Instead of worrying about the data, go take a look at it.

Executed correctly, a programmatic strategy simply expands the demand pool for a publisher’s inventory. Higher demand, higher pricing. Forrester says that as marketers compete for similar audience segments and bid density increases, average CPM prices of exchange impressions will increase from $3.17 to $6.64 by 2017.

Many publishers worry about programmatic selling affecting their core direct sales business. This isn’t the case. In fact, it should do just the opposite. The direct-sales team needs to use exchanges to get smarter. They’re in the perfect place to scout for new customers, in fact.

Through the exchanges publishers can gain insight into which brands are buying their inventory. For large publishers, this is a great opportunity to approach new brands for direct buys. You already know they value your content. You already know you have an audience they want. These are the high potential brands that are worth the time and effort to create a custom pitch for.

You may not have thought about exchanges as a way to help develop a smarter direct-sales pitch list, but that’s exactly what the smartest large publishers are doing, including Meredith Levien at Forbes, who published one of the most cogent arguments for programmatic publishers selling in 2012.

Or consider MapMyFitness; for the past two years, it has utilized a mix of ad networks, exchanges and real-time bidding platforms to monetize its unsold inventory. If you speak with Sarah Nels, the director of sales operations at MapMyFitness, she’ll tell you that consistently, programmatic buying has outperformed other buyers by at least 50 percent . This has allowed their direct-sales team to focus on selling beyond the banner marketing solutions vs. IAB standard units.

Publishing in 2013 is a very tough, very competitive business. In that sense, it hasn’t changed much at all — it’s pretty much the same as it was in 1913 or 1813. The publishers that will thrive are the ones that find competitive advantage where their competitors don’t see it. Let others believe the hype. Smart publishers rest more easily  knowing they’ve got the data on their side.

Image via Shutterstock

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