Research Briefing: The Cut expands as publishers overall increase ad products

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In this week’s Digiday+ Research Briefing, we examine how publishers are growing their ad products, when agencies and publishers expect deprecation of the third-party cookie to actually happen, and how marketers relied on traditional celebrities for their Super Bowl ads, as seen in recent data from Digiday+ Research.

56% of publishers grew their ad products last year

New York Magazine’s women’s fashion and lifestyle publication the Cut is expanding in 2024, adding four full-time members to the editorial staff, verticals and inventory as it chases new and existing advertiser dollars. According to Vox Media chief revenue officer Geoff Schiller, the title’s expansion is justifiable due to an increase in advertiser demand and a need to keep up with that demand. The Cut’s ad revenue — the majority of the publication’s business — is up year over year, though Schiller declined to share by how much.

Despite traffic decreases, many publishers were able to maintain the numbers on their full-time staff in 2023 — perhaps because most increased the advertising products they offered. This is according to Digiday+ Research surveys of more than 300 publisher professionals, the most recent of which was conducted late in the fourth quarter of 2023.

Digiday’s surveys found that, overall, more than half of publishers (56%) grew their ad products last year. The increase, however, wasn’t an overwhelming one as far as how many ad products publishers added. Fifty-three percent of publisher pros said the number of ad products they offered increased only somewhat last year. In comparison, only 3% said their ad products grew by a significant amount.

The New York Times, on the other hand, has continued to grow its business but missed its Q4 outlook on advertising sales, with ad revenue decreasing by 8.4% year over year to $164.1 million. During the company’s Q4 earnings call last week, Times CEO Meredith Kopit Levien blamed a few factors for the decline, including advertisers’ avoidance of hard news coverage, declines in podcast and creative services revenue, and that there were five fewer days in Q4 2023 compared to Q4 2022.

Insights and stats:

  • The New York Times’ solution? “We are extending our ad products very aggressively to other parts of the portfolio beyond news,” Kopit Levien said, meaning sellers will push advertisers to the company’s other verticals, such as The Athletic, Games, Cooking and Wirecutter.
  • The majority of publisher pros (58%) told Digiday late in Q4 2023 that their companies added branded content ad products in 2023, making it the top category where publishers added new products.
  • “The Cut has been working to build out their offering, targeting fashion, luxury and beauty brands. … The Cut is also introducing new formats and placements in the digital space.” — Kathleen Brogan, svp of integrated investment at ad agency Dentsu Media U.S.

Read more about how publishers are growing ad offerings

Digiday+ Research digest

Two recent major events may have set Google’s crusade to eliminate third-party cookies on a path to limbo, but the majority of the 121 industry professionals that Digiday+ Research recently surveyed all believe the third-party cookie is truly on its way out. More than three-quarters of agency, publisher, ad tech, retailer and brand pros (76%) said that they disagree that Google will never get rid of third-party cookies in the Chrome browser. But they’re split on whether Google will officially kill the third-party cookie by the end of the year, or if cookie deprecation will overflow into the first quarter of 2025.

The stats:

  • Fifty-six percent of all survey respondents said they agree that Google will get rid of cookies before the end of 2024. Similarly, 55% said they agree that cookies will be gone at some point in the first quarter of 2025.
  • Agencies think the cookie’s death will come in Q1 2025 — by a small margin. Sixty-one percent of agency pros said they agree Google will get rid of third-party cookies in Chrome sometime in Q1 2025, while 57% said they agree it will happen before the end of 2024.
  • Publishers also think that Q1 2025 will be the third-party cookie’s official death date, but they’re more definitive about it. More than two-thirds of publisher pros (67%) said they agree that Google will get rid of cookies at some point in Q1 2025, with a bit less than two-thirds (61%) agreeing that Google will get rid of cookies this year.

Read more about expectations for the cookie timeline

Despite the rise of the creator economy, brands relied on traditional celebrities for their Super Bowl ads this year. Eighty celebrities appeared throughout the 59 ads that aired during the game, according to Fohr’s celebrity tracking for the Super Bowl, and many of those celebrities were recognizable and appealed to the mass audience in a way that creators don’t. Brands still tapped influencers to create Super Bowl content, but their efforts were mainly focused on mentioning brands in tandem on social media before the game. Nevertheless, brands still see influencers as a worthwhile channel for marketing spend, according to a Digiday+ Research survey of 138 brand and agency professionals.

The stats:

  • The percentage of brand pros who said they’re confident in influencers’ ability to drive marketing success has risen steadily. Twenty percent of brand pros said in Q1 2022 that they were confident in influencer marketing compared with 21% in Q3 2022 and 27% in Q1 2023.
  • Brands are also investing more in influencer marketing. In Q1 2022, 62% of brand pros said they spent at least a very small portion of their marketing budgets on influencers. That percentage jumped to 73% in Q1 2023.
  • The percentage of agency pros who said their clients spend a moderate amount on influencer marketing has been steadily increasing also. Fifteen percent of agency pros said in Q1 2022 that their clients spend a moderate portion of their marketing budgets on influencers. That percentage rose to 16% in Q1 2022 and again to 18% in Q1 2023.

Read more about marketers’ influencer investments

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