How Trinity Mirror raised its programmatic ad yields by 40 percent

British publisher Trinity Mirror is among the more prolific programmatic traders with 40 percent (£30 million or $39.4 million) of its digital ad revenue made that way. But the publisher is not satisfied: It now wants to drive up programmatic yields across display, video and mobile, while retaining control of how it monetizes programmatically across platforms like Facebook and Google.

To start it on the right track, it’s rejigged internally, creating a centralized programmatic team of 20 people. Each specializes in a specific area, like video-on-demand, data, ad tech, sales, all overseen by director of programmatic Amir Malik, a former Googler inherited from Trinity’s £220 million ($290 million) acquisition of regional publisher Local World last November. They’ll then feed into the rest of the commercial division.

“Trinity Mirror has a collaborative culture and we’re developing a strategy where programmatic has no borders — it will influence the entire advertising strategy, whether it be across Invention, direct digital and print sales,” said Malik. “Our priority is to drive up yields and retain control of monetization, whether it be in a singular sense or collaborative with the likes of partners like Facebook and Google, or News UK and Mail Online.”

So far, so good. Programmatic ad yields for video alone have grown 100 percent from a double digit base, so are coasting in the “high twenties,” according to Malik. Overall they’re up 41 percent. Its use of header bidding has led to a 17 percent uplift in programmatic revenue for display ads, and a new focus on Facebook’s Instant Articles means it’s grown programmatic ad revenue via the platform by 30 percent.

Here’s a breakout of how it’s done it:

Monetizing Instant Articles and AMP programmatically

Whether publishers can make meaningful revenue from running content directly through Facebook’s Instant Articles and Google’s AMP carousel is yet to be proven. But Malik is confident it can be done programmatically. So far, Instant Articles has been mainly pursued as an editorial venture by publishers, including Trinity Mirror, which has uploaded several titles. The responsibility for Facebook used to sit within the product team. Now it sits within the programmatic team, and the publisher has hired a programmatic media analyst dedicated solely to monitoring Instant Articles and AMP and pinpoint where yields can be raised.

“I want someone ready for that shift of Instant Articles traffic,” said Malik. “We’ve already improved the Facebook yield by 30 percent on display, by monitoring the placements they provide us. Now we want someone dedicated to analyzing that at all times.”

Google’s AMP is more open than the other media platforms and lets publishers take ownership of all the revenue they make from it, while letting it run video formats like Outstream. That makes it a priority, he added.

Using programmatic data for lead generation
A theme in ad tech land has been how to tap larger brand campaign budgets, not just direct-response. Trinity Mirror is pursuing this by using programmatic data insights for lead generation. By offering brands valued insights on their target audience, which it’s gleaned from their programmatic campaigns, it can upsell to bigger, more integrated brand and data partnerships.

So far, it’s explored this with Nestlé and its agency Zenith Optimedia. Nestlé and Zenith had been buying Trinity Mirror inventory via exchanges, though not directly via Trinity Mirror. That meant the publisher could see brands like Nestlé crop up on its inventory, proving that its own audience fitted the bill for some of Nestlé’s campaign criteria. Trinity Mirror used that to approach the advertiser and offer a deeper data partnership. The goal: to prevent Nestlé retargeting the same individuals on different platforms. “They’re using our data to power their YouTube ad buying currently. It’s a single customer view approach. It means they don’t double dip on users,” said Malik.

This deal saw Trinity Mirror increase its yields by 100 percent for video, from a double digit base, he said. “They were paying us broadcaster rates because of the data relationship. Zenith has now quadrupled its spend across our Trinity assets, and using the scale of audience we have as an intelligence layer on their buying off-site, so as to not double dip.”

It’s not a service that’s been productized and packaged yet, because it’s dependant on Trinity Mirror’s data management platform being linked to the demand side platform of the advertiser, (which in this case was Google DoubleClick Bid Manager). But it’s an area it wants to push with other agency groups.

Header bidding: a band-aid on a bullet wound

The method of header bidding has been adopted by publishers as a way to boost yield because it lets them offer inventory to multiple ad exchanges simultaneously before making calls to ad servers. (It also gives a seemingly nicer option than the longstanding waterfalling technique.) “Header bidding is just a plaster to the revenue wounds programmatic has created,” said Malik. “But you can make a lot of money from it,” he added.

Trinity Mirror has been using header bidding aggressively, having started with Amazon’s header bidding tool two years ago, and it also uses eBay’s tool. Now it’s integrated with OpenX and is also using other partners. So far it’s seen a 17 percent uplift in programmatic revenues from header bidding across display. “It’s exciting. I know Facebook is interested in header bidding because I’m working with them on it,” he added.

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