What MailOnline has learned from using header bidding through Facebook

Header bidding, which lets multiple ad tech companies compete for publishers’ inventory simultaneously, has improved publisher yields, but it also has its limits.

The MailOnline has been using Facebook’s recently launched header-bidding solution to access advertisers coming through Facebook’s Audience Network for the past six months, but it is keen to see how Facebook will extend header bidding to in-app inventory and video.

At Digiday’s Programmatic Summit in Dublin, Lauren Dick, head of emerging platforms at MailOnline, said the publisher has seen yield increase two- and threefold and gotten more access to FAN demand.

“There are also challenges around doing like-for-like comparisons because the way that Facebook measures and the way that it buys is slightly different to standard CPMs,” she said.

The Mail does not suffer from lack of scale: It has four editorial hubs in London, New York, Sydney and Los Angeles, which collectively pump out 1,200 pieces of content and 800 videos a day. According to the publisher, it has 243 million global monthly unique visitors and serves 1.5 billion mobile impressions daily.

Yet Facebook’s header bidding is only available on mobile web impressions, not in the app, and it’s the latter that makes up 80 percent of MailOnline’s mobile pageviews. Within mobile apps, new bidders often have to upload their own software development kits, which allow third parties to integrate, and adding these can harm the user experience.

“The challenge is, it’s such a clunky process to do any integration in the app space,” Dick said. “You’re looking at individual SDKs [software developer kit] or mutual partners that you want to plug in, rather than a single wrapper solution with different headers integrated within that.”

Some publishers struggling with added page latency from on-page header bidding are looking to move the bid to the server. MailOnline has been hesitant to do so because server-to-server header bidding is still in its infancy. “There is still a lack of evidence to support how much it will do for latency and what scale it will bring,” Dick said.

Instead, MailOnline has experimented with pre-caching the top of articles, so they load as readers scroll down the page, reducing the number of server calls that need to be made in one go.

MailOnline has been using header bidding for several years. It was one of a few publishers testing with Facebook, as were The Washington Post and Forbes. Previously, publishers wanting to access demand from Facebook’s audience, and its targeting and data capabilities, had to forgo header bidding.

Facebook’s entry into the header-bidding space, albeit later than Google’s, could be used to its advantage if it develops a solution that addresses some of the concerns around header bidding that have emerged over the last few years. “Facebook and others have the opportunity to be more transparent and work with more partners,” said Dick. “Everything is about driving competition to drive up yield for publishers, whether that’s between Facebook and Google, or between anyone else.”

This extends to the Mail’s own digital sales team, which is split between direct sales teams and programmatic. “Recently, we’ve taken a step back,” she said. “Everyone is looking at the same finite inventory, and everything competes on yield.”

Image: Via the Creative Commons licensing act.


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