Digiday editors expect AI, programmatic and privacy to be top trends at the Digiday Publishing Summit

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At the end of this month, publishing executives from around the country with gather together in Vail, Colo., for the three-day Digiday Publishing Summit to discuss the various challenges facing the media industry, including how the economic downturn has affected advertising revenue, how the launch of new artificial intelligence technology is impacting content production and how more privacy laws mean it’s time to buckle down on first-party data practices. During those three days, publishers will also be learning from each other about different strategies to navigate this tumultuous time.

In this week’s episode of the Digiday Podcast, Digiday’s senior media editor Tim Peterson, senior reporter Sara Guaglione and media editor Kayleigh Barber share some of the on-stage sessions that they are most excited about and chat through the trends they expect will come up at DPS. 

Digiday will have a variety of coverage around the summit, including session recaps, overheard round-ups and a live podcast recording with Michele DeVine, svp of programmatic and client partnerships, retail, at BuzzFeed, which will go live on Tuesday, April 4. Stay tuned for more insights coming out of DPS later this month.

Below are highlights from the conversation, which have been lightly edited for clarity. 

The precarious state of programmatic

Barber: There’s almost like a churn-and-burn mentality when it comes to advertising budgets in the quarter. At the same time, though, at the beginning of this year, you saw some of the lowest CPMs, especially in the open marketplace, since the onset of the pandemic. So, despite there being a decent amount of transacting happening programmatically, those rates have just been incredibly low, according to Operative’s STAQ Benchmarking Data, which is what I use to keep a track on the averages for the industry. I’m very excited to hear from BuzzFeed’s [Michele DeVine] about how their programmatic advertising business is faring. [BuzzFeed] kind of sits in a unique position being partially news, partially lifestyle, partially quiz[zes], I guess, and [taking a look under that hood is] going to be interesting. I just wrote a story about the role of verification data and brand safety, and how that’s been impacting programmatic businesses as well. So hopefully, I can pick Michele’s brain a little bit on that.

[And then talking] about [publishers’] direct-sold advertising business, I spoke with [Forbes’ CRO Sherry Phillips] at the end of last year about events specifically and how their events business has been doing pretty well. And I think that’s one area of the advertising space that, despite budgets being tighter, publishers are still seeing a decent amount of success with events businesses. So I’m really curious to hear from [Phillips] about the role of direct-sold, and if advertisers are getting a little bit more leeway with those larger budgets and how those will be spent throughout this year.

The amazing and ambiguous AI

Guaglione: [One] session that I’m looking forward to doing is with Josh Jaffe, he’s the president of Ingenio, which owns sites like Astrology.com and Horoscope.com, to talk about AI. With the arrival of chatbots, like ChatGPT and integrations [of that] in Microsoft’s search engine Bing, it’s been really interesting to talk to executives at publishing companies to hear what they think the impact will be on their businesses and [in] content production. So I’m curious to hear from Josh, if their company is integrating AI technology when it comes to publishing and what the company’s thinking about or planning for when it comes to the potential impact of chatbots on their businesses, especially if someone can use ChatGPT in lieu of a search engine. I think it’s going to be interesting if someone can go into ChatGPT and search for their horoscope that month instead of going through a search engine to look that up and find Astrology.com’s website and a page about their horoscope. What impact will that have on trying to get people to come onto their sites, if that kind of takes the role of some search traffic?

Peterson: We’re going to have to put a cap on how many times people say AI on stage, or [have] some sort of filter to make sure that when AI comes up, it’s not buzzword bingo.

Guaglione: It’s so true because it’s so easy to throw that word around. I feel like AI is a buzzword that has been thrown around for years. And maybe right now is the first time that we’re really seeing people taking it quite seriously in terms of what it can do and what it might mean for the publishing business. 

Privacy party

Peterson: [One of the sessions I’m looking forward to is my session with] Mary Murcko from TheSkimm. We’re going to be talking about first-party data and data privacy, [which] in particular has been a pet obsession of mine since 2011 when Sen. Jay Rockefeller introduced the Do-Not-Track Act and I learned about how data was being collected and used online. And this year, there are five privacy laws taking effect in the United States that really upped the stakes for companies that are using [user data]. At the same time, collecting data is becoming even more important for publishers because of the third-party cookies going away at some point. But there’s also the point to be made of Apple’s Safari and Mozilla’s Firefox, third-party cookies are pretty much already toast. So publishers are having to deal with this anyway.

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