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Weekly Roundup: Publishers’ Monetization Strategies, Header Bidding Trends, M&As.

Adtech Weekly Roundup
Publishers use subscriptions along with ads to diversify revenue, first-party data solutions gains momentum, adtech M&As and what it means for the ecosystem, and more in this week's roundup.


  • 51% of the UK publishers have grown their subscription revenue from Q3 2019 to Q3 2020. It is slowly becoming a prominent contributor to income. But ad revenue remains one of the top priorities for publishers.
  • Pages with live updates are not only helping with high retention, but they are also converting more subscribers. The NYT has doubled down on the format.
  • Amazon, Xander, Index Exchange, Magnite, and Pubmatic are the top five headerbidding adapters in the market. 69% of the client-side wrappers are built with Prebid.
  • DistrictM and Sharethrough will merge to form a single company. The merger will bring an optimized path and the scale necessary to attract more advertisers.
  • Hearst is using its first-party data to find the right licensing deals. Vox is winning clients for Forte (it’s first-party data solution) by providing results and eliminating any friction in adopting the product.

Latest Ad Tech Trends

Subscription revenue helps UK publishers 

Subscription revenue is gaining serious momentum among UK publishers. As per a report by AOP and Deloitte, subscription revenue saw a 51.3% growth from Q3 2019 to Q3 2020. The boost from paying consumers has helped 53% of the publishers in attaining positive growth.

Revenue diversification is a key concern for most publishers as 89% of publishers are prioritizing non-advertising revenue growth. Last year, only 60% of the publishers did so. But, the importance of ad revenue hasn’t decreased either, 78% of the publishers are looking at it as a high strategic priority.

Revenue Data WNIP

– Image Credit: WNIP

Live blogs are popular again

The coronavirus pandemic has made live blogs popular once again. When the pandemic started, the readers were hungry for news. Live blogs helped them with all the latest updates. Soon publishers realized that live content updates not only have high engagement but they are pretty good at subscriber conversion and retention as well. As a result, more and more publishers have started using this format in the past year.

For Philadelphia Inquirer, the format delivers twice the number of subscribers as the standard articles. Its Managing Editor says, “We hadn’t developed the habit you need to get people to come back and make us a part of their every day, the live blog has helped with that.” The NYT has doubled the number of times it has used the format in its briefing from 2018 to 2019. As per Digiday, publishers will keep experimenting to know whether live blogs will have an equal impact when the stories are important to smaller audiences.


The pandemic has made users more open to subscribing for reliable information. You shouldn’t miss on leveraging this change in user behavior because subscriptions will play a vital role in the coming years. On the other hand, you can see users prefer certain formats and if your readers have any favorites, ensure to retain it. 

Header Bidding Landscape

Header Bidding in Q1

The header bidding tracker from Kevel has recently updated its numbers for Q1 2021. Here are the highlights:

  • There’s been a marginal 2.2% decline in the top 10K US sites that use header bidding.
  • 69% of the client-side wrappers are built with Prebid.
  • 66% of the publishers in the US use header bidding on their sites.
  • Amazon, Xander, Index, Magnite, and Pubmatic are the top header bidding adapters in the market.

Top Header Bidding Adapters

District M and Sharethrough Merger

District M and Sharethrough are merging to form a single exchange. As a part of the merger, District M raised $19 million in Series C funding from existing Canadian investors, the Fonds de solidarité FTQ, Investissement Quebec, and Export & Development Canada. The merger will bring more scale to the combined company. It’ll be a positive move from the SPO perspective as well. Ultimately, it’ll become an attractive offering for advertisers.

The investor sentiments towards adtech have been positive lately. This is the right time for them to raise funds and expand. Last week, Magnite acquired SpotX. Pubmatic went public in December and its stock price has already doubled. The Trade Desk is touching its all-time high levels. In a nutshell, you can expect more companies merging, acquiring each other, and going public. 

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Strategies from Top Publishers


Hearst is closing brand licensing deals and making them successful with its first-party data. Its recent launch of Country Living Mattress Collection is one of the many deals to come. The publisher studies the user behavior on the site to understand what kind of products can be easily sold. Later, the insights help Hearst in signing the right deal. On the other hand, the advertisers get the desired marketing performance, making Hearst their preferred partner.

Findings like “the readers are willing to pay for expensive items — and make these big purchases online”, are enough to attract high-ticket deals. 

Paying attention to the first-party data has also helped the publisher in increasing its revenue by 150%. It also ranks 63 out of 150 global companies in total retail sales of licensed merchandise across every segment of consumer products.

Vox Media

Vox Media launched its first-party data solution named Forte in March 2020. Even when it was the worst time to launch anything under the sky, Forte came out as a successful product. More than 100 brands used it for their campaigns and it brought nearly half of the publisher’s display ad revenue.

Vox Media’s focus is to increase the adoption of the product that’s why it does not charge its clients. It has allowed its client to run side-by-side comparisons with other media buying methods at no cost to convince them to use Forte. The product delivers strong purchase-intent signals, a great insight for performance marketers.

In simple words, Vox is winning clients by providing results and eliminating any friction in adopting its product.

Google’s 12 New Manual Action Penalties for News and Discover

Google News and Discover will have 12 new policies that can bring manual penalties to publishers. Google enforces its policies in two ways – automated and manual. While automated enforcement does not involve humans, manual enforcement does. So, a manual penalty for violation of Google’s is the one that is initiated by a human reviewer. So far, manual enforcement was limited to Search, now it can be done for Discover and News policies as well. Here are the 12 new types of manual action penalties that Google has recently added to its policies.

  • Transparency: Sites appearing in Google News should have clear dates, bylines, information about authors, publication, publisher, parent company, and contact information.
  • Adult Content: Nudity, sex acts, sexually suggestive activities, or sexually explicit material should not be there on the sites that appear on Discover.
  • Misleading Content: Your story should be about the stated topic.
  • Dangerous Content: Your content shouldn’t be harmful to people or animals.
  • Harassing Content: Harassment, bullying, or threatening shouldn’t be caused by the content.
  • Hateful Content: You shouldn’t be inciting hatred.
  • Manipulative Media: The content should not have been manipulated to deceive, defraud, or mislead.
  • Medical Content: Medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment for commercial purposes shouldn’t be offered on your site.
  • Sexually Explicit Content: Explicit sexual imagery or videos are not allowed.
  • Terrorist Content: Terror activities shouldn’t be promoted.
  • Violence and Gore Content: Violence shouldn’t be glorified on your site.
  • Vulgar Language and Profanity: Gratuitous obscenities or profanities shouldn’t be present on your site.

Any violation of these policies during inspections can attract penalties from Google and your site can lose its place from News or Discover or both.

Moments that Matter

Bloomberg expects $100 million in 2021 consumer subscription revenue – Axios.

Publishers see new life in the old open web – Axios.

Tapad Launches An Identity Resolution Solution To Link All The New Cookieless IDs – AdExchanger.

Google News Showcase UK launch as part of $1bn global scheme – PressGazette.

Automatad Team

At Automatad, we help publishers to monetize better without hampering the user experience. Our products are live across hundreds of publishers, earning them incremental ad revenue with every passing second. You can request a free audit to get an estimated revenue uplift today.

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