Subscribers or Not, the Uphill Battle Continues to Exist
If you’re a publisher, you inevitably come across a dilemma – Paywalls or Advertising. Some publishers have tried paywalls and learned their lessons the hard way. While a (lucky) few succeeded with a mixed strategy (Think paywalls, free content, and metered walls packed together).
Whether you’re already putting a paywall or planning to try it in the future, we have an interesting story for you.
Even The Times struggles to grow its subscribers
The Times and Paywalls are considered synonyms to each other. So, pulling in $340 million a year from online subscription shouldn’t be a surprise. However, it isn’t easy to meet the quarterly expectations and grow subscription revenue (even if you’re The New York Times).
The digital subscribers to the Times are growing year-over-year, but the revenue from those subscribers aren’t showing a steep increase. The publisher reported that the ARPU (Average Revenue Per User) has declined by 1 percent this Q3 and will continue to do so because of the bundled discounts and offers.
Flexible Paywalls – A Panacea?
The publisher’s latest bet to attract, retain, and convert readers without compromising ARPU is implementing a flexible paywall. Flexible paywalls isn’t a whole new concept. Publishers like Hearst Magazines and The Wall Street Journal have all successfully implemented their own adapting paywalls after years of testing.
According to a study by American Institute Press, readers subscribe to the digital newspapers mainly because of the (1) Access to local news and a number of interesting articles (2) Access to unlimited articles. The paywalls may help the publisher to show up at the right time, ultimately the worth of the publisher determines the conversion rates. Analyze, extrapolate, and experiment before making any decisions.
Data Is The New Black
Data is the fuel of digital advertising and those who have the ability to provide sophisticated audience data can benefit from substantial market share and premium CPM/CPC. So far, Google and Facebook have done it (you don’t need us to go through their dominance in the market).
But there’s a new trend rising in the industry and it has the potential to help the Open Internet.
You want some? Come get some
Here’s what the majority of the ad tech companies claim to do – “Buyers, we help you improve the ROI by targeting the right people, at the right place, at the right moment. And, publishers, your audience will be served the perfect ads based on their behavior and Internet history”.
Not just ad tech, companies, and data miners in the non-advertising space understand this and are increasingly willing to be a data supplier. More recently, Three, a UK mobile network approached the adtech industry as ‘vendor for anonymized customer data’.
The company has partnered with Zeotap to offer two programmatic ad products. ‘Relevant advertising’, which helps advertisers to reach 10 Million Three customers based on data such as age, gender, home location, and work location. ‘Connect’ is another ad product to help target ads by combining Three customer data with other datasets.
“We’ll scale the ad business through partnerships rather than try to own a DSP to rival Google that will cost hundreds of millions of dollars to build and run. We’re not going into battle with Google and Facebook.”
– Charlie McGee, director of advertising at Three U.K.
As per the company, users (Opt-in rate is at 94 percent) opt-in to share and use data for advertising through its rewarding app. So, GDPR compliant and safe to partner with.
ISPs = Advertising Networks
If you think that the shift towards advertising is quite fresh for an ISP, you need to look at this. Starting from AT&T (AdWorks) to Sprint to Verizon, everyone is offering addressable advertising products. The trend will likely to continue as ISPs are looking for a way to diversify their revenue streams. However, we believe the problem is with the fragmented data and transparency.
Next Up, Ad Creative Personalization
We know there’s a lot of technologies available to use data for ad targeting. But what about ad creatives? Aren’t they as important as the people who’re viewing it? If marketers are investing to find and target the right audience, why aren’t they personalizing the ad creatives for the users?
Well, the marketers are indeed creating ads based on the buyer persona. They aren’t just changing the creative for the individual users. If you belong to the 22 to 30 age group, you’ll see the same ad as others in the group.
To be frank, advertisers haven’t found the necessity to create different ad creatives for different users and besides, the data required to match the creative with the right user makes the ad serving process even more complex than it is.
However, that doesn’t mean no one’s doing it. In fact, Forrester’s latest landscape research paper suggests the rise of ‘Creative Advertising Technology’ and the only purpose of this tech is to dynamically change/optimize ad creatives based on the user data.
Theoretically, you and I will be shown a different ad creative from the same brand as we are unique. Not to exaggerate, Clinch, who’s been named as the leader in the category claims to enable marketers to communicate “on a one-to-one basis, with individualized creative experience”.
The technology is worthy enough to keep track of but if it aims to be a stand-alone platform, there’s a long way to go. Secondly, yet another reason for you to start working on a data strategy.
An Encyclopedia For Cookies
Cookies are becoming a problem for publishers. Unless you have logged-in readers/subscribers, it is not possible for you to show relevant ads without the help of cookies. Publishers are ignoring server-to-server bidding, just because cookie syncing wouldn’t be impressive or complete. The uneventful cookie syncing process results in decreased match rates, and ultimately, depreciated CPMs.
On the other hand, with the introduction of privacy laws like GDPR, it is now a drawback to hinge on the cookie syncing process. Criteo is still losing money because of its reliance on cookies.
So, what’s the solution?
As a publisher, it isn’t possible for you to come up with a cookie-less solution yourself. All you can do it keep up with the ID-based solutions and adopt the right ones. More recently, Digiday reported that the Association of Online Publishers (AOP) and The Media Trust have come up with a solution to help publishers clean up their sites.
Dubbed as ‘Cookie Pool’, publishers like you will be given free access (log-in) to the repository where all the cookies are listed with their vendor details and purposes.
“This is a very useful [tool] and a great step forward”
– Dan Powell-Rees, head of technology optimization for the Guardian.
News UK and The Guardian are planning to use the tool and AOP says the national newspapers will be the first to actively use the tool. As GDPR has made it compulsory for vendors to disclose the information and purpose, it would be easy for the consortium to get all the info needed on the cookies. We’ll let you know once it’s been made available to all. At least, now everyone knows what the weird tags on the website actually means and most importantly, whether they’re meant to be there in the first place.