Rebooting “Premium.”

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Rebooting PremiumI labored over this edition of The Drift for a couple of days trying to wrestle a couple of distinct stories and ideas into a common theme.   Even now I’m not sure how I did.  You be the judges and add your comments below.

The first story that struck me was an interview with AppNexus CEO Brian O’Kelley.  (Full disclosure: AppNexus is a sponsor at an Upstream Group event, but most readers will recognize that won’t  have much if any impact on what’s being said here.)   A few paragraphs into a business story in The Guardian, Brian tossed in this little mind-grenade: “The amount of quality supply [of content] online isn’t growing, while I think that advertising interest in it is going to grow significantly and we’ll see CPMs [cost per 1,000 impressions] increase rapidly over the next few years.”  So here’s the CEO of a very successful online trading platform talking about the value of content and context, even putting  it into the simple language of supply and demand.  I don’t know about you , but I’ve heard so many “magic beans” stories from so many programmatic players over the years that I was starting to get a little jaded.   This is remarkable.

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Brian is right.  While pageview and impression counts continue to skyrocket, there’s just not very much truly premium content and context out there.  As I wrote in The Drift way back in 2002, “On the one hand, we have ‘the prime time Internet,’ awash with fresh content, clean environments and strong brands. On ‘the other Internet’ it’s always 1:30 in the morning and there’s nothing on but F-Troop reruns and per-inquiry spots for the Garden Weasel.”    Since I wrote that, we’ve gone through the display network age, the invention of exchanges and trading tech and come out the other side.  And it turns out content mattered all along.  Who knew?

The other article that that made me set down my coffee was the report about ComScore’s recent presentation to the Advertising Research Foundation (ARF).  Did we say 31% of online ads are not viewed at all?  Make that over 50%!  We can quibble over the numbers and percentages, but it’s beyond question that there’s a lot of really questionable shit going down at 1:30 in the morning.  “The Leftover Web” has been mined, and analyzed and optimized and picked over infinitely.  And what has it created so far?  I’m certainly not saying programmatic isn’t something premium publishers shouldn’t explore, but it’s certainly not going to float the yacht by itself.

The tea leaves in the bottom of the cup are starting to form a picture.  The head of one of the biggest buying platforms asserts the core value of context while the head of one of the biggest measurement players tells us The Leftover Web has a creeping case of “viewability mold.”  If there’s a better moment for content creators to start circling the wagons and reassert the value of their content – be it text or video – I can’t imagine when that might be.

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