What’s Holding Publishers Back From Selling More Inventory Programmatically?

August 22, 2019

The monetization potential of inventory is the most commonly-cited top benefit for publishers selling programmatically, although publishers have concerns over diminishing margins, per a study by Advertiser Perceptions made available to MarketingCharts.

Other benefits cited by publishers for selling inventory programmatically include the ability to leverage data, faster, simpler order execution or IO processes, and access to new demand sources. In addition, some cite the ability to strengthen a publisher brand by association with a premier ad tech partner as well as the potential for reducing overhead.

So what’s holding publishers back from selling more programmatically? The most frequent reason cited was the challenge of minimizing and controlling bots, fraud and malware, with 59% of those surveyed choosing this as one of their top three hurdles (from a list of 7). Rightly so, as an earlier Advertiser Perceptions study showed that fraud and non-human traffic was the most negative aspect of buying programmatically on the advertiser side – a concern that grew significantly last year.

In contrast to the opportunity of monetizing inventory, around half (49%) also listed diminishing publisher margins on impressions sold as a factor limiting the share of inventory allocated towards programmatic. Indeed, publishers are under constant pressure – whether from falling referral traffic or from a sour outlook in print media revenue sources.

But there may be a shift towards a middle ground. Separate data from eMarketer shows that US ad spend on private marketplaces (PMPs) will pass that of open exchanges in 2020, which could help address concerns on both the buy-side and sell-side. This change is reflected in this Advertiser Perceptions survey, with 68% already using a PMP (up by 7 points since last year).

Other key findings from the report include:

  • The use of ads.txt (an IAB-promoted method for publishers to identify authorized sellers of their inventory) may be losing steam. One-quarter (26%) of respondents say they are firmly committed to using ads.txt, but this has fallen 5 percentage points since August 2018.
  • However, 6 in 10 say that it is very important that a supply-side platform (SSP) prevents counterfeit inventory by using ads.txt.
  • 30% of respondents expect to use 10 or more SSPs next year.

About the Data: Based on a survey of 155 digital sales and operations contacts who sell inventory programmatically and use an SSP.

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