Mergers and acquisitions, a slow industry pivot away from third-party data, and business expansion dominated the headlines in media and sell-side advertising technology in 2021.
What does the industry expect for 2022? More of these same trends continue to play out in the coming year.
first party first
In 2022 and beyond, platforms with select audiences will be well positioned to monetize first-party data sets. And publishers who have been slow to switch to first-party data will scramble to meet Google’s latest deadline to stop third-party cookies in Chrome at the end of 2023.
“Those who advertise in cookie-free environments early on can reap the competitive advantage by reaching new audiences, more inventory and more expanded advertising results,” said Konrad Feldman, Quantcast Co-Founder and CEO.
The same is true for publishers, who can use first-party data sets to create ads with more dynamic messages for different subsections of their audience.
Kim Oscarson, director of email marketing at Ziff Media Group, said Ziff Davis uses first-party customer data for modeling to ensure it reaches the right customers and pairs them with the right ads. “Possible customers see ads with potential messages, existing customers see ads in a language you’re talking to and backward customers see a language trying to get them back.”
But with third-party data neglect still nearly two years away, business based on third-party data will continue as normal until the rug is pulled from under it.
“As long as there is a product that you can sell at a reasonable price, and people want to buy it, keep it up,” said Karl Liskinen, CEO of Burt Intelligence. “Business as usual until the lights go out.”
Content worth subscribing to
Getting first-party data should be easier for publishers. Liskinen said consumers choose multiple subscription-based services, making it a convenient opportunity to collect first-party data. “Anyone who doesn’t think about how to create a business will probably start out with their products,” he said.
On-demand formats like podcasts and CTV are progressive for a reason. Publishers must meet the audience’s changing demands, such as creating podcast or video content, to ensure that they offer the best possible product.
“We have all changed our behaviors over the past 18 months so that we are not in such a scheduled environment,” said Kevin Hartbarger, DTC strategist for Publicis Health Media, which makes it important for traditional media platforms to find opportunity in video or audio on-demand content.
The continuing impact of e-commerce
The impact of e-commerce is so strong that it will become difficult to distinguish between publishers and retailers in the coming years.
“More and more traditional publishers are trying to implement an e-commerce method to track user behavior,” said Johan Lilgelund, chief technology officer at DanAds. “When we look two years into the future, what kind of publishers will we have? Companies like Walmart that have the most customer data will want to get more out of the supply chain, and they’ll take over a lot of the advertising industry.”
Marketers also borrow from media companies. “The line between the buy side and the sell side has been blurry for years,” said Liskinen of Burt Intelligence. It will be difficult to distinguish between a marketer and a publisher. They both have Instagram accounts that they create content for. Best Buy runs Samsung ads on its web pages. Every company has become a media company.”
Consolidation and public offerings
High-profile mergers and acquisitions rocked the digital media space in 2021.
Some examples include Dotdash’s $2.7 billion purchase of Meredith’s National Media Group, the $1 billion purchase of Axel Springer Politico, BuzzFeed’s acquisition of Complex before it went public, Group Nine and Vox Media together, and Future plc which added Mozo and Marie Claire US and Dennis Publishing to its portfolio.
Will the trend of consolidation continue until 2022? All signs point to yes. Several digital media giants, including Forbes, Vox Media and Reddit, are targeting initial public offerings in the near future. Acquisitions are an attractive option to boost the company’s valuation before a public offering. Standardization also tends to create more profitable publishing platforms that have money to invest in improving their content and ad buying experience.
“this is [consolidation] It will fix a structural problem, which has been overlooked for the past decade or so: There cannot be high-quality digital advertising without high-quality media environments,” said audience and monetization consultant Alessandro de Zanch. He added that high-quality media environments prioritize “high-quality content.” quality and user experience, which requires media owners to be self-sustaining in order to afford the investment.”
As publishers seek to maximize profitability, they may put pressure on intermediaries in the advertising supply chain or consider purchasing or building their own solution. Publishers who own the means can develop their own ad serving technology or acquire third-party ad technology companies.
Building internal technology groups allows publishers to monetize user data without relying on external service providers to associate KPIs with specific user identifiers via third-party cookies. This way of doing things will soon become obsolete, anyway.
“The desire to remove middlemen and tax the advertising ecosystem is at the forefront of creating efficiencies,” said Chad Engelgau, CEO of Acxiom, with the caveat that it must be done in a privacy-compliant manner.
The Washington Post’s Zeus technology has proven successful, with adoption across a wider network of publishers.
However, publishers have historically had more success developing their own in-house technologies tailored to them rather than acquiring outside companies.
For example, after AT&T acquired Xandr in 2016, its content arm, WarnerMedia, was not closely associated with Xandr, and Xandr was eventually sold to Microsoft. News Corp sold Unruly after dipping its toes in advertising technology, and Meredith sold Time Inc.’s ambitions. In the field of advertising technology together with Viant. Companies survived – just not related to business content.
However, when media brands work together, they can address more audience areas and reach a scale that makes advertisers take notice.
“A strong future for media brands lies in two scenarios,” de Zanch said. One of them has a large reach in a particular country. Another condition for success, according to De Zanche, is strong implementation: “consistency of standards, formats, practices, data, and processes, and ease of doing business.”
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