RTB Means Really Tough Business

The always reliable Digiday did a piece yesterday on Real Time Bidding (some folks say Buying) and the effect it’s having on web publishers. Entitled “Publishers Face RTB Pressures,” it’s an excellent though depressing overview of what’s happening in the digital publishing business due to the steady growth of programmatic ad buying. I can’t sum it up any better than this:

The drive for more efficient buys in RTB is putting pricing pressure on the entire display ad market. According to Magna Global, display advertising globally rose just 1.5 percent in 2013. That’s not very good in a market that expanded 14.4 percent overall for the year. In fact, the reason Magna identified: price drops.

That’s the situation today, when 17 percent of buying is through exchanges. In five years, Magna director of global forecasting Vincent Letang expects 43 percent of display advertising to be bought and sold via exchanges.

In other words, there’s too much inventory and these formulae don’t give the quality of your content enough consideration.  Heaven forbid that humans actually enter the equation!  Before all of my friends who sell non-digital media get too smug, one can rest assured that when the efficiencies of this buying protocol become evident that someone will push it on TV and print just as sure as the sun shines.  So is this a bad thing?

If you’re buying audiences for your marketing messages, no, it’s not.  It is, however, if you’re a content creator who tries to make money off your content by selling the audiences it attracts.  I suppose that means that if I were in the content business I’d get the hell out by selling off my audience monetization to someone else – a publisher or distributor.  I’d give up some of the upside in return for protecting the downside push to the bottom RTB is forcing.  As the article says “Efficiency is a great thing unless what you do is what is being made more efficient.”  It’s not going to be long (and it may be here already) before the quality of the content is impacted as the resources to produce consistently great stuff just aren’t there.

If I were back being a publisher, I’d be spending a lot of time having someone think about our syndication strategy and fast.  Let  someone else ride the ad wave down to the bottom.  My content – and yours – is worth more than that.

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Filed under digital media, Reality checks

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