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Digital advertising industry trends: proving quality and scale

There are two huge trends going on in the digital advertising industry right now. First is “the flight to quality.” Many advertisers are fed up with brand safety and other issues on YouTube, Facebook, and other platforms and are redirecting...

By Paul Bannister

There are two huge trends going on in the digital advertising industry right now.

First is “the flight to quality.” Many advertisers are fed up with brand safety and other issues on YouTube, Facebook, and other platforms and are redirecting their budgets to safe, high-quality properties.

Second is the idea of “fewer, bigger partners.” Advertisers want to focus on bigger partnerships so they can reduce complexity and cut down the number of companies they work with.

The flight to quality

Advertisers face many challenges with online ads, including huge issues around brand safety, invalid traffic, and ad fraud in general. Brand safety deals with concerns about the content that surrounds the advertisement and how that influences public perception of the brand. Ad fraud concerns the value of spending on digital advertising — are advertisers getting what they’re paying for? Is the ad loading on the site and in the ad slot they expect? Is it reaching real humans? Are user actions authentic?

Advertisers want to make sure they are buying in safe places from trusted publishers. Big brands are implementing complex technology and human filtering processes to make sure that their advertising shows up in the places that give them the greatest return.

Surprisingly, given the technological world we live in, this is a very manual process. “White lists” are one of the most trusted ways advertisers restrict their spending. These lists are created by real people looking at sites and deciding whether a site is appropriate for a particular advertiser or not.

But these humans can’t look at every site on the internet — that stat stands at over 1.5 billion and growing every moment. They start by filtering down and only looking at a few thousand sites. We work to make sure CafeMedia sites are on that list!

Fewer, bigger partners

Let’s step back for a moment to talk about how most advertising works in general. Whether it’s ads on TV, billboards, podcasts, websites, magazines or anywhere else, almost any ad from a big company is actually created, bought and measured by an advertising agency.

There are different sorts of agencies (ones that make the ads, ones that buy the ads, etc.), but they are all, for the most part, owned by a small number of giant companies called “agency holding companies.” With names like Omnicom, WPP and Dentsu Aegis Network, these huge global companies decide where hundreds of billions of dollars of advertising budgets are spent.

While these companies generally span over 100,000 employees, the teams that are dedicated to a given brand, and dedicated to buying ads on the internet, usually aren’t that big. Even for a huge advertiser, there might be just 10–15 people focused on buying digital advertising, managing all of the campaigns, measuring results, determining budget allocation, and more.

That means these teams are strapped for resources and time. To maximize efficiency, they want to cut down on the number of individual partners they work with and focus on a small number of larger partners.

What this means for publishers

Advertisers don’t just want to work with the best digital properties — they also want to work with the largest, a trend that’s making it harder and harder for small and mid-sized publishers to work with advertisers.

This trend isn’t only affecting smaller publishers though. Even some of the largest publishers out there are consolidating to survive. For example, in 2018, Meredith, the parent publisher of Better Homes and Gardens, Parents, Shape, and dozens of other magazines and websites, bought Time., Inc. to create an even larger media company.

As advertisers work with an increasingly-narrow list of partners, publishers have to prove they have the quality and scale to earn their spot and access their share of advertising dollars.

How CafeMedia helps

All of this leads to how we’ve purposefully built CafeMedia as a great partner for advertisers and publishers alike. We bring advertisers the quality and scale they’re looking for, and your site has a seat at the table when ad dollars are allocated.

Let’s start with quality

CafeMedia publishers create the best content on the internet, setting an extremely high standard we strive to uphold with every new addition.

We take responsibility for protecting the level of quality in our network, which means new websites go through a rigorous vetting process. This includes systems we’ve built that conduct screening checks, and above and beyond that, a real human being visits and reviews every site alongside data from our ad partners. Focusing on high-quality sites that meet strict requirements helps us ensure the collective caliber of the CafeMedia publisher community.

And it lets advertisers spend money with the confidence that they’re showing their ads on safe, vetted, authentic, valuable content.

Proving scale with Comscore

Far from hindering growth, this focus on quality has helped us massively expand our publishers’ collective  size and influence.

Comscore is the tool advertisers use to measure the scale of publishers, just like advertisers use Nielsen for TV ratings. Comscore ranks web properties based on monthly unique visitors/views, with companies like Google and Facebook holding the top positions as you might expect.

In Comscore, the CafeMedia entity (all publishers whose traffic is represented by CafeMedia) ranks as the 11th largest web property in the US (May 2020). That’s bigger than massive companies like Disney, Pinterest, or USA Today!

Comscore also ranks properties on a category basis, like “Food”, “Home”, etc. When you dive into categories, CafeMedia publishers form the #1 largest property in Food, Family and Parenting, Lifestyle, and Home.

CafeMedia publishers also hold places in the top 10 for Travel, Pets, and Finance, and we’re rapidly gaining share in Sports, Technology, News, and other new categories.

More ad dollars for CafeMedia publishers

All of this means that when advertisers are looking to slim down their list of partners and choose the biggest and best, together, CafeMedia publishers make the cut.

Our focus on quality and scale is also helping us attract new publisher partners, so the CafeMedia community grows by tens of millions of pageviews each month. These large and high-quality additions reinforce the strength of our network to advertisers, helping everyone — and we’re just getting started.

We’re continuing to refine our vetting policies, we’re monitoring every site within the network constantly, and we’re expanding our outreach to bring in even more large-scale sites that help us make CafeMedia a top partner to the biggest brands in the world: advertisers and publishers alike!