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Digital media industry trends, 8/14/20

Things are picking up in August, potentially indicating a strong end to the year. We're working hard now, behind the scenes, to prepare for the fourth quarter. We've made updates to our compliance solution for GDPR, keeping your ads in...

By Paul Bannister

Things are picking up in August, potentially indicating a strong end to the year. We’re working hard now, behind the scenes, to prepare for the fourth quarter.

We’ve made updates to our compliance solution for GDPR, keeping your ads in line with recent updates to the legislation and working to optimize opt-in rates.

We’re also looking at ways back to school is different this year and how advertisers and publishers can respond to readers’ unique, post-COVID needs..

What’s fresh with ad trends

From an advertising perspective, July tends to be one of the slowest months of the year and August begins to pick up the pace. August 2020 shows similar advertiser spending patterns (from day to day and week to week) to this time last year. Even though 2020 spending isn’t much stronger than 2019 due to the continued effects of COVID-19, the fact that underlying trends are consistent is a good sign. 


Anyone who has been an ad-supported publisher in years past knows that the fourth quarter (October, November, December) has the highest advertiser spending by far. A consistent third quarter means that we can probably expect similar spending increases at the end of this year. Q4 2020 likely won’t be significantly better than Q4 2019, but we are optimistic that things may be similar. 

Because Q4 is so big for advertiser spending, Q3 is a period of significant preparation.CafeMedia has a raft of new advertising partners we’re setting up right now, and we’re optimizing our existing partnerships to help publishers get the absolute most out of the rest of 2020. 

On the engineering side, our leadership position within the Prebid organization is giving us early insights into the latest features. Prebid is the underlying code that almost all publisher advertising systems run on, and they just released version 4.0, a big upgrade from the prior versions. CafeMedia was the only publisher or ad management firm to contribute code to this release, so CafeMedia publishers will be best positioned to benefit from these latest and greatest features!

A hot topic this week: TCF 2.0 and GDPR

Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) specifies users’ rights over the use of their data. With advertising heavily reliant on information about users to deliver the smartest ads, this has translated into lots of consent messages littered across websites since the GDPR went into effect in May 2018.

That’s why the IAB (Interactive Advertising Bureau) introduced their Transparency and Consent Framework (TCF), as a standardized way for publishers to manage gathering user consent for advertising purposes.

The IAB stopped supporting version 1.1 of the TCF on August 15, 2020, meaning all publishers’ consent management platforms (CMPs) now must meet TCF 2.0 requirements.

The good news for CafeMedia publishers is that we’ve already upgraded our CMP on the backend for TCF 2.0, safeguarding their ads for GDPR. The consent box European visitors receive looks a little different now, since it’s designed to maximize opt-in rates (protecting revenue from EU traffic) while including all the latest specifications for GDPR compliance. 

Back-to-school insights and content strategy

If the words “back to school” cause your blood pressure to spike at this point, you’re not alone. 

For so many, the world is now divided into two main time periods, pre-COVID and post-COVID, and going back to school in a post-COVID world obviously looks nothing like previous years.

With so much uncertainty this fall, we surveyed moms of school-aged kids online to help our advertising partners and publishers shape their approach.

What best describes your school district’s plans for this fall?

  • Remote (29%)
  • Mix of remote & in-person (37%)
  • In-person (21%)
  • Don’t know yet (13%)

Back-to-school shopping is delayed this year, with 71% only beginning to shop in August (or later) this year.

But many moms are also planning to spend more on back to school shopping this year compared to last year, with a notable 56% saying they’ll spend the same or more on electronics.

How much do you plan to spend on back-to-school shopping this year (in this category) compared to last year?

  • Overall: 59% plan to spend the same or more
  • Electronics: 56% plan to spend the same or more
  • Shoes: 56% plan to spend the same or more
  • Crafts: 53% plan to spend the same or more
  • Clothes: 52% plan to spend the same or more
  • Supplies: 52% plan to spend the same or more

Where the first day of school has historically been a landmark to celebrate, it brings an entirely new set of emotions for parents this year:

The takeaway for publishers: With 74% of moms conducting their back-to-school spending online this year, there’s a strong opportunity for publishers to meet their needs with product guides and affiliate marketing, as well as by creating content that addresses this year’s unique back to school fears and concerns.