Aishwarya Ramesh

How can adtech aid bid for monetisation for publishers?

On Day 2 of the virtual edition of Digipub Week, a panel discussion looked at how to reimagine adtech for web publishers to monetise content effectively.

The Coronavirus pandemic has brought about significant changes in the way that the users operate and consume content. News, entertainment, education, shopping, and a few other facets of life have gone virtual. Since technology is such a central part of our lives, especially during the pandemic, it also played a central role in the panel discussion held on Day 2 of Digipub World’s first-ever virtual edition.

The topic of discussion was ‘Reimagining advertising technology for web publishers’, and it saw participation from eminent personalities of the publishing world. The session was moderated by Dikshant Joshi, director, publisher development, AdPushup.

The panellists included Ankit Oberoi, CEO and co-founder, AdPushup; Dinesh Joshi, assistant VP and head of monetisation, Jagran New Media; Rohit Chadda, CEO, digital publishing, Zee Group; Shouneel Charles, executive VP, digital, Times Network; and Sanjay Trehan, an independent consultant and former MSN India head.

The presenting partner of the discussion was AdPushup, the cloud security partner was Akamai Technologies, the technology partner was Quintype, and the associate partner was Chartbeat.

The main question discussed was - how can publishers focus on optimising ad inventory to maximise revenue, while maintaining the journalistic quality of the site?

Despite the challenges, advertising technology, at the core of its existence, can be a sustainable, profitable, and a safe source of revenue. The panel discussion focused mainly on how publishers could use technology to be more competitive and, hence, earn more revenue via advertising technology.

To begin with, the moderator (Dikshant Joshi) asked the panellists how the pandemic had affected their businesses. Most panellists agreed that their sites had seen a marked increase in traffic as a result of users being homebound.

Jagran New Media’s (Dinesh) Joshi agreed, claiming that his group’s publications had seen a huge rise in traffic – more than 50 per cent – since the Coronavirus-induced lockdown began. Zee Group’s Chadda also agreed that the pandemic had done good things in terms of user acquisition for all content-led businesses.

Trehan added that the pandemic has forced many traditional outlets to o for more digital methods of delivery. The likes of newspapers have seen an uptick in their digital audiences during the pandemic, as many subscribers had discontinued the newspapers at their homes over fears of contracting the virus.

Charles of Times Network called the pandemic ‘an abrupt event’ that gave content publishers a good time to think about housekeeping and maintenance of technical aspects of their sites that can enable monetisation.

“The digital medium used to be a promise for the future, but that’s changed completely now. More companies are switching focus from traditional mediums to growing their digital channels. Digital-first companies are also seeing an increase in returning revenue.”

Charles also said that there are major behavioural changes that even the television executives are going through. He explained that the digital arm of mainline publications used to play a supplementary role – but that has changed with the onset of the pandemic.

Chadda added that there was a growth in adoption of connected devices, such as smart televisions. Dinesh agreed, saying that users were finally looking for uses of the smart TVs, apart from just using DTH platforms to watch TV on. He added that more people are leaning towards OTT offerings when their previous preference used to be in the digital space.

AdPushup’s Oberoi said that for mainline organisations, the digital parts are in a position to return money and start becoming profitable, and create ROI for the money which has been invested.

“So far, the importance of ad technology, especially from an optimisation and revenue generation standpoint, has really changed... The playbooks have been completely rewritten. Even before the Coronavirus pandemic, there have been monumental changes from Google’s first party auctions, to cookies, and so on.”

Chadda mentioned that it’s important for the publishers to create content, without worrying about the technology side of things. “The most important part of monetisation is creating content that users will be motivated to pay for.”

Trehan added that it is important to understand that consumers will not give up on newspapers, as it is an aspirational habit that marks the rise of the middle class. “The credibility of a newspaper is something that can’t be replaced. However, newspapers need to change from reporting, to being ‘views’papers. The digital medium already covers hyperlocal news well. It would help newspapers if they honed their expertise by writing analytical, explanatory pieces.”

Charles concluded by saying that ad monetisation is in a tricky place, as more people are looking to cash in on their digital presence. “Ad rates have not gone up, the ad dollar rate is very cheap. Before, it used to be that the print and TV businesses would supplement their mainline business with their digital presence, but that has changed during the pandemic. Adtech monetisation needs to evolve to support the increasingly important role that digital sites are playing in content consumption.”

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