Good Advertising Should Seem Like Content

“Advertising is at its best when it brings you back to a place and time – remember how you felt the first time you saw the grandmother from Wendy’s “Where’s the Beef?” or Coke’s “Mean Joe Green”.  Unfortunately, too often we treat advertising like a mass production line: commoditizing it and diluting it to the point that it no longer matters and becomes white noise.”

This quote from Larry Allen in Business Insider hits the nail right on the head for me. For a long time, I’ve thought digital advertising can be as impactful as TV advertising. But right now, it’s sold incorrectly and executed without true creativity, almost as if creative were an afterthought. The advertising of my youth, known for its cleverness and excitement, has faded into the vanilla digital banner, or the slow-loading flash ad.

Of course these kinds of ads don’t work. Ads, Allen says, should be like music: pleasant to listen to and evocative of emotions. Brands are dissatisfied with the current data-driven state of digital advertising,, because they want engagement. Publishers are losing revenue. How do we fix that? With new formats that make advertising compelling again, with effectiveness that can truly be measured.

According to DoubleVerify, which monitors brand exposure, most impressions are not viewable.

— Only 54 percent of impressions matched IAB viewability parameters,

which state that an ad must be at least 50 percent viewable on the

screen for at least one second to be considered “viewable”.

— For a major advertiser, the highest brand exposure duration for a

campaign was 95 seconds while for another advertiser it was only 18

seconds.

— For duration of more than one second, the highest performing media

seller had a viewability rate of 83 percent while the lowest was 28

percent.

— The top performing media sellers had average viewability of 75 percent

while the low performing had average viewability of 40 percent.

— For all media sellers, the average ad viewability rates declined with

time as follows:

— One second or more: 54 percent

— Three seconds or more: 43 percent

— Five seconds or more: 36 percent

— 10 seconds or more: 27 percent

— 30 seconds or more: 12 percent

Media sellers using our high impact formats can demonstrate 99% viewable impressions.

How do we fix this? We need new and better technology for publishers. ZEDO has this technology and it has been adopted by hundreds of sites across the US. Publishers using our high impact formats get 99% viewable impressions. And  brand advertisers notice that and call our publishers. One agency has put out an RFP strictly for viewable impressions..

And with these the new highly viewable ZEDO formats that users actually see, especially ones that include video, creative directors can finally take their great TV ads and show them to hundreds of millions of target consumers on the web. Bring back the good old days of “Mad Men,” when fun creative that everyone viewed made the day.


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New Ad Technologies Work Connect Readers to Advertisers

Every once in a while, it’s good to be reminded that the goal of a newspaper, although it may seem to be just delivering news to readers, is also to deliver readers to advertisers. Traditionally, content in newspapers has been subsidized by ad revenue, and for the past decade the way advertisers connect to their readers has been shifting — first from print to online, and now from search to display, and from “one price fits all” to real time auctions.

One of the newest trends, the rise of Real Time Bidding (RTB) in which inventory from publishers is sold by auction in real time, has begun to change how readers are delivered.

A user heads to a page on a publisher’s website, causing it to start loading. In the same instant the publisher sends out a ‘bid request’ to thousands of potential advertisers saying, “We’ve got this user who is 30, male and based in New Jersey, US, and in the past has searched for return air tickets to London, visiting a page on our site. How much are you willing to bid for being the only ad on this page?”

Within about 100 milliseconds the publisher ad server (like ZEDO) gets bids from different advertisers, which it then analyses to figure out the highest bidder. The winner is alerted by the publisher and allowed to place its ad on the page.

The remarkable thing about this entire process is how fast and how often it takes place. The entire series of to-and-fro communication between publisher and advertisers takes place in 300-500 milliseconds, causing no visible delay to the user.

The process is repeated for every ad on the page, and it connects the “right” reader with the “right” (targeted) ad.

In the US, IDC estimates that real time advertising will grow at a compounded rate of 71 per cent in the US until 2015 and end up being 27 per cent of the overall online ad spending. In Europe, growth is expected to be even faster — above 100% annually.

The prices that publishers receive from these auctions are not yet very exciting. But they will grow. The gating factor is how willing publishers are to spend on new technology. We think the publishers will realize that there’s more to online advertising than the old standard 3 ad sizes, and will begin to monetize their sites with innovative formats like our InView Formats, TVAds OnPage, and other eye-catchers. That inventory is more effective and in short supply. Therefore the auction will generate higher prices for publishers.

Related articles:
ZEDO’s New InView Slider Runs on Any Ad Server (zedo.com)
Internet Ads Can (and Will) be As Effective as TV (zedo.com)
Publishers: Now You Can Monetize Below the Fold (zedo.com)

Innovation in Ad Serving

I found this post about ad servers on Darren Hermann’s blog, and it underscores why we’re going in the direction we are going.

“If I personally was to start a company tomorrow, I’d probably create the next 3rd party ad serving system built for the future of all media (able to serve site-direct placements, social media and RTB) and include the opportunity for biddable, rich media, video, and full reporting & analytics.  I believe no ad serving system delivers superior reporting and analytics so this is an area that I’d specifically make sure I’d nail.”

He’s right! We are moving toward greater and greater focus on analytics for our publisher customers so they can use those analytics for their advertisers — the agencies and brands.

“I think this is an area for massive innovation because… the industry hasn’t recognized the full vision for the future… I believe that all media will be served, tracked, and optimized across all channels.  Television, print, radio, and out of home will all in some way or another be served, tracked and optimized.  This obviously cannot happen overnight as there are quite a few barriers and obstacles to go thru, but the opportunity is huge.  There is a reason why 87.5% of the companies in the ad serving segment have been acquired.”

Note, I don’t think you need to start from scratch.  If you could raise some money, you can start by acquiring several of the pieces.  There are quite a few DSPs who could use an exit right now.   There are even some large independent ad servers who would be interested.  A roll-up strategy would be interesting and something that could come together nicely.

One of the bigger parts here is that you need to service the advertiser (or marketer).  This needs to be written on all company walls.   Mandated thru corporate handbooks.  This is similar to how SSP’s service the publisher.  You cannot be all things to everyone and when this happens, decisions sometimes become very tough to make as you try to please too many constituents.  Think about all the decisions Google (and Admeld) had to make about where to flow it’s ad dollars – to Google-run sites or it’s 3rd party network of sites.  Stick to one core area of focus and innovate within it.

Darren is right on. From the beginning, we’ve been a partner for publishers. And the publishers are the partner of advertisers. The most important part of the future of digital advertising: collaboration and partnership. The next most important part: measurement that is meaningful.

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Monitoring Digital Ads for Effectiveness

Larry Allen, a Business Insider contributor, recently wrote that we need a new way to define ad impressions. In his article, he correctly points out that the old definition of an ad impression is obsolete:

“Today we have a different challenge: there are many new types of ad formats with a variety of ways to measure and, more importantly, publishers have evolved by creating websites that look more like blog rolls or scrolls of pages. These changes are rendering the old technical definition of an ad impression obsolete.”

That’s correct. Readers who would only look at the top of the page two years ago will zoom through a seemingly infinitely long page today — if there’s content they want to see.

Where we at ZEDO differ from Larry is in what we think of the new method put forth by IAB, 4As and ANA: we embrace it. We think it’s right. He says

“The IAB, and other similar organizations (4As and the ANA), have put forth a plan to promote a new measure that would only count viewable impressions. This effort serves to improve the quality and performance of online advertising and protect the advertiser from paying for unseen ads.

In theory, this change sounds great, but it may have unexpected repercussions – some good, and some bad, depending on your position. Marketers may initially like the idea of more control, as they will only pay for impressions that are in view to the consumer. Publishers will enjoy the increased pricing options on viewable placements and rewards for highly engaging content. Even ad networks and exchanges would benefit from eliminating the question of quality and creating more opportunities to fill branding campaigns.”

So where is the problem?  Allen thinks it lies in the fact that new rules might not take into consideration account time view. He also worries that without engaging content, inventory could drop;  and he sees a new need for monitoring whether an ad is actually in view. We already measure all this.

We have been testing  new measurement techniques with our InView ad formats and many of our publisher partners. The publishers have found that the slider is in view 99% of the time. They also find it gives them a new revenue source.“We decided to work with ZEDO because its products  enable us to offer our customers more creative solutions through monetizing a new segment of our inventory.” says Sandy Lohr, Vice President of Sales for Advance Internet. “We share ZEDO’s vision to improve online advertising for brand advertisers.”

Since we are already using Comscore‘s monitoring technology, we can immediately fill that new need for monitoring. We are already doing it.


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Comscore, Google Analytics Give Advertisers Better Information

Google has made updates to Google Analytics that will make it easier to use and more useful to

Image representing Google Analytics as depicte...

Image via CrunchBase

marketers. Google’s 2012 updates come on the heels of Comscore’s announcement about its vCE (Validated Campaign Effectiveness) platform, and they work together to help publishers maximize revenue and advertisers make better buys.

Here’s what the Google Analytics blog says:

Vanity counters, such as friend counts and reshares, will be augmented with bottom line metrics like conversions and purchases, allowing marketers to measure true social ROI of each campaign and compare the effectiveness with other channels. With additional visibility into off-site activity, enhanced campaign tracking and referral analytics, 2012 is the year that social analytics comes to life.

With real time data feeding into remarketing, ad content optimization, and real time bidding systems, advertisers are closer than ever to finding the right customer with the right ad at the right time. As these real time systems converge, there’s huge potential to integrate analytics to pull in deeper and richer information about user intent.

What does this mean to publishers? It will mean advertisers will be able to buy more judiciously, show the right ads to the right visitors, and your CPMs will probably go up. Our goal is to make Internet advertising as effective as TV advertising. There’s no logical reason this should not be the case.

Online advertising has never been able to prove itself, except in isolated cases, until recently. By isolated cases, I mean targeted sites that know their customers and sell directly. Leo laPorte, founder of TWIT.tv, an online podcast network, says his shows have become costly for advertisers ($85) because they’ve been demonstrated to move product. This, of course, is what advertisers really want. Performance.

So don’t fear measurement. Embrace it, and begin to tune your content accordingly. At ZEDO, we are re-doing our own site, and we are also doing extensive research and development into how ads can be made most visible. Our partnership with AdXPose, now Comscore, has already paid big dividends for us; preliminary results on our InView Slider ad show that it is actually seen 99% of the time it is served.

We have more research to do over longer periods of time before we can make too much noise about this, but it looks very promising for both publishers and advertisers.

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In 2012, Publishers Must Question Everything About Their Businesses

Neither the form nor the function of a newspaper has changed much in the last hundred years, even with the advent of  digital media,  but that cannot continue. More than even the internet itself, the advent of mobile devices will drive change to both the product and the business model for online publishers. This will probably be a year of  much new product development in publishing.

Unlike in the past, when the newsroom and the publisher existed on two sides of a Chinese wall, today a publisher and his or her editorial organization must collaborate on product development. The reporters or content providers are not separate from the business side anymore, and everyone involved with a content site must understand how both the product and the business model work. The surviving publishers will be the ones who build new institutions that work within the new economics of online content.

Those economics are quite different than the old models, in which multiple revenue streams sustained newspapers.. Micro payments will not be the salvation of newspapers, nor will pay walls — except in the case of extremely high value content such as that of the Wall Street Journal. Investigative reporting and covering local politics, the favorite beats of reporters, never did support newspapers.

Then how does a publisher meet the future? Not merely by tweaking the advertising model, but by tweaking the content model as well

In this new world, old brands must differentiate themselves and create a stronger sense of value the reader in order to be valuable advertising platforms. At present, niche product-focused properties are winning the big ad dollars.  Even the most traditional publishers have to start sections that are of more interest to advertisers, although the advertisers will still have the preference for niche sites. The cover everything model of the traditional newspaper (gardening to gossip) may no longer make sense. Nor may long-form journalism in some: 75% of readers abandon long form articles before getting to the end. (My information on this comes from Richard Gingras, the Head of News Product at Google).

The battle for eyeballs is now waged on the users’ terms. Publishers must make use of data to understand their audiences and where they come from, which is in a constant state of flux: direct traffic to home pages is declining, down from 45% to 25% between 2009 and 2011. Search grew from 22% of traffic in 2009 to 33% in 2011, and social, which hardly registered as a referral source in 2009, sent 15% of traffic to publishers in 2011. And that will only increase. (These numbers are from Richard Gingras, Head of Product for Google and former CEO of Salon.com.)

The medium defines the message and its form, and thus the form of newspapers needs to be rethought completely. The atomic unit of content is now the story, not the site.  Newspapers don’t have  editions anymore. Now, articles, posts, facts, related docs, reader contributions, discussion, databases, relevant to the same story should be together on the same page. And instead of one-off efforts, good stories should use data to create persistent resources. The constant updating of stories brings users back to the site. And that’s how you sell advertising: against the story, not the site.

Publishers must design to leverage today’s technology and audience flows. In fact, the atomic unit of content was never the site itself, although most publishers came online thinking of themselves as portals.

What does that say about advertising above and below the fold? We believe that whether the ad is in view outweighs where it appears.

Related articles

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Buy iPad ads on the ZINC Ad Exchange

Last week a brand new ad exchange, ZINC, was launched by ZEDO, Inc. ZINC itself is revolutionary, but now we are going a step further…check this out:


With the ZINC Exchange, advertisers can directly target people reading newspapers on their iPads. Impressions targeted to these users are easy to buy on the ZINC Exchange.  ZINC is the first of its kind — no other ad exchange offers iPad newspaper targeting.


It is believed that 14.8 million iPads have been sold since its initial release.  Its success has been charted and forecasted. The iPad usage data reveals a whole new opportunity for advertisers.


Increasing traffic on newspaper sites, the highest quality brand-safe sites on the web, comes from iPads. Only 3 weeks after the device released, Wired stated that it received 26% of its mobile traffic from the device. ChangeWave Research found that 51% of iPad owners now read newspapers on their iPad.  Recognizing this true opportunity for advertisers, ZEDO has created the ZINC Ad Exchange, which allows advertisers to target people reading their daily newspapers on their iPads.


ZINC is currently in beta and being hosted at www.ZINCx.com. Publishers learn more at: http://www.zedo.com/technology/switchToZedo.htm

Advertisers: Click to buy guaranteed placements on newspaper sites. www.zincx.com


ZEDO Announces the ZINC Exchange!


There are many ways that publishers and advertisers can sell and buy ad space. Today, the easiest and quickest way for advertisers to buy is with an Ad Exchange. Advertisers like exchanges because they are more transparent than ad networks and are easy and fast to use. For advertisers, there are no more sales calls from publishers or network sales reps. Instead, they choose to buy on their time in a quicker and easier way than our industry has ever seen before. They also remain in complete control. Exchanges are a great source of efficiency for agencies and advertisers. ZEDO, as you may have read today, is launching ZINC Ad Exchange.

ZINC is now in private beta and will soon be open to use by any advertiser. ZINC is different and better than other ad exchanges. Other exchanges sell remnant non-guaranteed impressions on a mixed bag of sites. The ZINC Exchange features only premium, guaranteed inventory – you choose and buy the inventory you want. There isn’t any remnant inventory. This is because the only advertising inventory you’ll find on ZINC is high-quality sites such as newspaper publishers from across the country.  The ZINC Exchange will offer only high-visibility, premium advertising positions on community and metro market news websites. ZINC’s web based interface offers real-time management of campaigns, instant reporting access at any time, and aggressive pricing that allows advertisers to maximize their media budgets. Inventory availability is clear and transparent – agencies see real-time inventory and actual pricing.

ZEDO CEO Roy de Souza stated in a recent press release that, “The ZINC Exchange offers an easy way to see prices, create a media plan, and instantly buy high quality, brand-safe ad space. The ability to do guaranteed buys with even delivery across the campaign is attractive to brand advertisers and agencies. I am excited to launch the beta today.”

We are thrilled to announce this new way to buy advertising directly from sites, specifically newspaper sites. Please contact us if you want to join the beta at www.Zincx.com.

P.S. Come see ZEDO at ad:tech in San Francisco April 11-13 to learn even more about Zinc Ad Exchange: Meeting Room MR9 (Expo Hall level 2).


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Click to buy guaranteed placements on newspaper sites.


Part 2: Ad Networks vs Remnant Ad Exchanges: The Publisher Perspective


Last week I explored the possibility of ad exchanges threatening ad networks from the point of view of ad agencies. Now, I compare ad networks to ad exchanges from the publisher perspective. This week I will compare ad networks to remnant exchanges; next week ad networks vs new premium exchanges.


Most ad networks are remnant networks. Most high quality publishers have a sales team selling advertising.  These publishers give the ad networks the remaining or remnant impressions that they don’t sell. Ad networks and remnant ad exchanges sell these impressions at the best price they can get. Today they compete aggressively for this remnant impression business. Examples are Advertising.com, Casale and Interclick on the network side and AppNexus and AdMeld on the exchange side.

I want to detail how, in my experience, publishers compare the ad networks to the remnant exchanges. Generally they tell me they consider four things:

  1. Fill rate
  2. Percentage of high CPM campaigns
  3. Ad quality
  4. Competition with the publisher’s sales reps

Let’s examine how remnant ad networks stack up to remnant ad exchanges in each of these areas.

1. Fill Rates
Publishers want each network to sell a large percentage of the remnant impressions they are given, not just a few. Ad networks rely on sales reps to meet buyers in person or on the phone. That means getting into taxis to visit agencies, creating PowerPoint presentations, etc. Ad exchanges, however, rely on technology, not sales reps, to “meet” advertisers.  Therefore ad exchanges with a strong user interface, or solid integrations with Advertiser Technologies, have the upper hand and can fill more impressions. Ad exchanges today already find and sign up more remnant advertisers than ad networks do.
Exchanges win. (Exchanges 1, Networks 0)

2. Percentage of high CPM campaigns
Each ad exchange or ad network usually finds some high quality advertisers that will pay the publisher decent CPMs. The rest of the volume they sell goes to Performance Advertisers that pay the publisher low CPMs. Publishers, of course, like exchanges/networks that have more high CPM campaigns. Ad networks are better than ad exchanges at this. Why? Today’s ad exchanges are used mainly by performance advertisers who buy mass volume of inventory, or buy Behavioral/Retargeting in tiny volumes. Both pay relatively low CPMs because the supply is high.  Networks however have sales teams that visit agencies and convince them to buy on their sites. Networks therefore do better at finding and convincing the high paying advertisers.
Networks win. (Exchanges 1, Networks 1)

3. Ad quality
Publishers want high quality ads to appear on their site. They love to see Coke or Ford ads on their site but hate to see low quality “work from home” or diet ads. Most of today’s ad exchanges sell to Performance Marketers who have terrible looking ads: just like infomercials on TV. Performance advertisers use creative with anything that looks odd and costs very little to produce. Therefore ad exchanges which rely more on performance advertisers have more low quality creative. Currently, ad networks have higher ad quality for 2 reasons: (1) They focus on selling to high quality brand advertisers who use agencies to produce good creative and (2) they invest more in inspecting creative because they know that premium sites need this. So overall their ad quality tends to be higher than the ad quality of the ad exchanges.
Networks win. (Exchanges 1, Networks 2)

4. Competition with Publisher Sales Reps
Publishers hate hearing that their sales rep almost won an advertiser at $5 CPM, but that the advertiser bought the inventory from an ad network at $1 CPM instead. This happens because both Ad Networks and Remnant Ad Exchanges compete with the sales team and sell at a lower price. Advertisers are increasingly aware that if a site asks for $5 CPM they can probably buy that site through an ad network or ad exchange for $1 CPM. Both the ad networks and ad exchanges try to argue that they don’t compete. Until a year or two ago they used to avoid competition by selling “blind”: they wouldn’t disclose the site’s name to advertisers. But now technologies like AdXpose and DoubleVerify show advertisers what sites they are running on so networks are no longer blind. Therefore, today most ad networks and ad exchanges have started openly display the site names and prices. To prevent this competition some premium publishers like CBS have gone as far as banning all ad networks and ad exchanges from selling their sites’ inventory (ClickZ covered this in “CBS Interactive Quits Ad Networks“). In summary currently, publishers see ad networks and exchanges as both equally bad in competing with their sales team. So a tie here. They are looking for a new type of exchange that can help their ad sales team sell rather than compete with it.
Tie. (Exchanges 1, Networks 2)

The winner: Ad Networks
As you have seen, from the publisher perspective, ad networks currently win the battle for remnant impressions. They do this by focusing on the high end: selling more high CPM campaigns and getting higher quality ads. That is why ad networks still exist and do well.

Change is coming soon
This will all change very soon.  I predict that we will see a new type of “Premium” ad exchange in the near future that will focus on high quality brand advertisers. It will copy the networks’ focus on only the best quality sites, but add the value of exchanges: the ability to find more advertisers. I think this type of ad exchange will take high end business away from networks, leaving them in trouble and even killing some.

Next Blog: The New Premium Ad Exchanges vs Ad Networks. Stay tuned!

Part 1: Exchanges vs. Ad Networks: The agency perspective

A big question for me and the industry is whether exchanges are better than ad networks. What do you think? Let me start by comparing the two from the advertiser perspective. I am focusing only on brand advertisers, and ad networks that sell high CPM brand advertising on good quality, brand-safe sites.
When I first started talking to agencies, I was unsure whether they truly preferred buying from ad networks or exchanges. This is what I discovered: ad agencies prefer buying from exchanges. This is what they told me:

1.     “Chasing network sales reps is frustrating.”
When buying from an ad network, an agency buyer must call his sales rep and ask her for a proposal. The sales rep is usually out of the office at meetings and asks for a day or two to develop the proposal. After reaching 3-5 ad network sales reps, the agency buyer has to sit and twiddle his thumbs. Finally, he gets two proposals, but then has to chase the third ad network for the last proposal. This is frustrating. Meanwhile, the agency’s client is waiting for the media plan so that they can get internal approvals for it.

2.     “Comparing proposals is difficult.”
When he gets the proposals he has to compare them. But the proposals are submitted in different forms and list different sites.  You can’t compare apples to apples.  To compare prices and decide which proposal(s) to go with takes time and effort. Creating a media plan that looks good means one format for all the inventory. And still, the client is waiting for a media plan.

3.     “Ad networks don’t offer the transparency that my brand advertisers require today.”
Ad networks still list good sites — and lots of other sites. They usually don’t break out impressions per site. This means that agencies cannot be sure where their ads will run. True, they can use AdXpose or DoubleVerify to check what sites they are on when the campaign is live. But they prefer knowing the options up front and choosing the sites themselves.

4.     “With exchanges, we get more control over creating the plan.”
Many of my team thought that agencies would prefer ad network sales reps to do all the work, rather than have to go online, find sites and look at prices and availability themselves. They asked why an agency would bother doing the work when an ad network sales rep is ready and willing?

Curiously, it turns out that agencies want control. They like to have control at their fingertips. They like to build up their own plan piece by piece and feel proud of what they do. If someone else does it for them, it takes them less time but they lose control.

5.     “Ads go live faster on exchanges.”
Ad networks can often get a campaign live within a day or so of the final approval from the agency. But agencies say that clients give them final approval at the last minute, just hours before the campaign is supposed to go live —  then call again, hours later to find out if it is live and how it is doing. Exchanges have an advantage: they can go live instantly, and data comes back instantly. Networks often do not provide instant real-time ability to go live or instant data.

6.     “We want to do optimization on our own.”
In my experience, I have found that agencies prefer seeing all the data in the exchange with their own eyes, and then doing the optimization. They don’t trust that the ad network understands or cares about their campaign goals well enough to optimize well.  Some worry that the ad network may even put them on poor sites because they have committed a certain dollar spend to those sites. They are keen on seeing performance data per site, per creative, and optimizing campaigns themselves. And I think that they probably do a far better job because they care more and they have more time.

7.     “I want up to date reporting at any time.”
Most ad networks don’t have the sophisticated technology to do real time reporting. They provide reporting for yesterday and send it once per day. Agencies prefer exchanges where they can go online at any time of the day or night and see up-to-the-minute data.

Remember, I am talking about two things:

  • Agencies that buy brand advertising
  • Ad networks and exchanges that sell high-quality, brand-safe sites


I believe that if agencies can buy the same sites from an exchange that they can buy from an ad network, they prefer buying from an exchange. It’s easier, they maintain control and less can go wrong. Exchanges win. I think that from the advertiser point of view, exchanges win and high end brand networks may just die.

In my next post, I’ll discuss the publisher side of this debate.