Publishers Don’t See Big Benefit from Tracking Data

A very provocative article in Digiday last week suggested that although ad budgets and ad revenues are up, publishers are not reaping the benefits. Nor are consumers. The writer, Jason Kint, asserts that user tracking is having a negative effect on the quality of content that is being consumed, and an even more negative effect on publishers’ revenues because all the extra  money generated by rising ad revenues is going to the services that track and retarget users.

The much-hyped automation of advertising is incredibly promising, but right now, it’s being used almost entirely to collect and bid on data to re-target audience using tracking cookies. This data is driving immaterial growth in ad revenue to publishers small and large. It is also feeding a frothy and endless market for ad tech companies.

The digital pie is rapidly shifting away from sites and services being consumed to the companies that track consumption. As digital continues to gobble up advertising share from its offline ancestors, it does so at the direct expense of brand advertising. The industry touts record ad revenues but ignores that more than 65 cents out of every online ad dollar is being spent on performance media fueled by data tracking.

As we move to mobile devices, more specifically to smart phones, tracking  becomes more abhorrent to consumers; they’ve said so in many ways, including installing ad blockers in their browsers, taking advantage of do not track options, and complaining to vendors.

But tracking doesn’t help brands, either. When they buy ads using tracking data, they’re buying performance metrics, not brand lift. And the performance end of the market doesn’t work anymore, because the same users who don’t like being tracked have ceased to click on display ads. We keep looking for the performance metric, and it may shift from CTRs to viewability to something else, but we’re always talking about measuring the individual consumer’s actions and buying on that data.

We’ve got a way to go before we arrive at the “right” way to use data to help the ecosystem. Right now, tracking data may be as harmful as it is useful.

The answer to this is for publishers to focus on ad formats that brands want. These almost always include video, and  should include ZINC’s InArticle and InView formats. If publishers ran those, they would get more brand dollars rather than performance dollars online and would therefore  increase their revenues.




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Industry Changes Demand Technology Leadership

Our industry is changing fast. We’re aware of that, and our technical team is hard at work coming up with new, more effective solutions to help advertising survive and content continue, in most cases, to be free. Advertising is the time-honored way to support content, but the invasive methods of some marketers have brought about a backlash.

Will advertising go away? Unlikely. There isn’t any other acceptable way to support media sites. And even e-commerce sites must attract customers. But advertising is due for the same kind of change publishing just negotiated. Using modern advertising technology, we have to target consumers in a way that is convenient and non-intrusive for them, and relevant for their needs.

Susan Wojcicki, the VP Advertising at Google, gave a talk at the IAB Digital Summit, wherein she defined the five drivers of digital advertising’s future. The first driver is choice. Users will be able to choose whether to view an ad. Even now, our full screen video ads on the web give the viewer an option to start the audio and move the ad to full screen. But this is only the beginning of providing choice to the viewer about whether to engage with the ad. The browser is a big player here. Most of the action around the future of advertising will concern the browser.

The second driver is control. Consumers will look at ads they deem relevant. It will be up to the ad tech industry to do its targeting correctly. And then we have to make the ads more interesting to look at. This demands better creative for digital advertising. In the old performance-driven world, ads were not particularly memorable unless they offered a way to convert instantly.Click here. In the world of brand advertising, the conversions are more indirect, but the advertising can be much more engaging. We may not be asking a viewer to click on anything.

Wojcicki also speaks of the need to target people, and not their devices.  We as users should be able to get ads that are relevant to where we are and what we’re doing right now. If we’re mobile, restaurants might be appropriate. If we’re home, perhaps it is shoes.

And the fifth driver is calibration, or measurement. Everything will be measured. And not necessarily by page views or clicks. We are at the point where those measures of efficiency should be replaced by measures of effectiveness.

Wojcicki’s (and therefore Google’s) future vision takes into account recent industry-wide conversations on privacy, including the decisions of most mainstream browsers to turn on “Do not Track” as a default and block the use of third party cookies.

We can live in a world without third party cookies if we want to. We can live with “Do Not Track” turned on. The advertising industry just has to make its products more relevant to the users. And ZEDO must continue to develop products like high impact formats that help the visitor engage.


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Agencies Love Our TV Ads on the Web

ZINC Sells High Impact FormatsZinc offers agencies and advertisers premium high impact formats across pc, mobile and tablet. Many of Zinc’s high impact units are guaranteed 99% viewable by comScore, making them the best branding vehicle in the market.
ZINC was founded by ZEDO, the world’s largest independent ad server, pioneering leading digital ad solutions for over 13 years.

In 2007, we announced the launch of  ZincX, a place where advertisers could buy guaranteed premium inventory. Six years later, we are expanding the concept. The main activity of ZINC is to help agencies bring their TV to the web with our  high impact formats.

During the past year, we’ve developed several ways in which advertisers can take their TV creative straight to the web — without adapting it. We have four different formats:

1. InView with video
2. Full Screen TV Ads. 300×250
3. Double video. 300×250
4. Rotating screen shots. 300×250

Our TV Ads on the Web give higher performance and more great inventory.  They are easy to buy and execute: agencies can just email us their TV commercials.

ZINC  has always been different and better than other companies. ZINC  offers only high-visibility, premium advertising positions on high traffic sites. 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  and agencies see real-time inventory and actual pricing.

To schedule a demo, or to find out more, contact lana(at)

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ZEDO Partners with GeoSurf to Target Global Markets

Winning in the online advertising world requires smart strategy combined with smart tools. Partnering with GeoSurf has allowed us to deliver the best possible service.

Our aim is simple, to ensure that our clients get the best return possible on their ad spend, or the best revenue for their ad inventory. For us to meet these standards we need a reliable, professional tool that allows us to see what is going on in the online world, in every market, in real time. GeoSurf provides us with a fast, reliable proxy tool and a great display analytics solution.

ZEDO Partners with GeoSurf

GeoSurf Delivers ZEDO Global Intelligence



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Help For Traditional Agencies Comes from Trusted Partners

It was quite an interesting morning at the Digiday Agency Summit listening to big agencies, smaller digital agencies, and moderators talk about the problems agencies face in the world of real-time. Traditional agencies have talent problems, creative issues, and client compensation issues — all hitting them simultaneously and forcing them to adapt, perhaps at the expense of traditional creative teams. More than one exec pointed out that he needed trusted partners to help the agency adapt.


One thing we see very clearly: the large traditional agencies, such as JWT, feel the need to hire more digital talent and be more collaborative players with the new, more nimble and tech-savvy digital agencies and social media shops. There’s a strong feeling that no one agency can do it all anymore — advertisers need traditional channels as well as local, mobile, social, digital, and promotional. But what do you do when you have a large cohort of consumer packaged goods clients who don’t change very quickly themselves, yet think their agencies need to be faster? Apparently, in the current climate, both brands and agencies think each other need to be faster, and yet it’s tough to change and risk traditional business strategies that have always worked.


The new North American CEO of JWT, David Eastman, came from the digital side, and understands that he must keep the traditional brand stewardship heritage of the agency while, as he said, “turning the ocean liner into a plane” at the request of customers who require their agency to be up on real time buying and creative execution. According to Eastman, agencies and brands can actually make gutsy decisions in real time, as Oreo did during the Super Bowl, if there is already complete alignment around what the brand stands for and its creative platform.


Real-time bidding and programmatic buying are also opening the door to pay-for-performance compensation models for agencies. Most agencies actually do have a partial pay for performance model in place, but they face a conundrum in how to decide what constitutes performance? Is it the agency’s own performance in executing assigned tasks? Is it media performance? Sales performance?


Viewable impressions, which have emerged as a new metric for digital ads, might provide a good venue for a pay for performance model, much as direct advertising has always had its own built-in metric, conversion rates. Conversion rates don’t work for brand advertising, but agencies seem hopeful about view ability. We’ll hold our powder on this one for a while, because ZEDO is one of the only companies in the Lumascape selling high impact formats with 99% viewable impressions as measured by comScore.


The most interesting discussion for us, however, was the one about how media buying inside agencies has to change in the era of programmatic. In the future, there will be a bifurcation between media buyers who have quantitative skills and buy programmatically based on data, and high touch media buyers who have direct relationships with publishers.

Again, this means new hiring for agencies, and re-training for current media buyers. And more important, better data.



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Real Time Bidding Ignores Half the Ecosystem

Real-time bidding (RTB) has grown to dominate the selling of remnant ad space. It is an efficient system and is getting more and more efficient. However, remnant inventory makes up only 18% of the available inventory, and publishers don’t rely on it.  RTB is commoditizing the sale of their low end inventory and is efficient so it takes less of the publisher’s time to sell. Publishers are therefore looking for ways to increase the sale of premium inventory and to improve the formats of premium inventory they have available to sell.

Both ends of the advertising ecosystem are interdependent. You really can’t expect quality brands to buy remnant inventory that won’t deliver high impact in a quality setting. Nor can you expect quality publishers to sell their best inventory as a low end commodity. The publishers must be able to sell premium inventory at rates high enough to be able to continue producing the quality content that draws the eyeballs. And the advertisers have to know that when they pay a certain rate for an ad good quality eyeballs.

Here, as always, the eyeballs win. Neither the publishers nor the advertisers control the online media market; it is controlled by the consumers who use the web. For a while, the publishers were reeling from the speed of the shift to digital. But they’re over it now, and the survivors do have the quality traffic they need to command premium prices. In fact, many of the survivors, fed up with low advertising revenues, are looking for other ways to monetize their traffic. The New York Times’ paywall has been remarkably successful, and The Washington Post has succeeded through events and acquisitions.

The ad tech industry should be sitting up and taking notice. Almost a year ago, ZEDO began re-thinking its business to be more beneficial to the entire ecosystem. Our long tenure in this industry (we were actually founded in the last century!) gives us the perspective to look back on where we’ve been and forward to where we can go to rapidly help both the advertisers and publishers.

As a result, we’ve spent the better part of a near introducing new products that benefit everyone–premium advertisers, premium publishers, and yes, even those “eyeballs,” the visitors to web sites who “hate” advertising and may even dream of ad-free content. That involves being active in online privacy initiatives, building new high-end formats and a building a new platform to help sell exciting advertising opportunities to high quality brands.

We are taking a leadership role in the next phase of advertising technology — the one in which high quality advertisers and high quality publishers get close enough to embrace again as they did in the past.

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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

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.

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