Bloomberg Media won’t rule out shedding more ad tech intermediaries after parting ways with Taboola.
For the first time in a while, premium publishers like Bloomberg Media are operating from a position of strength. They have the context and audience that marketers need to sustain personalized advertising at scale at a time when both are harder to come by from third-party cookies.
In fact, the opportunity is so great that Bloomberg Media went and built a data platform called “Audience Accelerator.” Like other publisher-owned data platforms, this one is wired to give marketers more insight into Bloomberg readers who see their ads, from reading preferences to their tenure. Some advertisers have already run test campaigns on this data.
“This is a real moment for us to say to our customers ‘hey we know these users and they trust us’ and so we want to cultivate those relationships in a really thoughtful way,” said Julia Beizer, chief digital officer at Bloomberg Media. “We’re not just going to share that information across the ecosystem because that’s not what the consumer has in mind.”
Anything that dilutes this position is a risk – including ad tech vendors. These companies can incur costs from publishers that go beyond a speed cap, from degrading the user experience to undermining pricing, even data leakage. There is only so much publishers have been able to do to reduce these costs. Bloomberg Media does more.
“We are careful about who we work with and we have to see what happens in the future,” says Beizer. “No matter what happens, it’s going to come back to us figuring out what we can do well for our users and our customers. These two questions are our tools for figuring out how we navigate this massive change in the industry.”
Of course, not all publishers are in such a gilded position. A divorce like the one Bloomberg Media went through with Taboola sends a clear signal to the rest of the market: the publisher will not put ad dollars before its users – much easier to do when you have over 450,000 paying subscribers and 5 million registered users (at last count ).
“Ripping out the crap that tarnished the pub brand is what the brand is all about, especially now when publishers desperately need to restore trust with their readers,” said Augustine Fou, ad fraud researcher and consultant. “All the arbitrage revenue that went to Taboola and Outbrain could have gone to the publisher instead. Pubs take back the revenue. Good for them.”
Currently, there are no other ad technology providers in Bloomberg Media’s sights. Should this change, retailers may be a good place to start.
They are the ad technology providers that help publishers sell inventory on private marketplaces. Currently, Bloomberg is working with 18 of them, according to its ads.txt file. Of course, they have their uses: namely, additional ways to monetize, either by providing unique ad units or additional content. Some will even provide additional sales support through ties to local advertisers.
But retailers also have several risks. Basically, they all boil down to this: publishers have to cede at least some control over their inventory to these companies. It is a precarious situation for all publishers. Not least because sometimes retailers use other retailers to sell a publisher’s inventory. In other words, dealers can run multiple simultaneous auctions through these other dealers. The more simultaneous auctions, the greater the technical load on the publisher’s website. And that’s before some of the shady practices of these providers are considered bid duplication.
Time will tell if (and when) Bloomberg Media makes a move on retailers or other ad tech intermediaries. Still, it’s always on the lookout. For example, the publisher talked about conducting a review of demand-side platforms — the ad tech vendors that actually buy impressions — as late as 2019. Whatever happens, it’s clear the publisher has been thinking about how to exert more control over programmatic advertising — and the ad tech vendors that makes it easier — for a while.
Look at its slow and sudden withdrawal from selling ads on the open market, for example.
In recent years, Bloomberg Media has pulled ads from these auctions and made efforts to capitalize on private deals. Eventually it got to the point where it only accounted for a fraction of the ad space it was selling – 5%, in fact. From there, it was pretty easy to decide to leave these auctions entirely in January. It’s not like the money from them would be missed.
“We’ve seen many clients who bought us from the open exchange come directly to us, wanting to know what we offer and understand how they can leverage it for their own clients,” said Duncan Chater, managing director of commercial clients. on Bloomberg Media Europe. “We have a very unique audience and are in a position to advise partners on how to reach that audience and do it in the right environment and at the right moment.”
So while these moves – breaking up with Taboola and shutting down the open auction – are symbolic, they are neither costly nor a major strategic investment.
If anything, they’re rational, calculated moves to keep readers happy, while keeping them from wandering off the site via a content recommendation company like Taboola — all while increasing scarcity and then driving up the price of its stock. In short, this is as much about asset protection as it is about improving the user experience.
“These decisions are not specific companies or even specific types of models, they are really a philosophical shift in terms of understanding what are the best user experiences that we can deliver,” said Beizer. “We felt that the places where we had the most control over how we can make these user experiences optimal are where we best solve our users. We struggle to do that when we have open market programmatic and some of the other companies already mentioned.”
This won’t be for everyone. Not every publisher has the direct relationships and brand cache that Bloomberg has to make a move like this stick. But those who do are clearly growing in number. Among them: Vox Media, The Financial Times, The New York Times, Minute Media to name a few.