Thankfully, The Click May Take a Back Seat

This guest blog submission is from Scott Roulet, president of BBN Networks.

“Be careful what you ask for because it may come true”. The over-used cliché captures the sentiment we face as the digital advertising industry begins to de-emphasize the click and emphasize the less defined ad engagement.

For years, CTR has been source of cynicism around media watering holes as well as the more high intellect industry conferences. Outside of media sellers looking at the landing pages of prospective advertisers or marketers trying to gain insight on a competitor’s campaign, who really clicks on these ads? In fact most of us have met few, if any, web users compelled to intentionally press the mouse while hovering over a clever message embedded inside a 300×600 ad unit. Adding to the CTR mystery, is the elusive bot with its daily havoc that distorts reality and threatens the sanity of ad ops teams.

Relief may be just around the corner because we will soon be redirecting our attention to ad impressions that are actually within view of the user. In theory, this is sensible measurement. Unless an ad is actually seen, it’s merely a self-rewarding creative work of art. Accountability for ensuring the ad can be seen is imperative for the integrity of the this medium. Many publishers, especially in B2B, filled their web pages to look like a NASCAR but you don’t see sponsor logos on the bottom of the cars and expectations for digital media should be no different.

Companies like Moat have developed amazing tools that measure a user’s engagement with website ads. Our company has implemented Moat to provide inventory and campaign analysis but there are alternative tools including DoubleVerify and ComScore with similar functionality. While the industry has mandated a certification process for technologies that assess viewability, there is not a common methodology standard to minimize the reporting discrepancies between systems. Similar to the variances between the ad servers for publishers and advertisers, viewability statistics vary. These companies are dedicating some of the brightest minds in ad technology to enhance the accuracy and compatibility so it’s only a matter of time before those gaps are closed.

Publishers must develop page designs that raise the in-view rates for their inventory while considering a strategy that fairly distributes the inventory allocation across advertisers with various requirements. Major buying agencies and trading desks have already begun the adoption so publishers will soon be challenged with the dilemma over which advertisers are assigned placements with the greatest in-view rate. Historically, “premium” positioning came at premium rates, however, that approach is an unlikely solution since the downward CPM pressure is driven by the same buying groups demanding higher in-view rates.

The momentum for viewablity is a logical progression for a medium in constant search of improved measurements for intelligent validation with greater accountability. The speed bumps along the way are inevitable but standardization will come and premium publishers will adapt with web properties that maximize engagement with the brands.

Ready to just go back to worrying about CTR? Be careful what you ask for.

Scott Roulet is a digital media entrepreneur, and publishing veteran. He is a Co-Founder and President of BBN Networks, a B2B digital marketing company connecting marketers with business decision makers. For more information, please visit:


The Future of Private Exchanges

This guest blog submission is from Scott Roulet, president of BBN Networks.

For an industry built to on the basis of driving efficient advertising performance, it should be no surprise that programmatic buying represents nearly half the digital display advertising spend. The acceleration of buying and selling automation has exceeded even the most aggressive forecasts at more than $10 billion in 2014 in the US, according to a recent survey by eMarketer. However, the long term viability of the growth of open-auction exchanges has been recently put into question by both buy-side and sell-side market influencers. Major media buying organizations including WPP’s GroupM have announced plans to abandon open exchange investment and turn to trusted media partners to form private marketplaces.

Website display advertising models have been built for volume, efficiencies and accountability. The open ad exchange paved the way to for the evolution of an interconnected ecosystem of digital media commerce that met the volume and efficiency criteria. Publishers have exposed their inventory to an expanded universe of advertisers while advertisers have uncovered unique media environments that drive value to their brands. However, that system has also enabled unintended consequences with inventory secrecy and malicious attacks that compromise the integrity of the entire market. The bot activity has plagued the industry has interfered with progress toward accountability and led to advertiser skepticism. Solve Media estimates bots accounted for 40% of the web traffic in the US last year and Incapsula reported up to 30% of the global web traffic was malicious non-human activity. Additionally, the lack of transparency and misrepresentation of inventory by some media suppliers have perpetuated suspicion. The result has been the growth of an unhealthy wedge in the supply and demand chain. But, that dynamic will shift as media companies offer walled garden inventory that can be verified and purchased within the automated buying platforms.

The walled garden private marketplace (PMP) will create a renewed partnership spirit between media buyers and sellers when they are integrated into the streamlined programmatic systems that eliminate the traditional labor intensive buying process. The PMPs are analogous to quality products on a store shelf. The advertiser demand side platform is the fastest growing store front for digital media buyers and your media must be on the shelf. The location of the shelf-space is critical for maximizing sales, therefore, media suppliers must build relationships with buyers to put their products on the “end-caps”.

The reporting analytics from the AppNexus, Rubicon and other exchanges provide publishers a window into their customers’ media buying activity. Media buyers are in the business of buying media that translates to success for the brands or clients, regardless of the success measurements. The private marketplace plugs into demand side platforms which unveil important insights about advertiser intentions as well as the actual media purchases. Those insights can foster important conversations that enhance that relationship between buyers and sellers.

The race to gain access to current and developing private exchanges is happening as marketers continue to reallocate and expand digital advertising investment. Major media buyers that historically connected to stockpiles of inventory through open exchanges are now stitching together private networks with premium media brands. The programmatic market is prime for premium publishers with unique, quality inventory. However, the current pricing models cannot currently cost justify the infrastructure implementation for publishers with limited inventory. As a result, many specialty publishers are turning to supply-side platforms (SSPs) with common domain expertise. Our company recently launched a private marketplace to ensure our member B2B publishers are represented to large-scale media buyers within this buying environment. While programmatic buying is still rare for many endemic B2B media buyers, it is an inevitable model that will quickly evolve. BBN and other SSPs are connecting the pipes for their inventory partners that will have them prepared to accommodate programmatic demand from publisher-direct advertisers.

As programmatic buying becomes the dominant engine for digital media commerce, advertisers and premium publishers will rely on private exchanges. It is important that marketers and publishers alike continue to build relationships of trust and accommodation to ensure viability through the age of advertising automation.

Scott Roulet is a digital media entrepreneur, and publishing veteran. He is a Co-Founder and President of BBN Networks, a B2B digital marketing company connecting marketers with business decision makers. For more information, please visit:

Publishers vs. LinkedIn: The Next Heavy Weight Fight?

This guest blog submission is from Raisa Guillemette of Knowledge Marketing, a sponsor of ABM/SIIA’s Business Information and Media Summit.

If you don’t consistently check your LinkedIn account, it would be easy for you to miss how LinkedIn has slowly, but steadily positioned itself as a publishing platform. Ryan Roslansky, head of content products for the company has flat out denied LinkedIn’s shift into the media realm stating, “We are not approaching this from a publishing or media-company perspective.”

This shift into publishing began with LinkedIn’s influencer program. In the initial rollout of this program, a select few “influencers” and “thought leaders” such as Richard Branson, Bill Gates and President Obama were allowed to contribute content. LinkedIn opened the publishing platform to 25,000 of its members on February 19th of this year, with the intention to steadily expand the publishing capability to all 300 million registered members. The publishing platform is still in beta testing, but you can apply for early access to this feature here. Whether they are trying to or not, it appears to me that LinkedIn is becoming a media company.

Either accidental or intentional, it appears that LinkedIn is throwing itself into the ring with traditional media and publishing companies. Let’s see how the two stack up against one another.

LinkedIn’s Strengths

A Trusted Platform
One of LinkedIn’s biggest strengths is the fact they are a trusted and established social media platform, specifically targeted toward professionals. LinkedIn has always aired on the side of caution when it comes to their privacy policy and advertising. Personally, I have never felt like I was being assaulted with ads, or I was secretly being studied as part of an experiment without my knowledge.

Built for Professionals
Not only do professionals trust and use LinkedIn, they are now going to LinkedIn to highlight their own expertise on a particular topic. The publishing platform allows individuals and companies to display their expertise to a large audience of professionals who are eager to learn, educate, share and interact.

Simplified Sharing
Now that members are free to post on the publishing platform, there is no need to join a Group or share content as a status update on your personal page. Anyone can search and find the content you are posting on a specific topic and read the posts you’ve written without being a connection or inside your network. If you write something that sparks enough interest, LinkedIn may even distribute it as part of their own aggregated content.

Free Content
LinkedIn is different from other publishers because it pays nothing for its content, and to avoid liability it grants full ownership rights to its member-writers, while promising to remove, annotate or edit posts that violate its policies. LinkedIn is making money off of content they don’t pay for while never having to actually own any of it.

Publisher’s Strengths

Distribution Diversity
Publishers have collected a vast amounts of audience data from event attendees, webinar registrants, subscribers and website visitors. With all this audience data, publishers are at a distinct advantage because of the variety of channels they can use to distribute their content. Whether that’s print, digital, websites, live events or conferences. LinkedIn is only one platform which limits your overall reach.

Credible Content
The content that publishers produce is more credible, serious and better researched compared to what is considered news or content on a social media site. Publishers produce content that typically produces more traffic, higher engagement rates, and multiple reading sessions. Print has also been proven to increasereader’s retention.

Complete Control
As you may already know, you are at the mercy of any social network you are a part of. You have no control over the constant (and frustrating) algorithm changes from Facebook or how LinkedIn decided to just drop the Product and Services tabs from the Business Pages. Publishers have complete and total control over their own property. Your website and every piece of content that is created is building traffic and revenue for something that you own. Why would you send traffic to LinkedIn that could be used to rank in search for your own website?

Superior Tracking & Analytics
Giving up control of your content or giving it away for free is not always the best option. Not to say that all of your content should be gated, but we all know that tracking, testing and being able to measure every aspect of your business is crucial. Publishers by the nature of their business have tracking and analytics built into their foundation. From personal experience I can say I have never been overly impressed with social media sites tracking and analytic features.

Council report: Use of print media by younger farmers is strong

By Jack Semler, Readex ResearchJackSemler2

The overall use of printed ag magazines and newspaper by farmers and ranchers in general can safely be characterized as “strong.” When one considers that print is facing challenges in other markets, it’s almost remarkable to see how print is holding so well in agriculture.

This observation is based on the 2014 Media Channel Study conducted by Readex Research on behalf of the ABM Agri Media Council. This is the third wave of the study, and as such, trends are beginning to emerge. The basic trend, that print in ag remains strong, and that digital media channels are emerging in importance as well, is very clear. When looking at “weekly usage” measures over the three survey waves, that data actually point to an incredible appetite for information and knowledge across the consumer board. Further, when we break out survey data by age, we see what some might think are surprising numbers.

The study data has been analyzed using three overarching age categories, and “younger” operators have consistently been classified as those less than 45 years of age. When answering the question, “How often do you usually read, view, visit, attend, or use the following types of agricultural media or information sources?” 81% of ALL respondents indicated using printed ag magazines and newspapers on a weekly basis. In 2012, the percentage was 82% — no significant difference. When we look at the answer to this same question based on the younger operator, 85% indicated weekly usage of these printed products and that is actually a slight increase from the 2012 measure of 81%.

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Editorial integrity, advertising appeal and being part of the solution (without selling your soul)

Gawker made a splash this week with a report that says in addition to criteria such as “Quality of Writing” and “Productivity/Tenacity,” a Time Inc. spreadsheet used to evaluate writers and editors also contains a column titled, “Produces content that is beneficial to the advertiser relationship.”

The report was given to Gawker by the Newspaper Guild, which has filed an arbitration demand against Time Inc. to dispute the use of these criteria as a basis for writer lay-offs. While there’s probably more to it than a seemingly outrageous violation of ad/edit ethics (a Sports Illustrated spokesperson tells Gawker that “The Guild’s interpretation is misleading and takes one category out of context”), this story comes on the heels of a report that Conde Nast tried to recruit big-name writers in the food industry for a custom video series for seed giant Monsanto—without telling the writers that the project was an advertorial. On the surface, August hasn’t been a good month for editorial standards in the magazine industry.

At the same time, the survival of quality journalism may depend on editors playing a bigger role in the financial success of their companies. The two extremes of the edit/ad relationship fall into camps of “hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil” when it comes to business considerations, and pay-for-play. As is usually the case with extremes, both are wrong.

Historically regarded by publishing executives as a cost center, content creators who can help propose and realize programs with significant revenue derived from either advertising/sponsorship (while staying away from pay-for-play) or paid content can help raise their value exponentially. “Engaging with the business side does not automatically mean compromising professional integrity,” said Bill McDowell, vice president and editorial director of MTG Media during a session at ABM’s Regional Training Series in Chicago called “Raise Your Business IQ and Get a Better Seat at the Table.” Instead, McDowell urged editors to look for opportunities to create content that users will pay for.

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Through the funnel: Marketing technologies becoming priority for b2b media

DragonForceSourceMedia has a new owner and a full war chest to pursue acquisitions. Among its targets: digital marketing technologies that can create a more efficient, targeted buy.

Advanced marketing solutions, including programmatic buying, marketing automation and retargeting, are no longer the domain of tech media but are becoming increasingly important in other verticals as well. “Where are we with tracking people through our funnel?” asked Mason Power, chief marketing officer at iLevel Solutions, during a marketer roundtable at ABM’s recent Annual Conference called “What B2B Marketers Want from You.” “Where are we with tracking people through [b2b publishers’ sites] and connecting the two? That’s what we want to discuss, not space and time.”

This week, launched a state-of-the-art data platform and content delivery system, designed to offer high-quality content and contextual advertising. The new platform includes advanced display advertising and retargeting, pay-per-click advertising, marketing-ready leads generated through content marketing and sales-ready leads, which connect marketers with active buyers at the final stage of the purchasing process. A video outlining the new services is available here.

“The old media model was to simply connect buyer and seller and get out of the way,” Uphoff said in a recent Q&A with ABM. “The new model uses data to connect the right buyer to the right seller at the right time while nurturing that relationship.”

Praetorian Group, Inc. earlier this year announced a partnership with Drakontas LLC, a software and communications firm geared toward providing solutions for the government sector. As a result of this deal, Drakontas’s DragonForce software will be incorporated into Praetorian’s PoliceOne Network, a news resource and directory for the law enforcement industry. Drakontas will specifically be working with Praetorian Labs, the innovation investment division of the parent company.

DragonForce is an interactive, software-as-a-service (SaaS) package designed to aid in connectivity of law enforcement teams – both tactical and non-tactical. It offers an instant messaging platform, photo and document sharing, tracking capabilities and a collaborative whiteboard-style program. Praetorian’s addition of this software to its PoliceOne Network – which already offers news, training, product research and more to law enforcement professionals – will result in an even more comprehensive user experience.

“Many leading tech companies have incubators, labs or investment funds to better monitor trends, inform future M&A and investments and stay on the forefront of innovation,” Praetorian CEO Alex Ford told ABM. “I think we’ll see more of these types of programs being launched by media companies as they continue to evolve. It’s one thing to launch tech products and websites, but entirely another to become a part of the tech ecosystem of your market and stay on the forefront of innovation. Programs like Praetorian Labs and partnerships with companies like Drakontas allow us to do just that.”

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Research overview: Reaching and influencing b-to-b buyers

July 30, 2014 – Business-to-business decision makers tend to be conservative white males, mobile-savvy but using phones and tablets primarily for email, and reachable via traditional media channels, according to a review of 10 studies of b-to-b decision makers by The report, “Reaching and Influencing B2B Buyers and Decision-Makers,” gathers demographic and preferential survey results from a range of sources, including ABM’s own Value of B-to-B research.

Using a CMO Council study, the report identifies three stages that comprise the buyer journey: Awareness, Evaluation, and Purchase. Trade publishers and research reports ranked highly in the first stage of the journey, but for making specific purchases, tech specs and data sheets were number one.

Among the other takeaways from the report:

 — Demographically, b-to-b buyers increasingly skew towards conservative white males.

 — Decision-makers have adopted mobile devices and often use them for email.

 — The vast majority of buyers can be reached with traditional media.

 — They tend to rely most on websites and print magazines to research purchases.

For more takeaways, and the data behind them, the report is available as a 26-page, $99 download.

By Michael Moran Alterio