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This Week
March 16, 2021
The Walled Gardens: If You Can’t Beat ‘Em … Litigate ‘Em?
Is Your CMS Killing Your ROI?
Are We Really Ready For the Cookiepocalypse?
Around the Water Cooler
Let’s Get Litigious: Will New Laws (and Lawmakers) Break Down the Walled Gardens?
Move over COPPA, GDPR, CCPA and CPRA. There’s a new legislative acronym for publishers to watch: It’s called JCPA (short for the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act of 2021). And though it’s not focused on privacy like the others, if it gets passed, the bill could be just as game-changing for our industry in terms of how digital media companies actually make money.

It’s a big bill with a lot of nuances — Digiday’s Kate Kaye unravels the threads quite well — but the gist of it is that the JCPA would let publishers band together to broker content distribution and monetization deals with “digital platforms that have at least one billion global monthly users.” (Read: Google and Facebook).

The JCPA would only cover deals that benefit the industry overall — not just an individual publisher or group of publishers — and basically makes it legal for media companies to collectively bargain with the walled gardens without formally “unionizing,” or having to worry about breaking any antitrust laws themselves.
Why This Matters
If JCPA gets passed, it’s essentially a brick — a massive brick, backed by the power of both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives — that publishers can throw at Google and Facebook’s walled gardens. And while it won’t make those walls come tumbling down, it would definitely make a dent (or a crack?) for more money to flow through.

Case in point: What happened in Australia in February. Big G and Facebook both essentially threatened to stop distributing and monetizing Australian news publishers’ content because of a similar law that was passed in that country. In the end, both companies came back to the bargaining table with money and technology.

Of course, there’s no guarantee that JCPA will pass (or be quite as effective) here in the States where Google and Facebook have successfully fought off lots of similar legislative battles. (A previous version of the bill got introduced in 2019 but didn’t go anywhere).

What’s different now is that the 2021 version has strong bi-partisan support, and potentially, the backing of a presidential administration that is bringing in some big, tech-savvy guns to lead key antitrust organizations like the FTC. And interestingly enough, the JCPA also has the backing of another tech giant: Microsoft.

Weeks ago, the company threw its weight behind Australian and European publishers in their respective fights against the walled gardens week Down Under. What the Verge notes, is that Microsoft also had some very specific things to say about Google and its dominance over the ad ecosystem as it pertains to the JCPA:

“News organizations have ad inventory to sell, but they can no longer sell directly to those who want to place ads,” says Microsoft president Brad Smith. “Instead, for all practical purposes they must use Google’s tools, operate on Google’s ad exchanges, contribute data to Google’s operations, and pay Google money. All this impacts the ability of news organizations to benefit economically even from advertising on their own sites.”

Oop! Sounds like fighting words to me … We’ve just got to stay tuned.
Is Your CMS Killing Your ROI?
Publishers are at the beginning of a digital renaissance—finally. Two important changes are occurring at the same time that are making publishers wake up and take charge of their digital strategies once and for all.

First up—the death of the cookie. With the elimination of third-party tracking, publishers have the opportunity to forge closer relationships with their audiences, encouraging sign-ups and using the logged-in environments to enable better ad experiences.

Second, as noted by Search Engine Journal, is the backlash against outdated content management systems that are hurting user experience and holding back site performance.

Both ads and content are changing—which means that publishers have the opportunity to fix them both with a unified solution that makes a better experience for audiences and offers better opportunities for advertisers.
Why This Matters
Content Management Systems are primarily editorial in focus and not built with monetization as a priority. This focus tends to create friction between Editorial teams and Sales teams.

Media organizations have long tried to keep a wall up between sales and editorial to maintain editorial integrity, but it creates technical problems that ends up hurting both sides. Remember, the customer has one experience, not two. And advertisers care about overall performance, which includes the context of their ad placement.

Here are some of the major issues that the messy CMS and ad tech setup creates for publishers:
  • Latency: Pages are heavy and load slowly, which is bad for visitors, advertisers and publishers.
  • High Bounce Rates: Slow load times and ugly sites aren’t appetizing for users. Many studies show it takes less than two seconds for a viewer to leave a slow-loading page
  • Low SEO and WCV Rankings: Google doesn’t like poorly performing pages. Slower pages drop lower in rankings.
  • Under-Monetization: With too many ads placed randomly on the page, advertisers bid less and ads perform worse, leading to less, not more revenue.
It doesn’t have to be this way. Processes don’t have to be at odds with one another. Publishers can have it all—more revenue, better user experiences and better control.

In the next installment, we’ll show you how…
Are We Really Ready For the Cookiepocalypse?

Ad tech is getting confusing AF. Immediately following the brouhaha over Google’s announcement to not support identifiers tracking users across the open web, the IAB Tech Lab unveiled several technical specifications and best practices—for re-architecting digital media for addressability with accountability and privacy. Then, Google came back with plans to expand the use of publisher-provided identifiers. Seriously, it’s no wonder that by-and-large, the industry is overwhelmingly unprepared for the death of the third-party tracking cookie.

While 67% of data leaders report that their organizations are prepared for the impending loss of third-party cookies and identifiers, a staggering percentage of the industry is concerned about future limitations for targeting (45%), as well as for ad campaign measurement (41%), according to a new report from the IAB. Those numbers reek of bewilderment. No? Then why, oh why, is the industry still spending inordinate amounts of cash on third-party data?

Another report from McKinsey lays out the challenges that the cookie’s demise will bring to digital media and advertising overall, and trust us it ain’t pretty. Here’s a peek:
  • Up to $10 billion in US publisher revenue is at risk
  • Advertisers will have to completely overhaul data management and data sharing partnerships (we can just imagine how much that will cost)
We’re pretty much a year away from the beginning of the future of the end, and things couldn’t look more grim. That doesn’t mean you stop readying your first-party data strategies, adopting IDs and digging into the Privacy Sandbox, but it does mean that things won’t be business as usual for some time to come.
Why This Matters
Now that a federal consumer privacy bill is on the table, the idea of normalcy is even further afar. As big tech continues to get entangled in the web of antitrust, we can expect to see more moves that are meant to protect consumers, while appeasing big government but still managing to line big tech’s pockets at the loss of everyone else.

That’s why we weren’t surprised to see a ruckus break out on adops Reddit over a think piece about a Unified ID’s importance to the further existence of the open web. On the surface, none of the solutions being put forth appear to benefit either advertisers or publishers. In essence, the score will continue to be big tech 1000 to open web 0.

But there’s something to the arguments being made over on Reddit, especially where one Redditor suggested that folks look into the NetID in Germany. At a webinar, we hosted with eyeo in Q4, Achim Schlosser, CTO of the netid Foundation, talked about how having an independent governance operation overseeing the workings of the actual netid solution, allowed major German publishers to sign on with confidence and use the tool to monetize and deliver data-driven advertising. And of utmost importance, netID’s convenience for users also seems to be a hit with consumers.

That’s the one thing I think we all keep forgetting about in all of this, the consumer. How good are any of the solutions we’re proposing building their trust in confidence in us as an industry?
Around the Water Cooler
Here's what else we've been reading and talking about...
  • Let the ad tech consolidation continue. In the most recent episode of ad tech consolidation nation, Operative acquires STAQ to expand upon Operative's capabilities to aggregate, automate, normalize and optimize data, allowing Media companies to take full control of their entire supply and demand chain. Someone around the water cooler suggested they might be coming for Salesforce. What do you think? (Press Release)
  • Now that ad spending has followed swelling audiences to streaming media services, big players like Disney, Discovery, and ViacomCBS are building their own ad tech to better showcase inventory and manage yield. (Adweek)
  • With SXSW going virtual this year, media and entertainment publisher Mashable has made their Mashable Home a completely virtual experience with shoppable content from Walmart. Publishers looking to diversify their revenue should look to get ahead of this shoppable content trend. (RetailDive)
  • Super producers Swizz Beatz and Timbaland's Verzuz provided salve to millions of folks suffering from the Pandemic blues. Now they've been acquired by Triller Network and are sharing the wealth with over 40 other music artist creatives. If nothing else, this deal highlights the power of live streaming that was only accentuated by how the lockdown changed consumer content consumption. (Billboard)
  • Amid the streaming shift, YouTube has unveiled plans to tap into the rise of CTV viewing. Of course, there's a lesson in here for pubs.(SocialMediaToday)
  • Google's promise to not track people across the web for advertising purposes has had some impact on The Trade Desk and Magnite's positioning in the market. (The Motley Fool)
Sweet Tweet
Me no cry because cookie is finished. Me smile because cookie happened.
Worth a Listen
Senator Amy Klobuchar On How Congress Will Take On Big Tech
Alex Kantrowitz, author of ALWAYS DAY ONE: How The Tech Titans Plan To Stay On Top Forever and founder of Big Technology, a newsletter about Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, and Microsoft, spoke with Senator Amy Klobuchar, who is the new Chairwoman of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Competition Policy, Antitrust, and Consumer Rights. They spoke ahead of her first hearing to kick off the process as the legislature interrogates the power of big tech, and potentially takes action to restrain it. No time to listen, read Kantrowitz write up: Amy Klobuchar on the Democrats’ Plan to Take on Big Tech.
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