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July 9, 2024

Publishers must prove audience loyalty to win ad spend battle

It’s not the size of the audience that matters – it’s how well you know them, writes Trevor Vagg of Kantar Media.

By Trevor Vagg

The media market is undergoing seismic changes and competition for advertising is fierce.  A recent WARC report noted that digital platforms like Alphabet, Meta and Amazon are fast growing their share of total ad spend while the picture is more challenging for content media owners including publishers. 

The latest IPA Bellwether report also showed a cooling of marketing budgets in the first part of this year. However, there is good news on the horizon as it forecast a stronger outlook going into 2025. So when purse strings loosen, how can publishers and content owners defend and increase their share of ad investment?  

The winning tactic, in my view, is to prove the loyalty of your audience and to demonstrate a superior knowledge about how they think, act and spend – so advertisers have what they need to successfully target particular sets of audiences.    

Show a deep knowledge of your audience

Publishers and media owners already know a great deal about their audience’s behaviour on their platform through first-party data.  They know who engages, when, on which devices, and for how long.  

But they may not know why the audience is engaging, nor do they know what else the audience does outside of the platform – what other content they consume, or what defines their experiences online and offline. Are they saving for the future, or getting ready for a big investment? Are they open to advertising, or harder to reach? 

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Answering those broader questions acknowledges that people are complex and multi-faceted creatures responding differently to external socio-economic factors. By overlaying first-party data with independent third-party data, publishers can get under an audience’s skin to better understand how people’s behaviours are changing, what they find appealing and why – to increase the chances of advertisers’ campaign success. 

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For example, Samsung Ads used our data and insight tools to supplement first-party data provided by more than 50 million Samsung smart TVs across Europe. It identified and predicted the demographic characteristics of these viewers to develop new privacy-secure targeting segments that have been incredibly attractive to advertisers.

Prove the loyalty of your audience to your platform

As important as content is to attract an audience, the platform is also an asset – a brand if you will – built up over years and decades of hard graft. Where publishers have a trusted platform and a loyal audience, any advertising running alongside their content benefits from a significant “multiplier” effect, boosting its effectiveness. Media owners must champion this.  

A great example of a publisher currently maximising its brand to attract ad spend is the Financial Times. The paper has recently launched a global campaign to raise the profile of its reach and readership, highlighting the type of people who read the paper and how they engage with its content – be it financial news, weekend editions or the luxury, homes and money supplements. 

Owners of sports rights are also able to tap into the deep emotional connection their audience has with their platforms, which can drive brand recognition, positive associations, and purchasing decisions – everything that matters to advertisers.

It falls on media owners and publishers to do justice to the heritage and heft of their platform. By twinning robust third-party insight with their own data they can show that their channel has an edge with a certain audience above others and why this matters.

Keep up with your audience

The final piece of the puzzle is to maintain this equation of a loyal audience on a trusted platform. Audiences evolve, and so must the platforms, to keep pace with them. The challenge is do this while retaining the USP, the X factor that made the platform attractive to that cohort and advertisers in the first place.

Disruptive publishers like Joe Media and Ladbible are using TGI data to keep a finger on the pulse of the changing attitudes and behaviours of their original audience of 18-34 year olds who are moving out of that age bracket, while developing content for new and younger incoming consumers. This helps expand the footprint of the platform, grow the audience, and at the same time capture a larger chunk of ad spend. 

Prepare brands for the boardroom

Like content owners and publishers, advertisers are also grappling with the noisy ecosystem of publishers, rights owners, individual content creators, lightening trends and fragmenting audiences. They are facing tough questions about where to put their money and where to find the best return on investment. 

In this-fast changing world, publishers who show how their platform is maintaining its difference and loyalty in a crowded market will be the ones who foster confidence in advertisers and stand out when budgets are being allocated.

The key is to give brands the answers they need when they are justifying choosing your platform to internal stakeholders in the boardroom. Get that right, and media owners give themselves a strong chance in the battle for ad spend.

Email pged@pressgazette.co.uk to point out mistakes, provide story tips or send in a letter for publication on our "Letters Page" blog

Select and enter your email address Weekly insight into the big strategic issues affecting the future of the news industry. Essential reading for media leaders every Thursday. Your morning brew of news about the world of news from Press Gazette and elsewhere in the media. Sent at around 10am UK time. Our weekly does of strategic insight about the future of news media aimed at US readers. A fortnightly update from the front-line of news and advertising. Aimed at marketers and those involved in the advertising industry.
  • Business owner/co-owner
  • CEO
  • COO
  • CFO
  • CTO
  • Chairperson
  • Non-Exec Director
  • Other C-Suite
  • Managing Director
  • President/Partner
  • Senior Executive/SVP or Corporate VP or equivalent
  • Director or equivalent
  • Group or Senior Manager
  • Head of Department/Function
  • Manager
  • Non-manager
  • Retired
  • Other
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how Progressive Media Investments may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.
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