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In association with CatchMetrics

Slow online ads cost UK publishers £50m a year: Here’s how to fix them

Online ads can take up to nine seconds to load on some leading UK news websites.

By Dominic Ponsford

Slow-loading online ads could be costing news publishers £50m in revenue, according to research shared with Press Gazette

UK-based ad latency monitoring platform Catch Metrics base this estimate on their analysis of the performance of ads running on the top 50 news websites in the UK.

They found that on average sites took 3.5 seconds to load all their adverts, compared to 1.5 seconds on the best-performing sites. Catch Metrics research indicates that publishers could achieve a 25% increase in ad views and up to a 25% boost in revenue on average if all online ads could load within 1.5 seconds

For every second waiting for an advert to load publishers lose ad impressions because readers bounce off the page and scroll down, missing commercial inventory.

Most publishers keep a close eye on “core web vitals”, which relate to the speed at which editorial online content loads. But many appear to be ignoring ad latency, which is not one of the metrics which is tracked as part of a site’s core web vitals healthcheck.

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The huge variance in ad latency performance among top-50 UK news websites suggests this is not a metric publishers are paying close enough attending to

Whereas ads on the best sites load in 1.5 seconds, the worst performing sites have ads which take nearly nine seconds to load.

Publishers can address ad latency by looking at their cookie consent process and finding ways to improve the quality of integrations with third-party advertising vendors who have programming code embedded into sites.

Catch Metrics co-founder Martin Alderson said he believes the £50m lost revenue figure is a conservative estimate of the money lost to publishers. And with cookie deprecation set to cost publishers up to 60% if online advertising revenue, according to some estimates, he said the timing could not be more urgent for publishers to address ad latency issues.

He said: “The dramatic difference in ad latency across publishers confirms our belief that ad latency is an issue the industry and supply chain as a whole has not got to grips with.

“There is no doubt that times are tough for online advertising revenues, but this latency problem is making it significantly more acute”.

He adds: “Publishers really need to look at how they are configuring their ad stack on page and how they are dealing with compliance, as often they are just checking ad
auction latency statistics and getting a completely misleading picture of what is happening – this does not include CMP and GPT initialization time, which is something publishers have
complete control to improve.”

Ad latency affects revenues in two key ways. Firstly, reducing the number of ad requests as users navigate off the page before the ad can even be displayed and secondly viewability, which reduces bids as users have scrolled past the ad units before the viewability metric can be tracked. Ultimately, this all leads to lower CPMs, lost revenues and a poor user experience

Catch Metrics co-founder Tom Allum said: “While it depends on the publisher, we have seen that for each second of ad latency revenues drop by approximately 10%. On average we think the industry is losing a quarter of their direct and programmatic display revenues due to ad latency

How can publishers fix slow-loading online ads?

Catch Matrics believes its research underlines the need for publishers to look at their ad stack behaviour holistically, as the majority of this latency does not come from auction dynamics as is often thought.

Instead, CMPs (consent management platforms) on average are contributing 850ms to ad latency. Furthermore, on page setup of the Google Publisher Tag is having a huge impact, on average taking 1850ms to initialise on page.

CatchMetrics offers a leading solution for tackling this problem, with a free initial consultation available for any publishers interested in getting detailed data, ongoing monitoring and
actionable insights across their portfolio properties.

Find out more about CatchMetrics.

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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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