2016 Crystal Ball: Top 5 Publisher Trends to Watch

Written by Vipul Mistry | @mrmistry

crystal ball
2015 was a busy year for us digital media folks.  Expect 2016 to be more of the same—with new opportunities and challenges discovered across technologies, platforms, and experiences.  I’ve highlighted a few things I’m sure that we’ll be watching in 2016.

HEADER BIDDING

Along with programmatic and private marketplace, header bidding was one of the top buzzwords in digital in 2015. For those that don’t know, header bidding is an advanced programmatic technique where publishers offer inventory to multiple ad exchanges simultaneously prior to making calls to their ad server.  This implementation allows quality advertisers to better compete for valuable impressions, thus driving up the bid. Expect the discussion around header bidding to continue to be at the forefront for publishers, not solely for its potential impacts to yield, but for the quality advertisers it brings to market.  For many pubs, 2015 was spent understanding the dynamics of header bidding, and initial testing.  Header bidding is still a work in progress for many publishers. At the Appnexus Summit in November, it was mentioned that only about a quarter of the largest publishers have implemented a header bidding solution. For 2016, expect more testing, implementing solutions with the hopes of opening the door to more programmatic opportunities.  With so much to be gained by implementing programmatic solutions, you can count on publishers considering header bidding their top priority for the year.

MOBILE

Mobile phone usage will decline in 2016—Kidding! Over 92% of Americans currently own a cell phone, with 68% of the population owning a smartphone, and they are keeping that device within arms-reach at all times. That in mind, it’s no surprise that mobile traffic continues to outpace desktop traffic.  It’s not just millennials who are using mobile devices more, it’s older consumers with buying power and it’s also folks like my 70+ year old dad who don’t leave home without their iPhone and iPad.  Smartphone users are consuming and creating content at an unprecedented pace; mobile has revolutionized how people follow breaking news, make purchases, research health information, and navigate. Given the importance of the mobile platform, it is imperative that publishers optimize experiences to best suit the mobile format, tailoring content to a smaller screen and for the on-the-go consumer.  Given the quick hit visits and inherent bounce rate of social media links, optimizing content and advertising on this small screen format is crucial to maximizing revenue.  There will be additional focus on optimizing experiences for speed.  Facebook introduced Instant Articles and Google announced Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP)—all in an effort to reduce slow load times and getting these hyper-connected consumers information faster.

ad block

AD BLOCKING

The $10.7B that ad blocking cost publishers in 2015 could double in 2016, as the 18% of U.S. Internet users using ad blocking services grow. Users are pushing back against poor experiences.  To combat the clutter, the industry is shifting towards better experiences such as native advertising. Consumers are demanding content, experiences, and ads that are timely, relevant, useful, contextual, minimally invasive, and clearly identified; otherwise they are completely dismissing it.  No longer are ads just ineffective if done incorrectly, but now they can also be damaging. However, don’t expect the banner ad to die; just evolve.  So many brands, agencies and publishers live in the environment. In the upcoming year, expect more messaging to be embedded into content, interactive experiences and paid sponsorship to combat ad blocking.

personalization

PERSONALIZATION

The days of “Dear [first name], we have an exclusive deal just for you!” are fading as the concept of mass personalization evolves in sophistication. Advertisers are continuing to experiment with how to scale customized ads with big data to deliver the right message at the right time to the right person. Like advertisers, publishers must take a renewed interest in predictive and deterministic analytics that allow them to push out content that is more custom by nature. Publishers will lean more heavily on real-time data to help create the right content experiences at the right time.  2016 will be a year of discovering how to simplify analytics and use the resulting data to effectively engage the reader to read more and stay on page longer.

POLITICAL SPENDING

One Presidential race, 34 Senate races, 12 governorships, 435 U.S. House seats, and up to 29,000 local elections. That’s a whole lot of politics for a year (too much, some may argue). Experts predict unprecedented political spending in the range of $6-$10B. A whopping 80% of that spend will go straight to advertising. While the bulk will remain allocated to traditional television spots, 2016 will bring an uptick in digital ad spend.  Campaigns no longer limited to a few platforms (i.e. Google, Facebook), can reach voters at the most opportune times using mobile, tablet, or laptop. Everyone will be especially interested in seeing new innovations in reaching the voter, particularly via mobile for this election cycle. This trend ties in closely with personalization trends, as campaigns know they must break through the clutter to reach the voters most likely to engage with them and advocate on their behalf.   Publishers with the right demographics of audiences will benefit from the onslaught of additional advertising.

Vipul Mistry is the Business Development Manager at Intermarkets, a digital marketing firm that connects advertisers and publishers with the most powerful tools in the media space.

Reach me on Twitter @mrmistry