How publishers can recession-proof their business
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5 things publishers need to put in place to recession-proof their businesses

  • 4 min read

To-date, the impact of the pandemic on the publishing industry has been mixed. Many publishers have seen an accelerated decline in ad revenues – data from Publicis shows that  European publishers saw revenues decrease by an average of 9% year-on-year for the first half of 2020. While it remains uncertain whether those revenues will recover to pre-pandemic levels, many of those operating subscription-based models saw increasing growth in subscription rates.

Against this unpredictable backdrop, publishers must now turn their attention towards preparing for the possibility of a deep recession in order to ensure they stand the best chance of weathering any potential financial storm.

Here are five steps publishers should consider taking if they want to secure their revenue streams, now and in the future.

1. Focus on growth

Despite the inclination to batten down the hatches, businesses need to focus on growth during a recession. In a Marketing Week article earlier this year, Mark Ritson highlighted how research on the Great Depression showed, “companies that increased their ad budgets during the recession grew sales much faster than their rivals – not only during the downturn but also beyond it.”

The implication for publishers is that they need to create an environment for advertisers that supports this mindset, providing better targeting, increased reach, and most importantly, the ability to justify their ad spend – measurement is key. Implementing solutions that will enable advertisers to do this will ensure publishers remain relevant during these challenging times, as well as place them in a strong position to emerge from the recession ahead of the pack.

2. Enable data-driven targeting and measurement

The pandemic and the demise of third-party cookies – and soon mobile identifiers – act as a double whammy for publishers. As the mainstay for the programmatic ecosystem, the upcoming deprecation of third-party cookies will impact advertisers’ abilities to strategically reach audiences. This, combined with an economic downturn and an increased scrutiny on ad spend, means publishers need to look at how they demonstrate their continued value to marketers in order to protect their revenue streams.

Central to this new relationship with advertisers are solutions that allow publishers to deliver increased addressability, accountability and measurement. These functions enable advertisers to continue to implement data-driven marketing tactics that provide better consumer experiences, create a holistic view of all touchpoints, and lead to greater effectiveness as well as increased media efficiency and ROI.

Publishers must find a solution that meets both their needs and those of marketers yet improves upon customer experiences while maintaining consumer trust and control. 

3. Create authentication strategies that support your value model

Authentication is vital to implementing a people-based addressability solution. In this context, authentication refers to any time a user provides personal data such as an email address or phone number to a media owner or publisher. Typically, this is provided as part of a sign-up or registration process. This consented, first-party information will help strengthen publishers’ relationships with advertisers as it enables them to provide better quality audiences.

The key to building a successful authentication strategy lies in creating invaluable experiences, content, etc. that invites customers to participate in a trusted value exchange. Publishers have a number of tools that they can use to do this, such as subscriptions and newsletters, social log-ins, premium subscriptions or offerings, content walls and gated or premium services.

4. Select a solution that enables participation in a trusted ecosystem

A trusted ecosystem hinges on its ability to uphold data privacy, which means deploying privacy-first solutions with a deep commitment to data governance. 

A number of questionable solutions such as fingerprinting and hashed emails have appeared as alternatives to solve issues stemming from the imperfections of third-party cookies as identifiers. Fingerprinting and hashed emails may offer a ‘quick fix’, but they go against the ethos of a trusted, people-based ecosystem, as they do not respect consumer privacy or function in a fully-secure manner. Additionally, with ongoing changes to global privacy regulations, they are not sustainable solutions for publishers and marketers alike.  

It’s essential publishers avoid ‘solutions’ like these and maintain control of their consented, first-party data. Raw personal data should never be made available to any third-party; rather, data can be activated across a privacy-conscious ecosystem through encryption, on a selective partner-by-partner basis.

5. Invest in the right partnerships

To deliver all these things, publishers need the right technology partner to enable addressable reach across an advertising ecosystem rooted in trust and transparency. When choosing partners, publishers aren’t only buying technology, they’re also buying into the vendor’s philosophy and future strategy for that particular solution. 

By following the above steps, publishers place themselves in the best possible position to demonstrate their continued value to advertisers. This is key to keeping the ad revenue stream flowing even in the toughest of times and beyond. 

Reach out to LiveRamp at [email protected] to get started today.