Q&A with Daniel Young, Yield and Programmatic Director for DMS

The yield and programmatic expert for Digital Media Services of Choueiri Group weighs in on the problems and opportunities for publishers today.

The landscape of the publishing industry has not been immune to the effects of the Coronavirus on the economy. Depending on the vertical, publishers have seen both spikes and valleys in their readership. Beyond that, they have had to contend with fluctuating revenues and stretched cash flow over the past few months.

As a part of JustPremium’s white paper, “Digital Publishing Roadmap to Navigating the Challenges of 2020”, JustPremium interviewed various global publishers about how they are approaching these turbulent times. Each of the publishers we spoke with had diverse views and plans for how they were going to help lead their publications through the storm.

This interview is with Digital Media Services’ Yield and Programmatic Director, Daniel Young. Daniel spoke to us from Dubai, where he leads the yield and programmatic divisions of DMS, which is the digital branch of Choueiri Group. He helps optimize the inventory of over 40 sites in order to create better monetization opportunities.

What has surprised you most about the effects of the Coronavirus on the digital publishing industry?

Daniel Young: “There has not only been a reduction in the overall demand that comes from huge drops in advertising spend across particular industries, but also the considerably lower CPMs that remain. I think that was to be expected with the oversupply situation we find ourselves in, but what I didn’t expect was many people just throwing out all their quality buying strategies and mentalities that they spent so long to establish.”

What do you think is one of the larger risks on the horizon?

D.Y.: “In a nutshell, cashflow. There’s always going to be the risk of clients, particularly smaller ones, not being a position to pay their agencies or perhaps delaying or extending their payment terms when there is a severe effect on cashflow. If however the agencies aren’t getting paid then it may create some sort of chain reaction with delays in paying suppliers, employees, and other responsibilities. I already know of some agencies that have put the brakes on payments and we all understand that many people are on reduced salaries or worse. It could be a while before purchasing power returns to the masses.”

What are some of the best ways publishers can survive an economic downturn?

D.Y.: “If they haven’t already, I think they will need to pivot into ways that are more efficient and effective. They might take stock of where they’re actually seeing the benefits and focus more on those. Here is where a ‘nice to have’ offering needs to make way for an increased focus on the USPs a little more, i.e. what they’re really good at and what will generate revenues while also being sustainable. For us, this could actually be very beneficial because we not only own and operate some of our sites but are fully invested in delivering both turnkey and specialist monetisation solutions to those we exclusively represent. This means that they can focus their efforts on creating the best content and experiences for their users knowing that we are operating in their best interests from a revenue generation standpoint.”  

Do you sense that relationships will change between publishers and partners?

D.Y.: “I think some of those perceived walls that people might have up, you know agencies vs clients or clients vs publisher, might change for the better. It seems to be a little more of an attitude of where we are all struggling so how can I get what I want in a way that you can get what you want too? Looking towards more mutually beneficial outcomes. I think there’s a little more mutual understanding, which is a good thing. It used to be where there was more of a one-way or even antagonistic relationship and in some cases, people would be willing to burn bridges too easily. I’m happy to see that all players seem to be more accepting and willing to compromise.”

Based on what you’ve said, would you say survival for publishers now depends on how they build their relationships and pivot their position?

D.Y.: “I think from our standpoint it might help us focus even more on partners. It could be how we work with outside technology providers and adjusting our offering to suit, but it could relate to the agencies and clients where we concentrate efforts on those that help shift the needle. There may be very little value in the spending hours on briefs and proposals that are going to consume huge volumes of inventory for a very little upshot. You also need to have a balanced relationship with two-way communication and that isn’t going to always be strained because they’re unfairly holding you accountable to their unrealistic measures of success. Why bother with that? Build stronger relationships with partners that are more focused on healthy strategies to the short, mid, and longer-term. Perhaps those that may be more open to experimenting with new products or solutions, enabling you to use and build tools collectively that can make the most of the situation but also strengthen the relationship and create opportunities.”

In our next interview, we will sit down with a different type of publisher. Remo Chipatiso works for WeerOnline based in the Netherlands and provides unique insights on how a very localised and specialised publisher faces different struggles and has separate opportunities in the face of the Corona crisis.

Webinar: Digital Publishing Roadmap for Navigating the Challenges of 2020

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Q&A with Erik Hulsbosch, CTO of JustPremium

The JustPremium Executive lends over a decade of industry experience to speak to publisher struggles during uncertain times.

Publishers should never have to face tough times alone. JustPremium’s latest white paper, “Digital Publishing Roadmap to Navigating the Challenges of 2020” featured voices from many different stakeholders in the digital publishing industry. We interviewed various publishers from all over the globe, but we also interviewed those in a position to help those publishers. 

JustPremium is in a position to help publishers work through the issues they are confronted with at this moment and come out stronger. The experts who work on the publishing side of our Ad-tech business are in a great position to offer advice on how to boost revenues and maintain steady cash flow despite the disruption caused by the Coronavirus. 

In this interview, we speak with JustPremium’s CTO, Erik HulsboschHulsbosch was one of the original group that founded JustPremium 8 years ago. Because of that, he has seen many large and small shifts within the digital publishing industry. Better yet, he has seen it all from a partner’s perspective, which gives him unique insight into how to approach problems from a holistic point of view. 

What are the biggest threats that publishers are facing right now?

Erik: “The biggest threat would be if one of the big agencies goes bankrupt. I think within every crisis, major or minor, there is that chance. The latest one was GDPR and we saw small movement then. You will see some movement now, and some publishers that just merge to reduce costs. This is going to happen. I do not expect major movements here unless they were already planned. There are publishers that are basically for sale already, or major holding groups that are selling their publishing business. Maybe that is the setup a little bit, or maybe we see a little bit more of it. But I do not expect some major changes.

How do you think publishers will respond to this downturn to stay in a strong position?

Erik:Some publishers will see an increase of direct relations with buyers or with direct advertisers. Some might think that that model won’t work for them and that they are going to fire the whole sales team and just do programmatic advertising. They may change only a few deals but that would be itThey’ll lower the cost and make money in a different way. There is no single way that they will survive. It really depends on the publisher, on the area. Maybe they already have way too many costs and now it is a perfect time for them to reduce it and refocus. 

What do you see the role of ad tech partners like JustPremium being when it comes to guiding publishers through stormy weather?

Erik:I do not believe that every single publisher is able to go to the advertiser or agency and build a relationship with them. Why? Because there are hundreds of thousands of publishers and there are only a few people on the agency. It is always good to keep close contact with the people in between, with the aggregator, with the network with the SSPs, with the whole ecosystem. Why? Because there are more publishers connected, and by that have immediate power to work with the advertisers. Ad-tech players are well-suited to be these mediators that bring them easy and powerful results.”  

How should partnerships be leveraged for publishers to stay on course?

Erik: “Work with your partners on solutions that can help you and your sales team or your whole business. Obviously, it is important to work with partners that generate a lot of revenue for you, but in the end, I think the most value for both partners: advertiser and user is when you can bring something unique.”

Are you optimistic or pessimistic about the future for digital publishers?

Erik:I have been in this industry for 12 years, so I’ve seen a lot. It seems like every year a new doomsday scenario is predicted for publishers. But every year goes by and publishers do just fine. There are tweaks here and there, but they continue to be a vital part of this ecosystem. In Q4 is where losses get turned into profits. The whole ecosystem is being monitored and insured by the power of the agencies. As long as the agencies continue to exist, there will not be a major shakeup. It is evolving, and it is not the same as 10 years ago. Do not get me wrong, the Coronavirus situation is different than the recession. But 10 years ago, they were saying the same thing about how publishers couldn’t maintain, but they did. I think through a combination of creativity and relying on partners, they will again.” 

Over the coming weeks, we will publish more extended interviews with publishers and other key players in the industry. Each of them brings their unique experience and insight into today’s issues and how they plan to face rocky roads ahead.

My New 2020 Vision Wrap Up

JustPremium recently challenged professionals in the ad and publishing industry to share their new predictions for 2020 under the #MyNew2020Vision hashtag challenge. People from all across the ad landscape answered the call with their own take on how they saw the rest of the year playing out and what changes they felt would become permanent fixtures in their working lives. They posted these predictions on their LinkedIn and became part of a broader conversation about evolution in times of distress.

The answers were as varied as the numerous participants. Some were more focused on how the Coronavirus would change the world of work generally, such as those who predicted that many people would be compelled to change career paths or find new lines of work. Others focused more on the closer effects of how it would change advertising or publishing specifically. For instance, many of the participants predicted that global media buying would consolidate and become more centralized.

Consolidation of Media Buying Powers

This could apply to not just advertising and publishing, but many office jobs that span across a variety of industries. However, the next most popular suggestions were very singular to the advertising industry. Harmen Tjaarda of JustPremium and Katie Ewer of JKR Singapore both foresee a round of media buy-outs before the end of the year.

Rob Garber, Managing Director for JustPremium, said: “There will be an aggressive M&A focus post-COVID-19. With cash-flow a struggle and redundancies and government plans being used, there will be more consolidation in the ecosystem.”

Ad Landscape/Media

Giving Back and Making an Impact

Another trend that we’re already seeing is brands leveraging their compassion and their sense community responsibility to pivot their messaging to include more human values themes. A good majority of participants predicted that this trend will continue.

Corporate Social Responsibility will be a huge trend going forward, according to Siim Säinas, the Social Insights and Measurement Lead for Maker Labs, a partner of Google. He said, “Everyone around the world is in fighting Covid-19 together. Consumer data suggests that our collective empathy has increased over the past months and we have started paying more attention to the world around us. Maybe cause-based marketing will just become marketing. Maybe we are ready to take on global warming.”

This will no doubt be true, but other respondents pointed out that consumers can feel fatigue around these messages rather quickly, and brands will have to get creative to break through to their customers when so many companies are offering merely generic messages of compassion.

Kate Ewer, Head of Strategy for JKR Singapore, underlined this point by saying she thinks we will see heightened consumer skepticism. “If there’s one thing this pandemic has taught us, it’s that there are two kinds of brands – those that have made a positive impact in a manner authentic to their values, and those that have messed about with the spacing of their logo elements. Posture at your peril.”

This is also in line with the opinion of Anton Reyniers, Google’s Regional Strategic Partnership lead who believes that now is the time to invest in real branding to make an impact. Reyniers predicts “the effectiveness of long term brand building will be something that can’t be ignored. Tactical led CMOs will fade away replaced with those that understand that protecting a brand means building it over years not quarters.”

Consumer Behavior

Regular Remote Working

However, the most popular prediction was one that companies had already been putting in action. The majority of respondents indicated that working from home becoming the new normal would be the most likely outcome of this disruption. While people varied in their reasoning as to why this would be so, they all agreed that these lockdown procedures served as a great trial run for a more remote working industry.

Peter Phillips, Global Strategy Director at MediaCom, elaborated, “Office work environment will radically change with a greater emphasis on remote and distance working and cross-team collaboration. Increased workforce flexibility in order to reduce size and upskill employees to make them more fluid with increased transferable skills and improve productivity whilst reducing costs.”


Various Ways of Aclimatizing to the New Normal

Other popular predictions include an increasing dominance of e-commerce shopping as consumers are more wary of social interactions in brick-and-mortar retail establishments. Another prediction is that digital advertising will become one of the more preferred ways to reach users as OOH and even television advertising struggles. Even still, advertisers will have to prioritize how to break through on those channels by using more creative and interactive elements to grab user attention.

Download Now: Digital Publishing Roadmap for Navigating the Challenges of 2020

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