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.