Strength in Numbers: The Transformational Power of Publisher Alliances

Around the world, across digital media, would-be competitors are banding together.

In France, noted newspaper rivals Le Monde and Le Figaro allow advertisers to book digital ad campaigns across their combined portfolio, using the same display or video ad formats. Eight of the largest German publishing groups — including Axel Springer and Bertelsmann — have pooled their audience data together. And the News Media Alliance represents some 2,000 organizations throughout the US and Canada, including Wall Street Journal publisher Dow Jones.

As publishers compete with behemoths like Google and Facebook for advertising dollars, these alliances have proven a winning formula. Strength, they’ve found, really does come from numbers.

But what kind of potential do alliances like these truly unleash?

Three Reasons Why Data Alliances Thrive

Global platforms like Facebook and Google don’t win budgets simply through scale. They also offer advertisers granular data that allow them to target customers with pinpoint precision. While smaller publishers can’t match either, publisher alliances allow titles to share data and run campaigns across properties, bringing them closer on both scores. Further, publisher alliances offer features that global platforms can’t: vetted audiences, transparency and bespoke customer service. And that lends itself to a range of benefits:

1. While Google, Facebook and Amazon accounted for 62 percent of US digital ad spend in 2018, alliances create a more level playing field. Successful publisher alliances will take the things Google and Facebook do best — quality user data, seamless integration, reports and scale — and combine it with their own strengths as local businesses, including greater trust with readers, GDPR compliance and a more tailored, personal service when working with advertisers. The result is ecosystems that provide the best of both worlds.

2. Advertisers can plan their media campaigns unambiguously across a network of trusted partners. Publisher alliances are able to deliver custom audiences built on first-party data, while allowing a view into how individual publishers collect their data, ensuring that readers understand their methods and the data represents a real, high-quality audience.

3. Joining together strengthens brand safety. Google and Facebook have shown over recent years that they can’t necessarily ensure a brand’s advertising won’t appear next to unsavory content. By banding together with a smaller number of publishers, alliances can control who has the privilege of accessing their inventory, which in turn ensures the quality and safety of their advertising; an attractive proposition for advertisers acutely aware of how damaging a scandal (such as their advertising coming up next to an ISIS video on YouTube) could be to their brand.

Finding the Right DMP Partner

So what should publishers look for when choosing the right data partner for an alliance? For starters, a successful alliance must be built around a powerful DMP that is easy to use and can act as the glue to hold things together. And publisher alliances in the Netherlands, Belgium, the Baltic States, Portugal and Romania are using the Piano DMP to make their combined numbers work for them in exactly the ways above.

Since the DMP represents the core of the alliance’s operations, it has to integrate easily with other systems. Publishers’ engineers and data scientists will appreciate a powerful, well-documented API, native AI capabilities and a plethora of integrations.

Different alliances have different goals. Some will be happy sharing data and creating segments in a more standardized and transparent way. Others may want to build a programmatic and direct ad sales organization that they actually have control over, which can also improve their advertising on platforms such as Facebook.

The right DMP partner must be technologically flexible with an experienced team of data scientists who understand how to help alliance members achieve their varied and evolving goals. Finally, the DMP partner must act in the best interests of alliance members. By nature, Facebook and Google won’t put publishers first as they don’t own their content. In an alliance, there must be a more collaborative approach.

A Shared Vision

Because the stakes are so high, alliance members must share a unified vision. Before deciding on a technical set-up, alliance members must ask these important questions:

  • What data will be shared among all members and what will be limited to select members?
  • What data can members keep out of the common pool entirely?
  • How will members apportion revenue from shared campaigns? (We have seen success from algorithm-based distribution keys that calculate which titles have made the biggest impact based on live data.)

All of this can be managed easily with a good DMP.

Whether it’s the types of sites allowed, revenue goals or how inventory is bundled, members of an alliance must be on the same page from day one. Success won’t come overnight. Shifting the dynamics of the media industry takes time. A successful publisher alliance will need continued investment in areas such as inventory, marketing and recruitment. They’ll need the confidence that in the long run they can achieve the increased financial stability that makes it all worth it.

But with the right ingredients, an alliance could be a recipe for the success and improved security publishers are looking for.