Digital Marketplace: How Publishers Can Use Data to Sell Ads


By: Nu Yang

Digital Marketplace: How Publishers Can Use Data to Sell Ads

According to the Pew Research Center’s 2013 State of the News Media report, total digital advertising (including mobile) rose to $37.3 billion in 2012, and for the first time, digital ads outpaced newspapers advertising in 2011. The report also showed that digital ads make up 23 percent of overall U.S. advertising, up from 20 percent in 2011. If the trend continues, digital advertising will keep growing as more news is consumed online.  

For publishers, this new digital world can present challenges, but it can also present opportunities. By using advertising analytic services, publishers now have the tools to target specific audiences and make real-time decisions. Analytics show numbers and data—and advertisers know numbers don’t lie. Most importantly, analytics show publishers they don’t have to navigate blindly into the digital marketplace.  

Real-time action

When the Financial Times wanted to know who was generating the 6 billion ad impressions at, the British international daily newspaper turned to Metamarkets.  

Based in San Francisco, Metamarkets was founded in 2010 and has a staff of 45. According to its website (, the analytics provider “analyzes large volumes of streaming data and measures key metrics in real-time, empowering business users to immediately answer their own questions.”  

Co-founder and chief executive officer Michael Driscoll said Metamarkets operates as a “business intelligence platform for publishers.”  

“We measure ad inventory, help evaluate ad placement performance and help publishers own their audience,” he said.  

With the FT, Driscoll said they provided a “highly-tailored dashboard that explored data” and allowed the paper to make “real-time pricing decisions.” According to Driscoll, FT earned more revenue with digital advertising than with print this past year.  

In a 2012 interview with PricewaterhouseCoopers, FT global advertising sales director Jon Slade explained that by working with Metamarkets, “It gives me that single view in a single place in near real time what my exact supply and my exact demand are—and that is really critical information.

“Previously, the way that data was held—the demographics data, the behavior data, the pricing, the available inventory—was across lots of different databases and spreadsheets. We needed an almost witchcraft-like algorithm to provide answers to ‘How many impressions do I have?’ and ‘How much should I charge?’ It was an extremely labor-intensive process. And that approach just didn’t really fit the need for the industry in which we work. Media advertising is purchased in real time now.”

“Publishers using ad analytics like ours are using it for real-time advertising in a real-time marketplace,” Driscoll said. “Metamarkets changes the way advertising is sold. (Salespeople) used to undersell because they didn’t have the correct systems in place, but now they can connect with premium advertisers.”

Making decisions in real-time is now more important than ever. “Publishers can peer into our dashboard and watch as monetization unfolds…it’s a superior way of selling,” Driscoll said. “Publishers can take advantage of sudden changes, such as a surge of traffic and profit from it.”

He added that ad analytics create “operational awareness” for publishers. He compared the digital landscape as “pipes” for publishers, and if one of those “pipes” in the network burst without analytics, publishers may not find out about the damage until days later.

Another important analytics component is real-time selling. “(Salespeople) can negotiate with the buyer,” Driscoll said. “It helps them understand what audience to target and gives them an immediate quote back. It allows for immediate planning, to see what audience is available and to price accordingly.”  

This kind of immediacy has helped FT improve its workflow. “Before, the sales team would send an email to ad operations in London for an inventory forecast, and it could take the ad operations team up to eight working hours to get back to them,” Slade told PricewaterhouseCoopers. “It could even take as long as two business days to get an answer in times of high volume. Now, we’ve reduced that turnaround to about eight seconds of self-service, allowing our ad operations team time to focus on more strategic output.”  

Making an investment

In March, the McClatchy Co., the third largest newspaper company in the country, acquired Tru Measure (, a media measurement and analytics firm based in Crested Butte, Colo. Founded in 2009, the company focuses on capturing consumer engagement generated from media and advertising.  

According to co-founder and general manager Charity Huff, Tru Measure currently works with 35 reseller partners. “We work with many of McClatchy’s peers in the industry as well as ad agencies and advertising platforms focused on local advertising…Tru Measure allows these reseller partners to tell their advertising ROI story, providing proof through the Tru Measure platform, products and services that show precisely how the advertising program is performing.”  

Huff said Tru Measure collects, monitors and reports performance from all ad types including, print and online display, search, mobile, social, deals and direct mail.  

At the time of the acquisition, Christian A. Hendricks, McClatchy vice president, interactive media, said, “This is another important investment in McClatchy's digital future. ROI and performance assessment are now front and center in almost every conversation we have with small and medium-sized businesses. With the addition of Tru Measure to our product and services portfolio, our advertising sales consultants are now positioned to not only talk about results, but to show customers how each component of their advertising spend is performing.”  

For Huff, the acquisition showed that McClatchy was making a “forward thinking” move. “They recognized analytics are a big and necessary part of every business,” she said.  

When an ad is placed and distributed throughout the web, Tru Measure captures user activity: page views, clicks, unique visitors, time on site, exit URL, phone calls and emails. Then, the information is stored in its databases. Using that data, Tru Measure generates reports calculating Return on Advertising Spend to monitor each ad campaign’s effectiveness.  

“It gives more control on the publisher’s side,” Huff said. “Before, publishers were not getting any credit for driving business to a site. Now, it adds layers, and advertisers can see what they are getting for their money.”  

Tracking the digital omnivore  

According to internet analytics company comScore (, consumers have become digital omnivores as they connect online through smartphones, tablets and other devices. Not only do publishers have to keep an eye on how these consumers are moving from page to page on their site, they now have to understand how consumers navigate from each of their devices. Recently, comScore reported that nearly four out of 10 smartphone owners own a secondary digital device, whether it’s a tablet, e-reader or other handheld device.  

As a remedy, comScore’s Media Metrix Multi-Platform offers a comprehensive view of digital consumer behavior across desktop computers, smartphones and tablets.  The platform reports on more than 300,000 digital media entities, including audience size, demographic composition, engagement, performance within key user segments and behavioral trends.  

comScore vice president of industry analysis Andrew Lipsman said this kind of data allows publishers to “take a full census and not just an estimate.”  

A common misconception for publishers is the cookie, a small text file placed on computers by websites for tracking purposes. According to comScore’s “Digital Analytics: A 30 Year Retrospective,” counting reach with cookies was the method being used in most ad servers and analytics systems until recently.  

“Multiple cookies can come from just one person,” Lipsman said. “If someone deletes cookies or look at the website on different platforms, it will look like different cookies. Access on more than one platform is not a new concern, but if cookies are being cleared on a daily basis, it can skew numbers.”  

The importance of attribution

Even if a digital ad campaign is successful, publishers won’t receive credit for driving the conversions if there is no attribution.  

According to Adometry (, attribution is the assignment of credit to the events that lead to a conversion. Founded in 2005, Adometry is headquartered in Austin, Texas with 110 staff members. The company provides ad verification and cross-channel attribution intelligence to optimize results for online advertisers, publishers and ad networks.  

Adometry CEO Paul Pellman said instead of advertisers looking through a “thick fog” of massive data and finding opaque results, Adometry provides “crystal clarity” with its advanced advertising attribution technology. Currently, Adometry works with 70 advertisers from different industries across multiple web channels.  

“To do attribution well, publishers need to see all of the data of that advertiser,” Pellman said. “They need to find the right criteria for the advertiser because attribution shows them real value and provides tangible proof.”  

Pellman said one of the challenges is the outdated metrics being used, such as last-click or last-event attribution, which gives credit to the last ad seen before conversion. But publishers and their advertisers need to understand the stream of events that lead to that conversion instead of just relying on that last click.  

In 2011, ideeli, an online shopping website, began to experience inconsistencies with last-click measurement results, often resulting in data that failed to deliver any type of meaningful insights concerning campaign performance.  

By using Adometry, the company set out to increase the number of new member sign-ups and engage prior customers to increase repeat purchases. Ideeli was able to immediately map a connection between display and search campaigns. Using these insights, ideeli was able to apply optimization recommendations over a period of three months to reallocate media spend to top performing placements and eliminated all inefficient ad placements. The result was a 14 percent reduction in cost-per-action while still maintaining new member sign-ups and a 30 percent boost in repeat purchases.    

Embracing the digital marketplace

Moving forward, the professionals in the analytics industry see several trends for publishers.  

Lipsman of comScore said digital advertising will focus more on ad viewability. “Half of all ads are not seen because consumers are not scrolling down the page or waiting for the ad to load.”

He said, “Publishers should check on the performance of a campaign as it happens and see where the ad is landing, and change the campaign if the ad placement is not working.”

Adometry’s Pellman said, “As more money shifts to digital, the challenge of last-event attribution gets worst. More media is moving to digital and there are more media elements. It’s a fact that there are more digital channels like Facebook and mobile. Every channel will want to take credit of conversions, but attribution will solve that problem for advertisers.”

Metamarket’s Driscoll said he sees more publishers using programmatic advertising, which relies on algorithms. That tells him that publishers are willing to experiment.

“For a long time, publishers have allowed a third party to come in…they outsourced their digital strategy,” he said. “The pendulum is shifting, and now publishers are taking control of how they manage digital in order to take control of their digital destiny.”    

What can publishers do right now to get in the analytics game?

“Experiment with the real-time marketplace and don’t be afraid of real-time bidding. It’s the future.” Michael Driscoll, Metamarkets

“Network with advertisers, feed on their insight and sell them the right kind of media.” Paul Pellman, Adometry  

“Understand which parts of your website give the best ad experience and sell that placement.” Andrew Lipsman, comScore  

“You have to jump in to compete in the marketplace. Understand your advertising does work and analytics is how you prove it. The best advertising campaign includes print, mobile and digital.” Charity Huff, Tru Measure    


10 Principles for the Future of Digital Media Measurement and Analytics

1. All media—including TV—are going digital; measurement must follow the same path.

2. Measurement must translate from pixels to people.

3. Multi-platform measurement must integrate census-level digital data sources to deliver reporting at big data scale.

4. Holistic reporting should provide a unified, platform-agnostic view of consumer behavior.

5. Viewable impressions are the standard needed for true cross-media comparability.

6. Common metrics should be used to facilitate multi-platform planning and optimization.

7. Measurement of ad effectiveness should use metrics that matter, not just those that are easy to measure.

8. End-to-end advertising analytics should speak the same language.

9. Measurement must evolve toward real-time and eventually predictive analytics.

10.  Data should have a common global framework, but provide local insight.


Source: “Brave New Digital World: A Manifesto for the Future of Digital Media Measurement and Analytics” comScore


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