Looking back at 2018, it was a year of significant changes for the online publishing industry. The ad tech field underwent the adoption and implementation of serious business transformations: publishers of different scopes were challenged to embrace a number of technological advancements. Digital ad rates hit an all-time high and regulatory framework has put even more pressure on market players to produce high-quality content. Given that building an audience is the top priority for publishers, many saw this aspect as the most challenging during the past year.

Since the barrier to entry into the majority publishing verticals is low, being at the top of those verticals implies thinking differently and being innovative. Taking into account the dynamic essence of the digital advertising business, it is important to keep one's fingers on the pulse of the rapidly changing industry. The audience of every publisher is different, and so is the mix of monetization methods and strategies: it is important to find what works for you and test it. Being static in terms of monetization strategy means lagging behind while being observant and receptive to the latest developments is vital. Let’s check out what 2019 holds in the context of monetization.

Shift to simplicity and reliance

One of the most significant developments of 2018 was the introduction of WFA global media charter, identifying the major advertisers’ principles of collaboration within the digital media advertising ecosystem. This initiative seeks to reform the digital ad space, making it safer, more consumer-friendly and transparent. It is impossible to underestimate the timeliness of this step: the advent of programmatic brought benefits to marketing, but at the same time, it also caused severe side effects such as opacity, misuse, and fraud. This is the pretext to rethink monetization techniques in 2019.

Publishers are expected to be more picky and judicious when it comes to accepting tags on their platforms, tending to move it to servers. The rules of the game will be, to a great extent, dictated by the single ID progress which needs to be democratized but not owned, by a unified gatekeeper. High-quality first data publishers will be focused on data protection via deep taxonomies, moving away from unscalable PMPs (private marketplaces). All in all, the course of action is about trust, credibility and streamlining.

Working on identity together

The digital publishing industry experts point out the term ‘walled gardens’ as something which has to become a thing of the past. The term describes the advertising budget coming through the custom audiences and lists of users which enables precise targeting. At the same time, there is no way for any of this information to go beyond the walls into the open web, and here the publishers are missing out on this budget. In this respect, much is expected from the independent tech companies — there is a necessity to move these walls and redress the balance. More specifically, tech partners have to join efforts and work on a common identity solution as this area is much more accessible than one may think, and it requires collective organization.

Advertising ID Consortium, for instance, provides privacy-conscious, people-based interoperability for the digital advertising ecosystem. That is, the initiative addresses the problems of data loss, fragmentation, and ineffective targeting by means of an open and standardized pool for the cookie and device IDs, omnichannel ID framework, and the best practices in security. Buyers and sellers have a chance to seize the full potential of people-based marketing, and we expect the arrival of more such initiatives this year.  

Investments in content creation

Content consumers see about 4,000 ads every day. Monetization mechanisms are constantly changing, however, well-formed content remains the key success factor of the campaigns. The best monetization value is hidden in highly engaging content that does not disturb site visitors. A visual constituent of the ad is what people recall which helps a brand to be remembered. From both editorial and commercial perspectives, 2018 was characterized by the dramatic growth of online video, and this growth has been seen by publishers across the World Media Group.

Heavy investments in content creation stem from the adoption of cutting-edge technologies such as AI, AR, and 360 videos — these are the major revenue drivers for publishers.

Welcome back, news sites!

The abundance of low-quality and junk websites have had a negative impact on the image of a news website as a reliable source of information. Anyway, 2019 opens new horizons to news websites — we are about to witness a new surge. News sites have huge potential in terms of traffic: this category can bear fruit more than others, and leaving it behind is not even viewed as an option for publishers. Political landscape rhetoric is not a sufficient cause to do so. The credible and reliable news websites, providing a truthful reflection of things, will be rewarded because they provide value and will continue to do so in the future. New opportunities from wireless carriers

High hopes are being pinned on original equipment manufacturers and their solutions. It is forecasted that wireless carriers will play a huge role in the process of mobile content discovery, and this will naturally lead to the birth of new mobile monetization opportunities. As a result, original equipment manufacturers will keep on seeking ways to offer the audience informative and relevant content. Bixby, a news widget powered by Apple, or Discover by Google, reflect this tendency. There is a high demand in the user interface being built directly into smartphones, and based on this, publishers will have to think about monetization strategies with the emerging telcos’ opportunities in mind.

More money to in-app inventory

As far as the publisher monetization sphere is concerned, mobile has been thriving and is expected to flourish even more in the due year. Taking into account the rise of video and gaming applications, as well as the focus on deep personalization and data economy, 2019 will be the year of increased investment in in-application inventory. Regarding the movements toward transparency and an environment of trust, we will see shifts to fair marketplaces and unified auctions. The Digital advertising community will witness the participation of demand sources in single auctions levelling the environment between different buyer strata.

Diversified revenue streams

This is where the phrase ‘more transparency’ appears once again — the demand for increased transparency of the programmatic space has been the focus of 2018 and will be among the hot topics of 2019 and even further. The programmatic chain might see the introduction of new accreditation requirements in the middle of the year which will influence all the chain stages.

The blockchain industry remains one of the major potential transparency sources for buyers, however, we are far from saying blockchain will become mainstream this year. Obviously, publishers should not rely on advertising revenue alone. That is, 2019 opens doors to the development of diversified revenue streams — this will allow e-commerce players to provide publishers with lucrative prospects.

To sum it up, monetization trends of 2019 dance around two key areas — publisher diversification (in terms of targeting and revenue streams) and high-quality content, and both areas are dependent on the adoption of innovative technologies. Competitiveness in the realm of digital ad space means being flexible and perceptive; monitoring developments, testing and choosing one's own custom-tailored monetization technology is how things should be done.