According to a survey conducted in March, 35% of consumers in the United States had canceled a monthly subscription in the previous six months due to rising inflation. Netflix was among the platforms losing audiences, but the streaming giant recently reversed this decline, right before it launched its ad-supported tier in select countries to offer viewers a more affordable service. But while big names have the brand awareness to attract sign-ups, this isn’t the case for all media outlets. The New York Times may have reported 180,000 new digital subscribers in the second quarter of this year and a dip in digital ad revenue, but the wider projection (paywall) is that advertising will continue to play a large role in monetization strategies.

It’s important to remember the trajectory of digital advertising relies upon not just advertisers and publishers, but audiences as well. Analyzing and responding to user preferences is the key to profitable processes for all players. So, what do the buy and sell sides need to consider to boost the return on investment and revenue respectively, and how can adtech keep audiences at the heart of the conversation to facilitate gains for all?

Creating A Triad Of Success

Audiences are increasingly demanding a better user experience, and while some may still be able to afford to pay for ad-free services, it seems consumers are warming to ads if it means content is free or less costly. A 2021 Reuters study found that only 21% of Americans had paid for online news in the previous year, while another study revealed that consumers didn’t want to subscribe to online publishers due to the price, as well as the availability of free news elsewhere.

The quality of content and type of ads are also important considerations for consumers. A Harris Poll and GumGum study found that 65% of respondents in the United Kingdom would be tempted to buy from online ads relevant to the webpage they were currently viewing, showing a proclivity for contextual targeting. In addition to this, 73% of consumers expect companies to understand their unique needs and expectations, so there’s a growing preference for suitable, tailored communications.

This is drastically altering the structure of the digital advertising ecosystem, which used to be centered around the dynamic duo of advertisers and publishers. While ad agencies once united the buy and sell sides ahead of a deal being struck, the advent of programmatic advertising, ad networks and exchanges took over. Throughout this process, consumers were treated as numbers traded between publishers and advertisers for monetization and reach purposes. Those days are well and truly over. Individual users are complex with varied interests and needs, all of which should be considered to deliver effective advertising and ensure the survival of valuable publishers.

Unlocking Audience Insights

To effectively monetize their inventory, publishers need to offer advertisers data-enriched placements that will deliver creative to the right audiences at the right time. Adtech can facilitate this process by analyzing user data and examining behaviors, attitudes, values and attributes so that the data is no longer just a number shared between both sides of the programmatic ecosystem.

Then, user interests are leveraged to produce targetable segments to which adverts and content can be tailored. So not only are ad campaigns better optimized and more efficient—with less wasted spend—but users also receive relevant creative. As a result, adtech can establish a single ecosystem for all programmatic players. This includes publishers, advertisers, ad exchanges, supply-side platforms and demand-side platforms, together with first-party or third-party audience data, to increase addressability and campaign effectiveness.

The future of digital advertising depends on user individuality. Gone are the days when the buy and sell sides dominated proceedings alone, trading data points rather than users’ actual interests and characteristics. As I see it, adtech is the crucial cog to power an efficient relationship between all sides of the programmatic machine, unlocking the audience insights that are essential for campaign effectiveness, generating relevant creative and ensuring the crucial survival of digital publishers. It’s a win all around for each of the powerful three.

(As published on Forbes)