Salon’s 100% Programmatic Advert Enterprise Is Betting Its Submit-Cookie Chips On Subscriptions And Vendor-Outlined Audiences


Salon CRO Justin Wohl

The Promote Sider” is a column written by the promote facet of the digital media group.

Google’s choice to delay third-party cookie deprecation in Chrome till 2023 got here the day earlier than Salon CRO Justin Wohl’s wedding ceremony. Salon had transformed its advert enterprise to an open-web programmatic mannequin just a few years earlier, so the temporary reprieve from sign loss got here as an enormous aid and one more reason to pop some champagne.

Since then, Wohl has been hands-on with Salon’s advert tech companions to put the groundwork for efficient post-cookie monetization on the open internet.

Wohl spoke to AdExchanger about the necessity to standardize how exchanges ingest seller-defined viewers knowledge, Salon’s stance on personal market (PMP) offers and its income diversification efforts – together with a brand new emphasis on paid subscriptions.

AdExchanger: How is Salon producing constant income from its digital publishing enterprise?

JUSTIN WOHL: After I joined Salon in 2017, month-to-month cashflow was below water. We adopted a totally programmatic mannequin. Since 2018, greater than 95% of our monetization has been by way of open-market programmatic. We even have income from subscriptions and commerce, however each are single-digit share factors.

What areas of advert tech are you particularly centered on now?

I’m dug in on seller-defined audiences, which lives on the IAB [Tech Lab] stage and has but to be adopted by the trade.

We’re partnered with Carbon RMP, which was just lately bought by Magnite, and Audigent. Their scripts run on web page and generate first-party knowledge.

One of the helpful knowledge alerts for seller-defined audiences is IAB’s contextual class taxonomy, however every change wants the info to be packaged otherwise. So I’m tailoring bid requests to switch what advertisers in any other case depend on cookies for. I’m asking, “What alerts do your DSPs need so I can populate them when the bid request is shaped?” But it surely’s unsustainable to tailor seller-defined viewers knowledge for 15 or 20 change companions.

What wants to vary earlier than seller-defined audiences will probably be extra broadly adopted?

Vendor-defined audiences should be certifiable, as a result of consumers are involved they’ll be despatched dangerous alerts. Prebid 7.0 will embody a transparency framework.

As a result of Salon is so reliant on open-market enterprise, the lack of cookies and a purchaser’s capacity to worth our stock appropriately is considered one of my largest considerations. But when consumers can nonetheless use cookies they’ll preserve doing so. We received’t see the complete worth of seller-defined audiences till cookie deprecation really occurs.

Is Salon interested by PMP offers?

We don’t have any direct gross sales efforts or PMPs of our personal.

The entire programmatic ecosystem advantages from scale, so PMPs are higher fulfilled on the change stage, the place they’ve scale throughout a number of publishers. So many particular person publishers chase PMP offers and so they don’t fill, or the company contacts disappear. It’s a lot labor to get a little bit centered spend.

What are Salon’s plans for its subscription enterprise?

We have now just a few thousand subscribers who get an ad-free studying expertise. We don’t monetize our app with adverts. It has a meter, and you’ll pay for limitless entry.

I count on to accumulate 10,000 new subscribers within the subsequent six months. We have now new messaging round supporting impartial journalism that goes dwell in July.

Is Salon creating extra content material to monetize?

We tried CTV – we have been on Roku and Fireplace TV – however app downloads weren’t sufficient to be significant. We determined to push our content material to syndication platforms versus sustaining our personal channel.

Salon has 5 newsletters. When a consumer clicks by way of from e mail to web site, we will seize that e mail tackle and use it to gas id options. For publishers and not using a large logged-in consumer base, this can be a solution to seize authenticated visitors. That’s why we dove into it a 12 months in the past.

We’re additionally interested by revisiting podcasts, however it’s not a precedence. Audio monetization companions instructed me you want 20,000 listens per episode.

What channels ought to be – however aren’t – simpler to monetize?

Publishers have to be in syndication apps like Newsbreak and Good Information to be found. Initially, these aggregators would direct visitors to your web site and also you’d monetize that. However they’ve shifted to native views, so the content material will get considered in-app, they monetize it and pay you a rev share.

It’s irritating as a result of I don’t have clear reporting or understanding of the tech they’re utilizing to monetize. We don’t get the income per thousand impressions (RPM) warranted by our cell internet efficiency. These apps are usually not wherever close to the place we’re by way of programmatic expertise or fascinated about bid requests and purchaser conduct. In the event that they’re going to be vital to writer distribution, they need to be liable for monetizing to their most potential.

What about social media monetization?

The Wall Avenue Journal just lately printed an article about Fb not renewing its offers with company publishers. Whereas I really feel dangerous for these firms shedding these candy offers, Salon and so many different publishers which are on the whim of Fb’s algorithms by no means had an opportunity at assured cash or publicity like that. I hope, with out these ensures within the system, extra alternative involves small and midsize publishers.

We’ve been close-ish with Fb on the information tab rollout and a yearslong adopter of Fb Instantaneous Articles. Neither resulted in constant, significant efficiency.

Some months, we’ll get a ton of Instantaneous Article visitors. Fb has all of the consumer knowledge, so CPMs and RPMs are fairly good. However a writer doesn’t discover out one thing has modified till it’s mirrored in visitors. Then there’s a cycle of “Assist, what occurred?” and “That consultant is not on the group. We’ll determine who can get again to you.”

In the meantime, you’re floundering as a result of your Instantaneous Article visitors is down, so income is down. It’s a helpless sensation.

Salon was publicly traded earlier than being acquired by Correct Media for $5 million in 2019. What do you make of BuzzFeed’s market cap plummeting since its IPO?

It’s costly to keep up a public shell on prime of baseline profitability. Accounting, authorized necessities and filings are all added prices to publishing, which isn’t a high-margin enterprise. The New York Instances may disagree as a result of they’ve bought all their subscription cash, however that’s not the norm.

I’ve no real interest in going public once more, answering to the market and having cyclical modifications hit us further laborious. A writer whose RPMs drop because of cookie deprecation goes to be punished in its valuation. Battling devaluation by the demand facet and devaluation by your buyers is a nasty pickle I don’t wish to be in.

This interview has been edited and condensed.


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