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As digital publishers keep striving to save time and make more money, they are taking a closer look at the value their technology partners bring to the table.

A recent AdExchanger article offered a detailed view covering the publishers’ quest for partners that drive both yield and engagement, as well as the trend for slimming down tech stacks, stating: “the pendulum is swinging away from complicated setups. Publishers are finding they can remove ad tech partners with little effect on their bottom line.”

So, how should publishers evaluate the value of their supply partners?

To answer it, we reached out to some of our top publishers for their opinions and polled our ad ops team for their top tips and advice on how publishers can better manage ad inventory and evaluate tech.   

1) Take the reins on analysis

The first step towards gaining control over inventory monetization — and ad quality — is obtaining a complete view of partner performance. And this makes robust reporting vital.

While implementing such reporting can be time-consuming, the insight provided by platforms such as Double-Click for Publishers (DFP), or other analytical tools, is worth the investment. Using DFP, for example, publishers can blend multiple variables, including ad unit and date dimensions, campaign line items, revenue metrics, effective cost per mille (eCPM), and the downloaded impression itself. This offers a granular understanding of how each partner performs, giving publishers the information needed to truly assess their value.

Moreover, such tools save publishers the resource-intensive task of ingesting, storing and analyzing all bid data internally. Instead, they can concentrate their efforts on A/B testing of different ad formats, page layouts, and content to find the optimal fit for their audience.

2) Reconsider measurement methods

So far, most tech partner evaluations have centered on one thing: CPMs. But judging tech partners solely on the cost of ad units can be a bad move. Just because advertisers pay high CPMs, doesn’t necessarily mean placements will be good for publisher sites or audiences. For example, prioritizing revenue could mean ads that load slowly or disrupt consumers slip through the quality-net, diminishing the user experience and publisher reputation.

Consequently, it’s important for publishers to consider a range of criteria, incorporating fill rates, page load times, any bad ad complaints or reviews of excellent customer service, as well as CPMs. In fact, an increasingly favored method is to expand revenue focus by adopting revenue per page (RPP). This metric covers the revenue of a page in relation to goals like page views, impressions, or queries. This means that publishers can pinpoint the value ads deliver individually, and in the context of the content surrounding them. And with such knowledge at hand, publishers can establish what tech partners bring to the table and how experiences can be improved. For instance, they may find quality drives more positive responses than quantity and opt for fewer ads.

RPP is already available to use as a metric with Google Analytics and can also be deployed in combination with page level insight, which enables publishers to correlate ad performance with user behavior and traffic patterns too. Indeed, when assessed over time – such as comparing audience activity and revenue at different stages of a month – it allows publishers to highlight patterns and ascertain when its partners deliver value, not only how they deliver. And, depending on the level of insight they desire, publishers can run many more comparisons; pitting RPM and CPMs against each other by a partner, and testing out different flooring or hybrid configuration strategies, such as variations in header bidding providers.

3) Remember audience needs

Last, but by no means least, is the need to ensure the content ad tech partners serve aligns with audience needs. User engagement and revenue must be on an equal footing, and so tracking engagement metrics — such as how long individuals spend with ads and subsequent interactions — is essential. This is especially true as the market continues to mature toward Cost Per Second (CPS) and Cost Per Hour (CPH) advertising to complement the traditional CPM approach. If reporting reveals that an ad tech partner only fuels a slight increase in yield, but a significant decrease in audience satisfaction, it’s a near-unmistakable sign that the partnership should be under serious scrutiny.

Analyzing ad tech partners isn’t simple, but it is imperative, both for business longevity and audiences. By embracing in-depth reporting and setting their sights further than CPMs, publishers can hone in on their most valuable partners, identify where the stack could be trimmed, and make sure their balance sheets level with the user experience.

We’d love to hear your thoughts, so please join the discussion on the Sovrn community.

Sovrn Viewable Engagement Time (VET) offers publishers with longer engagement times and higher revenue.  If you’d like to discuss optimizing your ad stack or adding VET, contact your account manager at Sovrn.

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