The CMS Is Holding Publishers Back From Delivering Better Digital Ad Experiences

As Featured On WNIP

Publishers have long treated editorial and advertising as “church and state.” But, that old wall is starting to crumble, as brands pay higher and higher prices for custom sponsored articles, advertorials and other high impact content-driven experiences. But, for the rest of the ads served on a site, the wall is still there—firmly. And the problem is with the technology.

There are two distinct technology sets that grew up separately for “church” and “state”—ad tech and content management. These two systems don’t just exist in separate universes, their lack of integration actually hurts brands, visitors and publishers. Typical issues that publisher sites have as a result are slow load times, poor search results, ad clutter, lack of measurement, non-contextual advertising, poor site usability and more.

According to the analytics firm SimilarWeb, the average bounce rate for news and media sites is over 55%. That figure means more than half of visitors never make it to these websites.

Publishers Take Power Back

Google, Facebook, and Amazon eat up 85% of digital advertising budgets in the United States. But, that could soon be changing. People are online more than ever, and are changing their preferences. They’ve downloaded new apps and are shopping on new sites. Google is moving away from third party cookies and Facebook is in trouble, as Apple IDFA limitation will hurt their ability to offer the same level of targeting that they used to. These changes push Google and Facebook out of the spotlight at least enough to allow for new entrants like Amazon to forge important relationships with brands, and as a result, publishers.

Publishers will need to think about how they can remain relevant when they aren’t just plugged into the Google and Facebook mother ships. 

To effectively compete for ad budgets, publishers need to:

  • Focus on quality content: Not only to combat misinformation and provide value to readers, but also to entice brands into more direct relationships as money moves over from TV.
  • Test unique and differentiated ad products for brands: Small, standard banners stacked on top of videos on top of native are no longer cutting it with advertisers. They need to know that the money they are putting towards advertising is working harder for them. They want their brand to be visible and memorable in clean content environments. Most importantly, they want to drive conversions.
  • Create engaging environments for users: People are smarter than ever online and will gravitate to the sites that create great contextual relevance, personalized experiences and clean, beautiful pages.

Smart publishers are at the beginning of a digital renaissance—finally. Publishers have the opportunity to fix their problems with a unified solution that makes a better experience for audiences and offers better opportunities for advertisers.

What Are The Options?

For many publishers, building a unique solution that fixes the issues with the CMS and ad tech stack is a major undertaking. Even for publishers with the resources to build, many decide that maintaining and updating is too much to commit to, especially across growth channels like mobile and video where new innovations come out frequently.

Facebook rolled out Instant Articles several years ago as a product that was essentially designed to replace the CMS. Similarly, Google created Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) which was a set of specifications designed to help publishers’ sites work better on mobile devices and mobile search. Yet, many publishers balked at giving up control, data and user relationship to an already dominant tech player. So Instant Articles and AMP (no longer owned by Google) did not grow to completely replace the CMS. Rather, they offer specialized customer experience improvement and increases in monetization to only specific parts of a publisher’s business.

Some large publishers now offer CMS platforms that publishers can license, including Washington Post and Vox. These publishers built their own suites of customer publishing and ad tech that work well for their needs and are making extra revenue by allowing other publishers to benefit from their development work. Kargo’s offering, Fabrik, combines the best of a modern CMS with monetization capabilities that is improving performance for sites like Empire Media Group and Radar Media Group.

The right solution should be highly usable by two very different teams—ad operations and editorial. It should have levers to optimize both yield and engagement, and should be designed to consider the entire user experience—ads and content included—and should have unified insights to show what’s causing page lag, poor performance and timeouts. Getting new technology in place is really the first step of a new beginning for publishers—where teams share insights and goals in order to create new experiences that optimize for both sides of the business.

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