Digiday+ Research: Publishers continue to rely on programmatic revenue, despite recent issues

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By Julia Tabisz  •  May 31, 2024  •

Ivy Liu

This research is based on unique data collected from our proprietary audience of publisher, agency, brand and tech insiders. It’s available to Digiday+ members. More from the series →

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Programmatic marketing has its fair share of issues (just ask those who attended the recent Digiday Programmatic Marketing Summit or read our latest coverage on made-for-advertising sites). But the fact is that marketers remain invested in the channel and publishers continue to depend on the revenue they get from programmatic advertising.

That’s according to Digiday+ Research surveys conducted among publisher professionals every six months.

Digiday’s survey found that the vast majority of publishers make money from programmatic ads, and that a good number of them make a significant amount of money from the channel. Eighty-two percent of publisher pros said in the first quarter of this year that they get at least a very small portion of their revenue from programmatic ads.

It is worth noting, though, that 82% is a drop from six months prior, when 87% of publisher pros said they got at least a little revenue from programmatic ads, and even slightly less than a year prior, when 85% said they made at least a little money from programmatic ads.

However, one-third of publisher pros (33%) said in Q1 2024 that programmatic accounted for a large or very large portion of their revenue — so even if slightly fewer publishers are including programmatic as a piece of their revenue pie, for many, programmatic ads are the largest piece of that pie. In fact, that 33% represents the largest group of respondents in Digiday’s survey, and it’s a slight increase from the 29% of publisher pros who said they got a large or very large amount of their revenue from programmatic ads in Q3 2023.

Programmatic ads’ importance to publishers’ revenues is likely to continue — more than half of publisher pros (53%) told Digiday in Q1 of this year that they will put a large or very large focus on building their programmatic business in the next six months. This is a notable increase from six months before, when 41% of publisher pros said they would put a large or very large focus on building their programmatic business.

Breaking the data down a bit further, one-third of publisher pros (33%) said programmatic ads would be a large focus in the coming months, and a still significant 20% said programmatic would be a very large focus for them. Just 7% of publisher pros said they would focus only a very small amount on building their programmatic business, and not one respondent to Digiday’s Q1 survey said programmatic would be a small focus.

And while the percentage of those who said they wouldn’t focus at all on building their programmatic business is still fairly small — 18% of publisher pros told Digiday in Q1 that they weren’t focused at all on their programmatic business in the coming months — it’s still a jump from Q3 2023, when 9% of publisher pros said they weren’t focused at all on programmatic. That 18% is more on par with a year ago, though — 16% of publisher pros said in Q1 2023 that they weren’t focused at all on the channel.

When it comes to where publishers’ programmatic ad revenue comes from, Digiday’s survey found that while the proportion of publishers’ revenue coming from direct-sold programmatic ads is trending downward, the proportion coming from open market programmatic ads has held steady over the last few years — and has remained significant.

More than half of publisher pros (54%) said in Q1 of this year that they get a large or very large portion of their programmatic ad revenue from the open market, which is about on par with the 57% who said the same in Q3 2023 and the 53% who said the same in Q1 2023. Meanwhile, 17% of publishers said in Q1 2024 that they get a large or very large portion of their programmatic revenue from direct-sold ads, down from 24% throughout all of 2023 and 34% in Q3 2022.

Notably, though, the percentage of publishers who said they get none of their revenue from direct-sold programmatic ads or open market programmatic ads saw a big jump this year, according to Digiday’s survey. Twenty percent of publisher pros said in Q1 2024 that none of their revenue comes from direct-sold programmatic ads, and the same percentage said the same of the open market.

That’s compared with 12% who said they got no revenue from direct-sold programmatic ads in Q3 2023 and 9% who said the same in Q1 2023, and 7% who said they got no revenue from open market programmatic ads in Q3 2023 and just 5% who said the same in Q1 2023 — likely pointing to those programmatic issues we mentioned earlier.

https://digiday.com/?p=546440

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