6 Experts Weigh In On Publisher Monetization Strategies for 2021

2020 has been a tough year for publishers, irrespective of geography. The optimism with which they began this year came plummeting down once COVID-19 hit across the world. 

Now the dust has settled and publishers can see eCPMs rising again. The initial paranoia of the pandemic has faded which has made advertisers less skeptical of investing in programmatic campaigns. 

To put it simply, we can say that publishers are on a road to recovery and the solutions present to reach the final destination are several. To discuss this, AdPushup conducted a session with Exchange4Media where several publishers gathered together and gave their insights on how publishers can prepare for 2021. 

We encourage you to follow their advice for breezing through the upcoming year. 

Focus on Knowing Your Tech

There have been many noticeable developments in the ad tech ecosystem, but we need to invest more time in understanding and refining it. The buyer has now become an algorithm, so you should know what technology is being used to sell your inventory. Every impression is bought and there could be a separate buyer and price for each impression. Hence, as programmatic continues to grow, delving into tech insights will help all publishers.

Puneet Gupt

Puneet Gupt, Times Internet

Puneet has been fortunate to play multiple roles in the digital ecosystem – from coding to product management to growth and marketing to business leadership. In his current role, he is the Chief Operating Officer of Times Internet where he is responsible to drive organization’s growth across . revenue and non revenue metrics. In previous roles, he has driven the news and content businesses of Times Internet delivering growth in market share, revenue and profitability.

Direct Sales Can Save You

The decline in programmatic in 2020 was due to COVID-19 and in a similar scenario, publishers can rely on direct sales such as subscriptions and direct deals. This will ensure guaranteed income as opposed to programmatic, which suffered a decline this year due to keyword blacklisting. 

Pradeep Gairola

Pradeep Gairola, The Hindu Group 

Pradeep is an industry veteran and has extensive exposure in building digital businesses. In his experience of over two decades in media, he has been associated with The Times of India Group, ABP Group and Mid Day, which is now part of Dainik Jagran Group. Other than media, Pradeep has spent about six years in EdTech, wherein he was successful in redefining the business model for K12 Digital Business. 

Create Content According to Advertiser Requirement

Advertisers are now focused on how you weave a story around the ads that encourages users to interact with them. This will involve a mix of audio, video, and textual elements. This coupled with extensive audience mapping will fetch increased revenue for all publishers. Publishers should focus on creating powerful content that places advertisers in a good light and makes the user engage with the entire webpage. 

Salil Kumar

Salil Kumar, India Today Group

At India Today, Salil is responsible for overall health of the business, defining the strategy across various platforms, keeping in mind the long term goals and short term objectives. He has over 18 years experience in managing diverse businesses starting with Media, Entertainment, TV Web and Print Web integration. His earlier positions were at Microsoft, NDTV Convergence, Bharti Airtel Ltd, Hungama Mobile and Hindustan Times.

Leverage Local Content

For publishers who are focusing on content in regional languages, it can be challenging to organically migrate the audience from print to digital. In that case, increase readership at grassroots level by focusing on local content. For example, the Amarujala group has created strong communities by writing content around topics that the Hindi-reading audience is interested in including government jobs, astrology, etc. A healthy mix of advertising and reader satisfaction is key to a publisher’s success. 

Himanshu Gautam

Himanshu Gautam, Amarujala

Himanshu Gautam works as Head of Digital Business at Amar Ujala group. He has been instrumental in growing, diversifying, and turning around the digital business to be a profitable one. He has been in the Telecom and Media business for more than 18 years, with many firsts to his credit. He founded and set up the Mobile Marketing Joint Venture “HT Mobile Solutions Ltd” with global Mobile Marketing player Velti PLC for HT Media.

Solve Your Platform Challenges

If you’re using the Internet to create a successful publisher model, it is imperative that you consider how users access your content. What are the platform challenges that users are facing and what you can do to resolve them are important questions that you should be looking at. This will also unlock the remaining advertiser potential where local advertisers can also find a way into your ad inventory instead of traditionally large brands who mostly get to leverage the digital advertising model. 

Deepit Purkayastha

Deepit Purkayastha, InShorts

Deepit Purkayastha is Chief Strategy Officer and Co-founder of Inshorts, erstwhile, News in Shorts. In his capacity as Chief Strategy Officer, he is responsible for overseeing the business and strategic roadmap of the enterprise, inclined towards Product, Data, Strategy. He has also made it to Forbes Asia ’30 Under 30′- Media, Marketing and Advertising list for 2018 and Forbes India ’30 Under 30’’ list for 2016.

We also had Sanjay Trehan, digital consultant and former MSN India Head, join the session and talk about interesting developments in the ad tech industry.

Sanjay Trehan

According to him, the year 2020 was a blessing in disguise for publishers as it drove users to look for information online and become accustomed to that facility. Now the challenge lies in how publishers successfully leverage that level of incoming traffic. Here are some trends that Sanjay expects will be prevalent next year:

Ad Tech Stack Optimization

Since programmatic will continue to drive revenue growth for publishers, the key defining factor would be whether or not they constantly optimize their ad tech stack. Improving your current ad stack is one of the most important positive trends that has emerged in recent years. 

Optimizing Social Communities

Sometimes publishers can have a community built around their website, perhaps on social platforms, and that audience might only be engaging with those social channels instead of the publisher platform. How publishers leverage that opportunity to keep that community engaged and perhaps even monetize will be another defining factor. 

Leveraging Short-form Video

During the COVID-19 pandemic, many publishers were able to keep the audience engaged through short-form video which will be a pivotal strategy for publishers to capitalize on. Videos register a much higher CTR than textual content and the audience is much likelier to consume that content in its entirety. Publishers can then think of strategies to monetize that content.

In Closing

It is very exciting to see the level of development that’s occurring in the digital publishing industry. Some of the key trends that we can notice are that publishers will start leveraging video content, including video ads, for a better engagement rent. Social media channels is another key trend that will help publishers in bringing traffic to their websites. One thing that stands out is that all publishers should start focusing on audience management and start using technical solutions for mapping this audience for maximized results.


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