Meet The Experts, Part-7: Interview with Sophie Toth - YuktaMedia

October 28th, 2020

Meet The Experts, Part-7: Interview with Sophie Toth

Meet The Experts Interview with Sophie Toth

YuktaMedia is excited to introduce the seventh speaker in the “Meet The Experts” series. The objective of this series is to interview leading professionals in the digital publishing industry around the globe. The goal is to learn from the experts, especially now, that the Publishing industry is hurting the most. We hope that by sharing and learning from each other’s experiences Publishers will continue to not only survive but thrive over the years to come.

Our seventh interview in the “Meet the Experts” series is with Sophie Toth, who is an enthusiastic, success-driven independent digital consultant who thinks outside of the box. Sophie believes in more transparent and fair digital media, where different businesses appreciate revolutionary ideas and allow fair competition for start-ups. She encourages businesses’ to dare and try out new solutions and invest in growth areas while keeping a balance between different business needs. Her motto is to bring trust back to the digital media industry.

“With humble work, you will eventually succeed, never give up your dreams, and never change your principals. Sometimes it might be challenging, but after the rain, the sun will shine again!” – Sophie Toth

We are grateful to Sophie Toth for taking the time out of her busy schedule and participate in this initiative of giving back to the Publishing community.

Aditya – COVID-19 has added to the misery of already hurting Publishers. Looking back what and where did things go wrong for Publishers?

Sophie – As an advisor working with many Publishers, I would say some of the businesses have grown whereas, most of them have suffered from COVID-related ripple effects.

If I look back and compare the spring and summer business, it was a massive dip in terms of digital spend – mostly because the direct campaigns were paused or canceled. Also, the Programmatic CPMs and competition had gradually dropped. However, we started to see more activities around the end of August 2020.

Publishers maybe should have ensured brand-safe and COVID-free content to sensitive advertisers and educate them that their brand is still within the right environment. The biggest hit was for the news Publishers who are suddenly were out of the buyers programmatic targeting list, regardless that they had many other non-COVID related content.

Communication and promoting brand-healthy content on a direct basis would have put these content creators in a better position, but as from everything the industry has learned from this situation, and I hope we will not face a similar disaster again. Unfortunately, this is beyond inventory monetization, and we will feel its effect for a long time.

Aditya – With Publisher revenues dwindling, would it make sense for Publishers to invest in any technology/platform (SaaS or in-house)? If yes, which business areas/technologies would you suggest?

Sophie – I would suggest Publishers explore reporting, data, new inventory monetization tools, as well as new interactive creative solutions that they can deploy in cross-device campaign execution.

I think about this as a long-term strategy and not only as a solution for COVID related setbacks. I would say we do need more transparency, help with GDPR and the first-party party data. Publishers need to choose the right solutions, research, learn, understand these businesses, and make transparency a default condition.

The digital audience demands content to be more interactive, relevant, entertaining, and personalized. Premium Publishers have already realized the importance of personalization, and they have been working with the best possible data/technology partners.

Aditya – With 3rd party cookies going away soon, what steps do you think Publishers should take so that they are ready to brace the impact on revenue and business in general?

Sophie – 3rd party cookies going away is not the only issue that Publishers face. Publishers are also needed to have complied with the local government laws about data collection such as GDPR, CCPA, etc.

I recommend Publishers to take the following approach post 3rd party cookies world:

– Communicate and educate your audience – why and how?

– Find out the best way to collect and exchange the first-party data

– Try to reach out to potential data alliance partners and discuss any possibility of 2nd party data sharing. (offline and online)

– Invest in a robust CDP or DMP

– Try to collect a high % of positive consent via your CMP by clearly communicating with the audiences

– Focus on direct deals (IO or programmatic) rather than trying to speculate open auction revenue impact

– There will be a revenue impact in the short run, but I believe in the long-run, we will have a much better, more transparent, and trusted digital world post 3rd party cookies era.

– Personalize your content on the homepage/feed, and offer the subscription to your premium content as a way to improve revenue can be a good strategy.

– At the moment, e-mail is the best possible and easiest way for user identification and collecting 1st party information. But still, if we only have this info with the user’s consent, you can build up segments based on probabilistic data…, but I believe in the future, we will have other solutions for this approach. Always remember that the data is the key, not only for digital marketers but for all individuals.

Aditya – How should Publisher manage their audiences, related data, and leverage these from a monetization perspective?

Sophie – In addition to the points mentioned in the earlier question, the Publishers should communicate more with the audience. They should collect more deterministic data than creating segments based on probabilistic data. Once you have deterministic segments with enough data, try to apply this to a larger audience, creating lookalike or act-like segments.

They also should focus on content level segmentation as well as user interaction-based targeting. This could create additional value for the impressions, such as potentially higher engagement with the ad, viewability, etc. Publishers can then package them and sell to their clients via programmatic direct or IO based deals. 

Aditya – There have been some talks about Publishers forming consortiums to take on BIG Tech. Is that that feasible? What would be the challenges and is there a way to make a consortium successful?

Sophie – I would not support another consortium, definitely not in this current climate. I would like to have an independent bureau who will oversee all of the digital advertising independently and objectively.

The standards and rules should not be influenced by any sort of commercial benefit to some companies. This should serve everyone’s needs and be truly the best way for moving forward.

I cannot imagine if tech startups or big established companies’ futures would depend on Publishers. I do not feel this as a balanced playing field. 

Aditya – How will the rise of OTT impact traditional web Publishers (News, Finance, Sports, etc.)? Is there potentially an opportunity for web Publishers?

Sophie – I believe Publishers who have been creating video content traditionally can get into the OTT, but they should not forget the volume of initial investments and the business negotiations with big OTT providers.

Another big question would be that the Publisher would like to monetize this extra inventory in-house or would outsource the monetization to 3rd party. Are they advanced enough to understand the tech behind this integration and other legislations such as GDPR, etc?

In short yes, OTT / CTV has been getting more attention on both supply and demand-side, and in the short run seems like worth the investment. But eventually, I believe the market will balance itself and we will have more cross-device and well-optimized campaigns because OTT is not for all advertisers, but for the ones who would miss this platform. There will be a better and flexible era to come for the advertising with the new platforms and technologies.

I would encourage all Publishers who have the product and could spend on OTT integration should look into different possibilities and create an expert group or ask an adviser for focusing on this project.

Aditya – Which revenue generation strategies should Publishers now pursue in addition to advertising revenue? And how will these strategies differ by Publisher size?

Sophie – Revenue generating strategies depend on the Publisher profile and size.

For the big Publishers, I can see great potential in value exchange and creating a new way of content/consumer experience. They can create different tiers and products based on user data and their profiles such as:

– User data exchange and cross URL targeting

– Virtual and later on special events for chosen audience/demand

– Special events coverage and professionally researched content

– Interactive modules and interactive content

– Personalization on a different level

– Cross-device access to the content

– Extra features suited to keep user engaged and entertained

– Educating the user and hosting seminars/webinars

– Host live question/answer, Ask Me Anything (AMA) sessions to better understand the users and their needs

– Creating readers group around different topics to keep users engaged

– Affiliates beyond advertiser level – between Publishers i.e. news with property or job-related affiliate partners

Smaller Publishers should create alliances and try to establish competitive products together and probably can be more successful this way than trying to invest and try new solutions. These alliances could be based on similarities or complimentary features, but most importantly they should work together rather than compete with each other.

On the other hand, if they would like to merge they should hire an independent expert or company who could help them in the best possible way with fresh eyes and with independent ideas to generate more revenue and leverage their full potential.

Aditya – What would be your top three recommendations for Publishers as they try to get through COVID-19 and beyond?

Sophie –

– Try new solutions and work with experts if you need help with some technologies, compliance, etc.

– Listen and learn from your advertisers and audiences for the product development and the content development

– Sometimes we need to go through on a hard time to be able to harvest the success so always be positive.


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Aditya Bhelande

Aditya Bhelande

Aditya is the founder & managing partner at YuktaMedia. He has rich global experience in Digital Media having worked with large Publisher and Media Houses. That paired with deep technical knowledge of enterprise systems has let him found and lead YuktaMedia and create and drive the YuktaOne platform.

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