Thursday, May 19th, 2011 - ExchangeWire APAC
Toby Ross is the Head of Strategic Alliances at Fairfax Digital. Here he discusses publisher data, automated Media Trading and the sell-side hostility to ad exchange adoption in the Australian market.

Can you give an overview of Fairfax Digital, its companies and offering in both the Australian and international markets?

Fairfax Digital is a leading Australian publisher network with over 250 owned and operated sites spanning news, business, lifestyle, travel, property, automotive and employment. The network features the online presence of some of Australia’s most prominent brands such as the Sydney Morning Herald, Business Day, Essential Baby, Stayz, Domain, Drive, and MyCareer.

Late last year we launched a new ad network – drx – following a partnership with ValueClick Media. The incremental reach provided by ValueClick provides drx with a reach figure in excess of 10 million unique visitors monthly making it one of the largest ad networks in Australia. This strategy enables us to monetise any remnant inventory across Fairfax Digital’s owned and operated sites, meaning we have no unsold inventory across the network. We don’t sell any of our domestic inventory to 3rd party ad networks.

What is your role and remit within Fairfax Digital? Is this a relatively new role/area for Fairfax Digital?

I work within Strategic Sales whose role is to develop the future strategic priorities of the business in line with the rapidly evolving display advertising market, and spearhead these throughout the business. The group controls the evolution of Fairfax Digital’s ad products offering, any commercial partnerships in place and also yield management and the development of bespoke advertising solutions for clients.

My team controls monetisation across the data, direct response and international ad products and this includes our strategy around automated media trading. This is not a new area for us but we are evolving rapidly as these new technologies enter the market.

There’s been a lot of press recently around publisher concerns on exchange trading – and the threat to CPM pricing. What’s your view on ad exchanges and automated display buying?

Everyone is still in discovery phase in the Australian market. Over the next 12 months we’re going to see a lot of testing and learning going on through this alternate channel from both the agency and media owner’s perspective to decide if buying and selling online media is going to be an effective way to do business.

In looking at international publisher’s experiences over the last 12 months, the jury is out whether it’s adding value to existing trading relationships so it will be up to the agency groups here to prove there is benefit for the publishers to trade in this fashion.

What’s important for Fairfax Digital in considering participation is the value exchange. We are first and foremost a content creation company. Quality content has a hard cost to deliver to consumers and it is imperative that we can build business models which protect our core interests. Access to trusted content and brands still has its value to advertiser’s as well as consumers. Brand safety and association will continue to be a priority for most major advertisers.

Additionally, publishers are going to focus on two main things: how to protect their yields and how to prevent data leakage. My view is that as a publisher we need to partner with a technology that allows us to do both if we’re to trade in this environment.

How will you work with agency trading desks and DSPs that are looking to buy your inventory in an auction-based environment? Are private exchanges and private ad slots a possible solution?

If clients are able to demonstrate that participation will result in a beneficial value exchange for Fairfax Digital we are open to the concept, but at the moment the market doesn’t seem ready to utilise the full capabilities of a RTB powered trading environment. When we reach this point of evolution Fairfax Digital would not place any inventory into an open exchange. As a publisher with premium content we would want access to more controls than an open marketplace allows. To ensure we are able to dynamically manage this form of trading we would likely invest in a sell side platform or similar technology.

Are there enough controls available to publishers who are looking to trade across these platforms?

From the research we have done it seems the pricing and permission controls are in place already. Data leakage controls are not as apparent and that’s a problem we’ll need addressing.

Do you think demand from ATDs and DSPs will force publishers onto automated platforms?

The initial appeal for agencies centres on the ability to control retargeting, universal frequency capping and conversion attribution. In exchange for this gain in workflow efficiency publishers must still continue to see their audience valued appropriately and fairly.

Are you employing a different strategy to your international inventory?

We use a sell side platform to monetise the majority of our international inventory. We also work with a handful of site rep firms in certain markets where the supply and demand make it worthwhile.

The publishers are particularly strong in the Australian market? Given the access the big five Australian publishers have to proprietary data and inventory, are we likely to see pubs locking down supply and competing head-to-head with Demand Side Platforms and Agency Trading Desks?

Publishers with rich data sets are going to be in a very strong position. Unlike the US, where there are plenty of third party data providers in the market, there are no companies in Australia providing data at scale, making it very hard for ad networks or publishers with no proprietary data to provide true targeting. We’re fortunate that our sites provide a very rich data set upon which we can layer interest based targeting across our owned, operated and third party sites. I can’t see audience based buying at scale happening through an exchange in the near future so that certainly puts us in a strong position.

There’s been huge amount of debate around publisher data – and whether or not data and media should be decoupled? Can you give some insight into the Fairfax Digital data strategy? How are you leveraging data to deliver better performance for publishers?

This is a key part of our strategy and we’ve worked hard over the past few years enriching the data we have. Australia is some way behind the US in terms of the percentage of online advertising dollars being spent on behavioural targeting but, as a publisher, we’re seeing huge growth in this area.

What overall trends are you seeing in the Australian and APAC display market? What will change over the next year?

We’re going to see a lot of change in how publishers, ad networks and agencies transact in 2011 and I think there will be some consolidation of technologies. The next 6-12 months will see buyers and sellers testing the water to see if trading this way offers efficiencies and we’ll be watching closely.

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ExchangeWire APAC

ExchangeWire APAC tracks online ad trading and the exchange marketplace in the Asia-Pacific region. Delving deep into the business of automated media trading and the technology that underpins it, the site aims to keep readers upto date on all the latest news and developments from the exchange space.

ExchangeWire APAC provides opinion and analysis on the following sector companies: yield optimisers, specialist media buyers, ad networks, media agencies, publishers, data exchanges, ad exchanges and specialist ad-tech providers in the mobile and online display markets.

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