‘Never fly blind:’ Bauer Xcel generates 98% of its revenue programmatically

Patrick McCarthy, SVP, Product, AppNexus

With the advent of programmatic technology, the experience of “going online” has changed considerably. That change is most evident in consumers’ expectations for the quality of content and advertising. Today’s publishers not only have to target the right audiences, but offer them an experience that enhances rather than intrudes upon their browsing.

In order to meet these standards, publishers must use data to acquire, engage and monetize their audiences. Adding data to content strategy opens the door to more accurate targeting, more relevant messaging and better user engagement.

Bauer Xcel, the U.S. digital arm of Bauer Media Group, is one such publisher working to use data to ensure that its editorial and revenue strategies are tightly aligned. The company –which holds titles like In Touch and Life&Style Weekly – vigilantly analyzes the performance of its content and the other elements of its pages to make certain it is both serving engaging content and intelligently delivering advertiser campaigns.

This week I chatted with Michael Shaughnessy, VP of Revenue at Bauer Xcel about what it takes to be a programmatic-first publisher, monetizing content across different formats and aligning with advertisers in private marketplaces.

What’s driving Bauer Xcel’s growth?

The core of our business’ success is using data to understand what drives audience and revenue – both editorially and within our marketing channels. This allows us to be exceptionally precise in the decisions we make, where we invest in the business and how to scale. For example: Once we identify the type of content that performs on a given site – be it the template, the topic, the author – we allocate resources to do more of that thing. For us, it all comes down to the data, operating with as much information under our belts, never flying blindly.

How is Bauer Xcel different from other publishers?

Bauer is different than other publishers because we are a programmatic-first operation. We generate 98% of our revenue programmatically, and in doing so, we have been profitable every year.

 What do you see as the challenges in the industry of moving from the “old world” of media and advertising to the new world of programmatic?

Data is critical for many publishers’ success in a programmatic environment. It is important to understand the value of your inventory – how it performs across different verticals, templates, devices and positions. But, there is another challenge for publishers in understanding the value of monetizing content in different formats – on-site, Facebook Instant Articles or AMP.

How has the emergence of programmatic technology changed the way brands engage their users, as well as the user experience of visiting a news website, like Bauer Media Group properties?

Programmatic has revolutionized media buying and allows brands to reach desired audiences quickly and at scale. The balance between ad monetization and user experience is tough for publishers to maintain, and we have learned that not all ad units are equally successful. We are always measuring the different elements on our pages, their impact on user experience and their revenue contribution.

How does Bauer Xcel use its first party data to influence its content decisioning and programmatic strategy?

As mentioned earlier, we are unique in the way that data influences our editorial and revenue strategies. The revenue team is closely aligned with the editorial team, and we are always identifying content that monetizes well. We are always analyzing the performance of our programmatic partners and if certain templates or pieces of content are monetizing well, we take advantage of this by leveraging editorial programming strategies to reach desired audiences and increase revenue.

How does Bauer Xcel’s data allow advertisers to better engage and monetize their audiences?

When we discuss private marketplace opportunities with buyers, we discuss their goals. Depending on their objectives, we will use data segments provided by our data science team to reach their intended audience. We found it created a challenge when buyers would use their own data sets as well as our first-party data, as layering two data sets together can significantly reduce the scale at which we reach users and can become an obstacle to buyers delivering their advertisers’ budgets in full.

Where do you see the digital advertising market going in coming years?

In the next few years, I believe there will be more pressure on buyers and publishers to mitigate page load concerns and provide a better, less-intrusive ad experience for users.  We have already seen the industry move in that direction in response to ad blocking and products like AMP.

How do you see Bauer Xcel evolving in this space?

Bauer Xcel will continue using data to understand our audience and to guide our content monetization. Basing decisions on strong analytics, we are always quick to pivot, a strategy which has allowed us to grow revenue each year since our existence and remain profitable.


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