As appeared in Digiday on 26 September 2022, read here.

Every downturn, like clockwork, publishers try to remind marketers why they should buy their ads directly from them — or at least as directly as possible. It’s a pitch that goes something like this: if ad dollars are shrinking for marketer x then why not spend more of it with us? At least you know what you’re buying this way.

This year is no different — except for one thing: the pitch is less romanticized, that is to say less predicated on why advertisers should support journalism, more on the upside for their businesses.

That seems especially true in programmatic, where publishers appear to be having success pulling more dollars into the deals they have direct control over. In the first half of the year, private marketplaces and programmatic guaranteed accounted for 35% of the total money spent globally on programmatic (including in the open exchange, according to Ebiquity). The year before that percentage was 31%. As ever, demand drives prices. The cost per thousand impressions in these curated deals was up 240% in the first half of the year compared to those prices in the open exchange. The year before that increase was 188%

“There’s a growing recognition among some marketers that it’s better to buy off premium publishers than just from the open web,” said Nick Waters, CEO of media management firm Ebiquity. Or rather, these publishers, armed with first-party data, seem more able to put their best foot forward in pursuit of ad dollars, he continued.

The anecdotal evidence from publishers backs this up. Commercial execs from The Athletic and Minute Media are going after ad dollars directly, not via independent ad tech vendors. They wouldn’t be making those moves if they thought marketers weren’t interested. The same goes for publisher alliances. And investments from marketers are growing. In some cases, they even seem to be taking what dollars they would’ve spent with Google et al to do it.

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