Tempered optimism

The Rebooting surveyed 99 publishers to find the state of their ad businesses

The good news is I escaped London this time with my phone in my possession. 

Today, I want to catch you up on a few things from The Rebooting’s cinematic universe:

The new landscape for audience development

Obviously, the elephant in the room for publishers is the decline in search traffic – and how to make up for it. Tomorrow from 1pmET-2pmET, The Rebooting is hosting an online forum, in collaboration with True Anthem, to examine “New Avenues For Audience Building.” We’ll discuss how social channels remain important sources of distribution, as well as how the premium placed engaged audiences changes audience development strategies. 

I will be joined by True Anthem CEO Chris Hart, a360media vp of audiences Lorraine Goldberg and Newsweek svp of audience development Josh Awtry. Register here.

The state of publisher ad revenue

Based on a survey of 99 publishers

The state of digital advertising has never been more in flux. Privacy restrictions and the drawn-out phaseout of the third-party cookie, an unlikely bulwark of open web advertising, has thrown the market into chaos.

The Rebooting partnered with Permutive to understand the state of ad revenue growth at publishers. We surveyed 99 digital publishers to get a health check of their ad businesses as we near the midpoint of 2024.

We found that publisher ad businesses are in flux: traffic declines are looming large and budgets are being eroded by new competition from retail media offerings’ bulletproof attribution. But many publishers are finding a resilient business that is shifting from an arm’s length relationship with advertisers to a direct one.

We discovered that after a rough couple of years, publishers are expressing cautious confidence in their current advertising revenue models. Few are expecting a return to the Roaring ‘20s days of 2021; but two-out-of-five publishers expressed confidence in returning to growth this year.

Some findings that stood out:

  • Publishers are more confident of their ad businesses than I’d expect. Nearly half of publishers are confident in the state of their advertising businesses. And at least among respondents, a minority have seen declines.
  • Performance marketing has eaten media. Traffic declines, the third-party cookie and other challenges get more attention, but publishers are now competing with closed-loop attribution offered by newcomers like the near infinite supply of retail media networks. 
  • The elimination of the third-party cookie isn’t viewed as an existential risk. The most common response gauged the business risk as “moderate.”

Get the full report

In a few weeks, I’m returning to Cannes for the 15th-17th time. The Rebooting has a lot going on that week. We might still add to the schedule, so please leave your information here if you’re interested in joining any of our programs and networking events during the week.

Some highlights:

  • Monday, June 17: The Rebooting is hosting a conversation with Group M global president of business intelligence Kate Scott-Dawkins about ad spending trends – and how factors like signal loss, traffic declines and the rise of closed-loop attribution offered by platforms and retail media networks are affecting how advertisers craft their strategies. Leave your information here if interested in attending.
  • Monday, June 17: The Rebooting is hosting a private media ecosystem leadership dinner with our partners at Permutive. On Monday, we will decamp to the perfume region of Grasse to visit La Bastide Saint-Antoine. The dinner conversation will revolve around the pertinent topic of reimagining digital advertising. Leave your information if you’re a publishing, agency or brand executive interested in joining.
  • Tuesday, June 18: The Rebooting and EX.CO are hosting a private dinner focused on how publishers can use AI in their revenue strategies. We’re visiting the new Zuma in Cannes, which means I’ll have been at Zumas in Cannes, Miami and Las Vegas. Leave your information if you’re a publishing executive interested in joining.
  • Wednesday, June 19: The Rebooting is holding a cocktails and canapés gathering for TRB Insider members at what I consider one of the hidden gems of Cannes: Le Duplex, a French surf cantina at the far end of the Croisette where locals outnumber the lanyards and the boules courts are around the corner. Become a member.
  • Thursday, June 20: The Rebooting and Dotdash Meredith are hosting a cocktails and conversation event to discuss what the future holds for publishers as AI hurtles search into a new era. To kick things off, I’ll be joined by The Arena Group’s chief product and technology officer Jason White and EX.CO’s GM of the Americas, Johanna Bergqvist, to examine how The Arena Group is making the hard decisions needed for a changed environment. Then, Dotdash Meredith CEO Neil Vogel and Axios senior media reporter Sara Fischer will join me for a wide-ranging discussion of how the media industry is building resiliency. The event is from 3-5pm poolside at the Dotdash Meredith villa. RSVP here.

I’ll also be doing a daily newsletter from Cannes, sponsored by Outbrain. I firmly believe that there is no utility in covering Cannes as a news event. Instead, I’m focusing on conversations around how all the changes AI and other tech is bringing to the media ecosystem through the lens of building a sustainable ecosystem for news. 

Thanks to our Cannes partners: Dotdash Meredith, EX.CO, GroupM, Outbrain and Permutive (and unofficial tequila partner, Komos).

Send me a note with your feedback by hitting reply or emailing me at bmorrissey@therebooting.com