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3 ways publishers can create a premium ad experience to drive revenue

Through improving consumers’ ad experiences, publishers can sustainably keep subscription costs low while ensuring that their models are sustainable and profitable in 2023 and beyond.

5 min read

Digital TechnologyMarketing

Publishers revenue streams advertising

Mohamed Hassan / Pixabay

As the digital disruption in media continues to accelerate, consumers are able to take better control of how, when and where they are consuming content. While many media companies are rolling out and adapting subscription services to retain the attention of consumers with a premium experience – they need to also focus on consumers’ ad experiences. 

Many publishers build their paid subscription models under the assumption that consumers loathe ads. However, in creating ad-free subscriptions, they miss key opportunities to optimize subscriptions. 

Of course, premium subscriptions without additional ad revenue to support can be unsustainable. Therefore, to keep up with the rising costs of producing premium content plus subscription stagnation, publishers need to reconsider every opportunity for incremental revenue. Do audiences truly hate ads? Or do they just desire more relevant and enjoyable ad experiences? 

Let’s get into three ways publishers can create a seamless and relevant ad experience that will ultimately drive revenue and subscriptions. 

Go direct with your ad agreements

There are many types of ad insertions a publisher can choose on their website, and it can be difficult to gauge the user experience with the types of ads that end up on publisher sites. In an effort to exert more control over the ad experience, some publishers are moving to a direct buy model.  

Consider the college sports publisher that wants to be sure that all ads are contextually relevant to its content. It can leverage partnerships with premium advertisers, such as a sports drink company, and go direct with ad agreements.

By using dynamic ad insertion of the sports drink, ad publishers can enable more precise targeting of tailored ads to end-users by leveraging deep audience insights and set criteria. In this way, publishers can drive their engagement rates by delivering ads that are unobtrusive and contextually relevant to the end user, while driving ROI for advertising partners.

How is your ad format fitting into the website’s experience?

Before thinking about how your ad is appearing on your website, focus on optimizing your website design. Visitors on your website will most likely leave if it’s not easy to navigate or is visually unappealing. The goal is to get visitors to stick around and watch the site’s ads as they are consuming the site content. To optimize a user’s time spent on a site, the website must provide a flawless experience.

Ads placed between content are the least interruptive (when compared to sticky ad units, right or left column ads, header ads, etc). Ads placed between feed-based items such as widgets aren’t always well recognized. When evaluating its website, a publisher should consider where ads can fit natively within its content.

When it comes to ad placements, advertisers often use pop-up ads to insert desired messaging and the resulting placement can appear to be random and careless. This is disruptive to users, and also can negatively impact a publisher’s bottom line. Research shows that 88% of consumers are less likely to return to a site with a poor user experience. Poorly designed ads with prolonged load times will cause click and engagement rates to decline rapidly. 

As consumers become more accustomed to streaming content on mobile devices, static ads are quickly becoming outdated. Diversity of formats is becoming increasingly important. One form of an ad format that is becoming increasingly popular is video

Take advantage of video

Users don’t want to be overloaded with static display ads and they aren’t interacting like they used to with traditional ads. Video, audio and other media are continuing to take market share from the traditional format, as video ads tend to engage audiences more effectively. In fact, viewers capture 95% of a brand’s message from videos, rather than just 10% from text ads. 

A video ad can tell a brand’s story better than other formats. When done right, a video can have an emotional impact, which results in a relationship with viewers via sight and sound. These connections often result in higher performance rates, and ultimately better campaign results.

Having said this, video ads are also more interruptive. High-quality video ad content commands a more premium feel, especially when it’s strategically placed natively within your content – for example, as an in-stream video ad in your existing video content. Video can be a very effective way of advertising when done strategically.  

Ad experience considerations

The bottom line is that publishers need to think about the economics of their businesses. Given the rise in technologies that improve the ad experience, publishers can ensure that their ads are welcomed by audiences. By including ads in subscriptions, publishers can sustainably keep subscription costs low while ensuring that their models are both sustainable and profitable in 2023 and beyond.


Deke Hooper is chief executive officer and co-founder at diDNA, an adtech solution for the publisher ecosystem and evolving programmatic landscape. An innovator with decades of experience in server infrastructure, video production and web management, Deke leads a team of experts with decades of experience in multimedia, publishing and web technologies. He’s an active participant in multiple adtech communities such as Prebid and IAB Tech lab.

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