What are premium publishers?

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April 15, 2024

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While they’ve long been an important staple of the advertising industry, premium publishers are receiving renewed interest and attention from advertisers against the backdrop of third-party cookie deprecation.

That’s because these publishers have legacies that have stood the test of time. This both allows them to build loyal readerships and makes them less prone to unexpected changes than other methods of digital advertising. But this trustworthy steadiness comes at a price, and one that’s more expensive than what advertisers are used to with most programmatic solutions.

So how much — if any — of your brand’s ad spend should you direct towards premium publishers? To help you answer this question, this article breaks down what premium publishers are, why they’re especially attractive right now, and how you can get the most from any budget you commit to advertising on them.

Premium publishers are often news sites that have built up trust with their readers over a long period of time

Premium publishers: Definition

Premium publishers are usually identified by their consistent production of high-quality content and maintenance of a distinct brand image that highlights their high editorial standards. Some of them are household names, like The New York Times, Financial Times, and Süddeutsche Zeitung, while others have lots of well-known publications but are fairly unknown to anyone outside the industry.

The “premium” label can also be extended to connected TV (CTV) when applied to high-caliber, in-demand content from publishers or well-known streaming platforms.

For readers and viewers, these traits (along with the long-standing nature of most of the publications produced by the publisher) foster both trust in and loyalty to the publisher. While there’s no set line differentiating premium from non-premium publishers, it’s generally this trust and loyalty which qualifies a premium publisher as such.

Premium publishers and advertising

In addition to sponsored content and subscriptions from readers, premium publishers make their money through advertising. Since that’s what’s relevant to any marketers reading this article to try and create a post-cookie plan, we’ll expand on the role of advertising in the next sections.

Knowing exactly how premium publisher monetization models work is relevant for anyone who wants to advertise with them. The key thing to know about advertising on these publisher sites is that their ad placement and frequency is much less intrusive than most of the other websites users visit. And for any brands running ads with these publishers, this means:

  • less competition with other organizations for attention
  • The ad load vs. content ratio is well balanced
  • the credibility of ads and the brands running them is increased
  • brand safety is maintained

Why are brands taking a closer look at their ad spend with premium publishers now?

With third-party cookies on their way out, many brands are having to reevaluate their ad targeting strategies. And while walled gardens do a fairly good job of picking up where cookies left off, people don’t spend the majority of their online time there. In fact, they spend 34% of their time in walled gardens — compared to 66% of their time on the open internet, like premium online news sites or CTV. So advertisers obviously need to rethink their budgets to include or increase spend on premium publishers as well.

In addition, premium publishers are considered by many to be the ideal alternative to the opaque, often fraud-riddled solutions which have plagued the programmatic landscape for years. With the average campaign running on 44,000 websites, many advertisers have lost their overview of where their ads are actually running — as well as how many of these sites might be fraudulent, made-for-advertising sites.

This is the opposite case with premium publishers, where advertisers will know these details as part of their ad space purchase. The result is a much better ROI and the assurance that they will be less likely to run their ads on fraudulent sites.

Precise targeting with premium publishers

So what’s held many brands back from devoting a significant chunk of ad spend to premium publishers? It’s likely the legacy of ad buying with them and its associated lack of precision.

Traditionally, brands advertising with premium publishers have purchased certain audience segments from the publisher that best align with the customers the brand is trying to reach. 

But new technologies like Decentriq’s data clean rooms let advertisers find audiences and target customers through premium publishers in much more accurate ways. You can uncover audience insights, generate lookalike audiences, and retarget customers — all while reaching users where they spend most of their time: Outside of walled gardens.

Get in touch to learn more about our growing network of European premium publishers who collaborate with brands using Decentriq’s data clean rooms.


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