Year in Review: Publishing and Advertising in 2017


Every year brings new challenges and innovations to publishing and ad tech, and 2017 was certainly no different.

Here are some of the major industry developments from this year, along with how publishers and advertisers are responding.

Artificial Intelligence and Personalization
According to a study conducted by, 39 percent of consumers won’t spend time with a publisher, or engage with media content, if the content is not relevant to their personal interests.1

Learn three other reasons why publishers need to personalize content.

Fortunately, Artificial Intelligence (AI) can help digital publishers deliver content that is personalized and highly relevant to individual users.

For example, tronc, Inc., the owner of the Chicago Tribune and Los Angeles Times, developed a “content curation and monetization engine” called troncX2 to provide personalized and interactive experiences to its 60 million monthly users.

“Our transformation strategy — which has attracted over $114 million in growth capital — is focused on leveraging artificial intelligence and machine learning to improve the user experience and better monetize our world-class content,” said Chairman Michael Ferro.3

Indeed, by learning and analyzing user behavioral data online, AI helps publishers and brands create a one-to-one relationship with consumers.4

Another innovative tool publishers are using to connect with consumers is chatbots.

Empowered by AI, chatbots can recommend news stories based on user preferences during personal conversations.

CNN has recently rolled out a variety of chatbot experiences on various messaging apps such as Facebook Messenger, Kik, and LINE as well as on voice search devices. The publisher has seen a high engagement rate, with users asking and responding to open-ended questions about the news.5

“Subscribers to CNN on Messenger will receive a daily digest of top stories right within the Messenger app. The bot will also recommend personalized content based on a user’s preferences and learned interests. The experience gets more personalized with each interaction on Messenger,” CNN stated in a press release.6

Earlier this year, Apple’s announcement of its new Safari feature—Intelligent Tracking Prevention (ITP)— rattled the digital advertising world.

According to John Wilander, an Apple WebKit security engineer, ITP “reduces cross-site tracking by further limiting cookies and other website data,” in addition to default blocking third-party tracking cookies.7

In other words, publishers who rely heavily on third-paty tracking data for programmatic advertising, especially on audience targeting, will be adversely impacted.

However, ITP does not impact publishers’ direct sales revenues.

Publishers like New York Magazine and Remedy Health Media both sell a significant amount of their inventory via direct sales and have not been affected much.8

In addition to direct sales, publishers are selling ads via private marketplaces (PMPs) – an invitation-only marketplace where advertisers can bid on premium publishers’ inventories – as a way to mitigate the impact of Apple’s anti-tracking initiative.

While Apple’s anti-tracking move mostly affects publishers who rely on third-party data, PMPs allow publishers to use first-party proprietary data to sell ads, circumenventing the issue.

One example of a digital media company using this strategy is Ranker.

According to CEO Clark Benson, Apple’s anti-tracking rules only affect one to two percent of its revenue because the site has been ramping up its PMP deals.9 In addition to Ranker, publishers like Turner, Merideth, Business Insider, and IBT Media are ramping up their use of PMPs as well.1o

Brand Safety
Almost nine months after The Times revealed ads from premium brands were being shown next to extremist materials, Teads, a video advertising company, conducted research on the reactions of various chief marketing officers.

According to the study, 83 percent of CMOs surveyed expressed concerns about brand safety.11 Forty-five percent of them stated that reports of the quality of ad placements, rather than simply reach, should be provided by third-party measurement.12

One solution publishers and platforms are exploring to combat brand safety concerns is working with third-party ad monitoring companies.

For example, OpenSlate, a social video analytics company, has partnered with GroupM, one of the world’s largest media investment management groups, to monitor where video ads are running.13

In addition, Google has created a “brand safety” channel where third parties – namely comScore and Integral Ad Science – can monitor YouTube ads.14

Google has also poured more investment into machine-learning to improve its ad-serving and YouTube video recommendation services including identifying questionable videos.15

Though brand safety has been a serious concern, increased use of third-party monitoring systems, as well as Google’s machine learning initiatives, may calm advertisers’ nerves.

While it’s clear that 2017 has been a year of turbulence for publishers and advertisers, it has also been a year of innovation and progress. Branded content, artificial intelligence and personalization have taken center stage as publishers and advertisers continue to challenge industry threats and grow revenues. Indeed, 2017 has been an exciting year for the industry.

Content Personalization

1. Durman, Tyler. “Why Not Having a Content Personalization Strategy Isn’t an Option.” Why Not Having a Content Personalization Strategy Isn’t an Option, OneSpot, 12 June 2017.
2. Ha, Anthony. “Tribune Publishing Rebrands as Tronc, Terrible Puns Ensue.” TechCrunch, TechCrunch, 2 June 2016.
3. IBID.
4. Staff writers. “Personalization & AI Improving Branded Content.” Target Marketing, Target Marketing, 22 Mar. 2017.
5. McEleny, Charlotte. “What CNN Has Learnt after Six Months of Chatbot Experimentation.” The Drum, The Drum, 16 Nov. 2016.
6. “How Publishers Can Gain Traction With a Bot Strategy.” The Product Blog, 5 Oct. 2016.
7. Marvin, Ginny. “How Apple’s Intelligent Tracking Prevention Works & Why Google/Facebook Could Benefit Most.” Marketing Land, 6 July 2017.
8. Benes, Ross. “Publishers Are Already Feeling Pain from Apple’s Move against Ad Tracking.” Digiday, Digiday, 16 Oct. 2017.
9. Benes, Ross. “Forget the Duopoly, Apple’s Anti-Tracking Moves Rattle Digital Media.” Digiday, Digiday, 15 Sept. 2017.
10. Benes, Ross. “’Yield Isn’t Everything’: How Turner Shifted Programmatic Private.” Digiday, 13 July 2017.
11. Freier, Anne. “When It Comes to Brand Safety, CMOs Are Getting Worried and 95% of Them Are Overhauling Their Digital Strategies.” Mobyaffiliates, Mobyaffiliates, 17 Nov. 2017.
12. IBID.
13. Johnson, Lauren. “This Social Video Analytics Company Has Quadrupled Its Auditing Business Since YouTube.” Adweek, Adweek, 7 Sept. 2017.
14. IBID.
15. Bergen, Mark. “Google Changes Ad Policy Again to Try to End YouTube Crisis.” NDTV Gadgets360.Com, NDTV Gadgets360.Com, 4 Apr. 2017.