Advertising Guest Columns
4 mins read

How curated marketplaces are helping boost publisher revenue

Since its inception, programmatic advertising has been constantly developing and has sought to drive efficiencies within the digital advertising landscape. However, technological advancements have come with an increasing number of intermediaries right across the supply chain, which in turn has led to greater complexity and – ironically – inefficiencies. 

This has also led to the once close relationship between buyers and publishers being pulled apart due to supply chain complexity, which in the current climate of increased regulation, market changes and deprecation of the cookie is more important than ever.

This almost continual state of evolution and change can leave advertisers confused and spending too much time trying to get the basics right, such as sourcing brand-safe inventory from high-quality publishers. Indeed, from the recent survey Xandr conducted with the IAB, titled Demystifying curated marketplaces: a guide for buyers to drive efficient supply strategies, this is one of the core tenets of online ad placements – 52% of respondents stated that making sure brands appear in trusted and premium environments is a must-have for their supply strategy.

On the other side publishers continually struggle to generate revenue for their premium inventory and often face heavy competition in the open exchange, which compresses yields.

So how can all parties along the programmatic supply chain benefit from new technology advancements as programmatic matures?

Challenges facing publishers in the open exchange

Programmatic and the growth of the internet has led to many new opportunities for publishers to monetise their inventory, but it has also led to new challenges and risks.

The internet, too, is constantly growing, which should present ample opportunity for publishers, however there has also been a boom in intermediaries and content providers further fragmenting the supply chain. This is evidenced by the fact that 86% of the 1,000 largest global publishers have to partner with multiple sell-side platforms to sell their inventory, according to the State of the Open Internet Report 2020 by Jounce Medi.

In this increasingly fragmented landscape, publishers can often struggle to effectively monetise their inventory on the open exchange due to lack of transparency, competition and the increasing pressures to deliver brand safe, targeted environments.

Add to this the loss of audience from third-party tracking cookies and increased pressure from big players in the market, it’s easy to see why publishers need a hand up when it comes to generating revenue. This is where curated marketplaces come into play.

How do curated marketplaces work?

While marketplaces themselves are not a new concept for digital advertising, curated marketplaces are. Curated marketplaces, which can be thought of as bespoke marketplaces which exist within a larger marketplace, are specifically designed and built to address certain challenges advertisers and publishers may face and therefore provide specific value for all parties involved.

Importantly, a curated marketplace can only be accessed by a buyer via a curated deal. As part of the deal the curator allows the trader to access specific parts of their curated marketplace. Advertisers cannot access this inventory via the open exchange, so a media buyer cannot access the curated marketplace ‘by accident’; only after engaging directly with the curator. This means a specific partnership needs to be developed between buyer and seller.

The benefits for publishers

Curated marketplaces can help address publishers’ challenges in the open exchange by putting them back in control of their inventory. This works in a number of ways.

The creation of specific partnerships between buyers and sellers, means that publishers are not just faceless entities in a system. Instead publishers and advertisers will have several conversations to negotiate curated deals and understand objectives, providing greater understanding than a programmatic bid in the open marketplace. The transparency afforded by these direct relationships helps address brand safety concerns, as media buyers can give assurances to advertisers that their ad placements are both safe and authentic.

Curated marketplaces also allow publishers to retain a level of control over their inventory, from who they allow to curate their supply, how they price that inventory and if they choose how they segment their inventory into deals using key value data or their first-party audience data. This will also help increase ad revenue for publishers by ensuring they can demand and receive a fair price for their premium inventory

The future for publishers and curated marketplaces

Although still a new concept for many in the industry, curated marketplaces make it possible for all players in the market to easily build programmatic supply solutions with a broad array of features that combine high-quality inventory, new levels of transparency, and valuable audience and contexts at scale.

Curated marketplaces are not only helping advertisers access unique inventory but they are also helping them future-proof against the current identity crisis by increasing opportunities for publisher-specific solutions to ID-less inventory. Simultaneously they are providing publishers with a platform through which to make their combined inventory available to buyers at scale. Ultimately, this is making publishers’ inventory more appealing to brands and advertisers resulting in boosted ROI, as well as helping establish a transparent, and sustainable supply chain.

Michael Simpkins
Commercial Lead, Marketplaces, Xandr

XANDR: A business unit within AT&T, Xandr powers a global marketplace for premium advertising. Our data-enabled technology platform, encompassing Xandr Invest and Xandr Monetize, optimizes return on investment for both buyers and sellers. For more than 143 years, AT&T has used data and technology to inform and improve the consumer experience. For further information please visit:

IAB EUROPE: IAB Europe is the European-level association for the digital marketing and advertising ecosystem. Through its membership of National IABs and media, technology and marketing companies, its mission is to lead political representation and promote industry collaboration to deliver frameworks, standards and industry programmes that enable business to thrive in the European market. For further information please visit: