Advertising Reader Revenue
3 mins read

Tackle revenue streams that have remained out of reach

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The idea that publishers should be monetizing their ad inventory via programmatic advertising has been covered for many years. The earliest promises for it included lower latency, more transparency and better fill rates than running a waterfall via admanager (then DFP) – but now in 2020, those same issues still haunt many publishers.

As Chief Revenue Officer at, I receive the same barrage of email solicitation that my peers and colleagues in revenue, adops and product are likely all too familiar with; they come between 4:00am and 9:19am ET every morning, when the default settings on the drip campaign software suggests there will be the least amount of competition in an inbox. (“100% fill buys” ☠️and “can we publish content on your site at a very good rate” ????)

For Salon, the maintenance of our own programmatic ad stack was a multi-faceted issue. Assigning developers to adtech tasks meant taking their eyes off of our core publishing products – the front end for our readers, the CMS for our staff. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought about great change for many publishers. Audiences may be growing or contracting – either way, from desperation or opportunity, focusing on your readers and improving retention and recirculation has newfound meaning for all publishers. There has been growth in subscription revenues for publishers around the world as more readers are simultaneously being asked to open their wallets and are agreeing to do so. Newsletters are more customizable and engaging than ever before, and are driving new opportunities in the industry.

With a few choice partnerships that create the bandwidth for me to do so, I have been able to spearhead initiatives in these nascent arenas, work closely with my editorial leadership, and seize upon reader revenue opportunities for Salon. In this evolved market, programmatic demand relationships are commoditized. What you do with those relationships takes skill and innovation, and our partner Proper Media – with whom we have common ownership – frees up our development resources to focus on Google search console, page speed scores, session depth and user experience. Similarly, we partner with RevContent for content recommendation, as a complement to our display business. They meet our demands for page performance while producing meaningful revenue.

Entrusting your programmatic business to a partner has relationship benefits for publishers: the relative scale of Proper Media means they have dedicated account management contacts with each major demand partner, and the AdOps bandwidth to work on improving the business with all of them concurrently. If you have your own demand relationships, what are you doing with that access? How efficiently are you compiling data from them, analyzing it, or acting upon it? The business volume of a service provider also comes with early access to demand partner beta programs that publishers alone may not be eligible for.

Vendor offerings on occasion do break through the clutter – especially when what they provide stands to improve the effectiveness and the efficiency of a publishing operation, to avoid opportunity cost of other strategic initiatives. Net-new revenue can come in many forms – 231 of them, per recent count by Damian Radcliffe – but always requires the operational bandwidth to bring to life. If throughout this pandemic you’ve only been able to focus on your adstack, establishing new partnerships can bring about fresh capacity to tackle the projects that have remained out of reach on your roadmap.

Justin Wohl
Chief Revenue Officer, Salon

One of the first entirely digital major media outlets, Salon continues to lead media innovation—from community engagement to new storytelling platforms and devices to a variety of advertising solutions. Access to its content is free of charge largely due to programmatic advertising revenue, although it offers the option of a monthly subscription for readers who prefer an ad-free experience.