Digital Innovation Guest Columns
4 mins read

Three ways AI is helping publishers flourish

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The publishing industry has been totally transformed in the past decade.
In 2008, the rise of online media was simply considered an “emerging threat” to the print media industry by the UK’s TV and radio services regulator Ofcom. Five years later, this threat had tipped the sector into hot water, with one recent casualty being the UK’s most-loved weekly women’s titles which reported a drop in sales of almost 30 percent year-on-year.

In 2018, the industry has begun to return to growth thanks to some smart digital strategies. The Guardian, for example, announced in July that its digital revenues had overtaken print for the first time. This was the result of a three-year transformation plan which included the introduction of a new advertising model and the creation of a new data and insights team to support editorial and commercial innovation.

While seeing other media owners and publishers return to growth is reason for optimism in the wider industry, there is still a long way to go to secure the sector’s health in the long term.

Previously, the target of any advertiser’s content has been eyeballs. In the digital age the focus has now shifted to audiences. Advertisers no longer just want to know how many people will read their ad, but who they are, where they’re from, how much money they have, and anything else that supports increased relevancy. Whilst online-first media platforms like Google and Facebook have been built around a deep understanding of their users, traditional media are hunting for new ways to provide these insights in order to hold onto their share of advertising spend.

AI isn’t traditionally a term that gets paired with publishing, but many media owners are turning to this technology to create a more compelling business model and communicate better with advertisers.

Here are three ways AI and Machine Learning is already being used to support growth in the publishing industry.

AI is fuelling more effective online ad campaigns

Digital publishers rely on advertising for up to 80 percent of their revenues. As they work to forge sustainable business models, AI is helping by fostering more effective online advertising for publishers by allowing advertisers to reach and, more importantly, understand their key audiences. Machine learning technology and AI are outperforming humans when it comes to identifying ads to reach the right target audiences across a publisher’s site. Engagement with campaigns is going up as a result, and the publishers that have the audiences desired by advertisers are set to reap the rewards.

AI is helping publishers better curate their content

The rise of AI-powered measurement tools is enabling publishers to tap into more granular insights about their audience. These insights allow editors to better serve their readers by identifying which types of audiences engage with which type of content, even to the level of knowing which reporters readers go to for certain types of news. The resulting uptick in engagement is a boost across the board. This can improve performance for publishers, even predicting trends in demand before they materialise. No human could consume and make decisions based on that volume of data at the speed of today’s news cycles and fleeting trends.

AI is proving campaign success

BuzzFeed is one publisher to have realised the value of AI for its business. As modern online audiences were becoming increasingly fragmented, it found that advertisers were moving away from measurement based solely on demographics and instead seeking measurement based on more specific data that goes beyond age and gender, including interests and attitudes. However, accessing such data can be both time-consuming and labor-intensive.

BuzzFeed brought on board Quantcast’s AI-driven Measure tool, utilising features designed to better build audiences around different types of content, to quickly provide advertising partners with a more granular view of their readers, indicating things such as products they like and hobbies they enjoy. As a result, the publisher has been able to increase efficiency and deepen advertiser partnerships to drive more new and repeat business.

Over the next 12 months we’ll see more support for publishers in bolstering their ad business. For example, Quantcast this week announced Q for Publishers which will enable media owners to get detailed insights into the audiences for their different online publications. This allows them to both quickly produce reports on which audiences they’re attracting (down to the individual article or even specific reporter level) and then report against campaigns running on their sites to prove they reached who they said they would.

All this is a great leap forward for data-driven publishing, but we’re still just scratching the surface when it comes to the potential of AI. When you consider that the UK digital advertising spend reached a record-breaking £22.2bn in 2017, the value this technology could unlock for the industry in the next year or two is huge. With roots in the offline print world, shifting to online has been a major step in the right direction for many media owners. To realistically compete for ad revenue in the long term, publishers must keep pace with innovation and make greater use of the tools available to them.

Peter Day, Chief Technology Officer, Quantcast

About Quantcast

Quantcast owns and operates the world’s largest audience insights and measurement platform on the open internet. Fueled by live data drawn from more than 100 million web and mobile destinations, Quantcast applies machine learning technology to help marketers, publishers, and agencies grow their brands by better understanding and predicting consumer interactions in real-time. Founded in 2006, Quantcast is headquartered in San Francisco and employs more than 700 employees in over 20 offices across 10 countries.

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