The world of advertising is changing, even as marketers and publishers are demanding more results, more efficiency, and more reach to find new customers to help their businesses grow.

To understand why advertising is more focused than ever on efficiency, let’s first take a quick look at the history of advertising. Gone are the days when newspapers and magazines dominated your customers’ attention. We’ve come a long, long way since the first newspaper ad was published in 1704. When publishing first expanded to other forms of media such as magazines, it quickly became evident that subscription revenues alone would not fund the cost of producing quality content.

Enter advertising as a way to benefit publishers. On May 8, 1704, one of the first newspaper ads appeared in the Boston News-Letter. It was a real estate advertisement selling a plantation on Oyster Bay, Long Island.

Fast forward to the 1970s-1980s, when we saw major innovations in advertising. Publishing companies realized they could distribute their content solely by being funded with advertising.

In the 2000s, ad networks aggregated inventory and sold it to advertisers, helping fuel the rise of smaller publishers.

In the 2010s, ad exchanges provided the inventory marketplace for automated deals and the birth of programmatic. 

And finally, in 2020 and beyond, we have entered the AI era, which will be transformative in how marketers reach and engage with their customers.

These days, it’s easy to see that our access to the content that fuels our daily interactions is exponentially increasing. In addition, we’re seeing a marked increase in subscription-based news (paywalls) and information. Consider The New York Times, which added 587,000 subscribers in the first quarter of 2020 and has now passed 6 million subscribers. 

For most publishers, however, advertising is still the primary revenue stream for digital content. 

We have at our fingertips a vast amount of content on publisher’s web sites. This includes everything from the latest health trends, to how-to articles about increasing your vehicle’s gas mileage, to advice on buying a home in today’s competitive real estate market. Without ad-funded content on the open internet, we limit both our perspective and potential as human beings. 

The Effect of Paywalls on Access to Quality Information

Accelerated by the pandemic, paywalls have become an increasingly important part of the digital publishing business, especially for digital news outlets such as The New York Times. In 2020, its digital subscription revenue exceeded print subscription revenue for the first time in its history. This means that not only are we at risk of getting less access to quality publications that help us understand what’s happening in the world around us, we’re heading toward a stratified internet for information—our world will continue to become more divided between those who can afford these subscriptions and those who cannot. 

Because of this disparity, information is disproportionality accessed across society; it skews our perception of how we interpret real-world events. We all know too well how this affects our relationships at home and at work. The creation of the internet’s paid layer may never crowd out free alternatives, but it threatens to leave us with even fewer shared reference points. This can lead to an “echo chamber,” where big publications will only serve a tiny sliver of the population while small publications struggle to survive.

How Quantcast Can Help Solve This Problem

We aren’t suggesting that every advertiser should reach out to their favorite newspaper or magazine rep. Still, it’s clear that if 70% of ad budgets go to a few large companies, publishers will be severely impacted.

As Google’s deadline for deprecating the third-party cookie looms, publishers are racing to respond. Since third-party cookies have been central to how audience planning, campaign activation, measurement, and attribution work in programmatic advertising today, their deprecation will impact the ability to observe and understand buyer behavior online. Forward-thinking companies are already preparing for third-party cookie loss by getting the right technology in place now so they’re well prepared for 2023. Thanks to the extension from Google, publishers and marketers have even more time to experiment with new intelligent audience platform solutions and prepare for the cookieless future.

Here’s what you can do during this interim period: for every advertising partner you work with, find out how they benefit publishers. Ask them:

  • What is their relationship to publishers? 
  • How do content producers and editors benefit from their technology? 
  • How do their advertising products help publishers make money? 

At Quantcast, supporting the free and open internet is our core business. Quantcast Measure, the first product we created 15 years ago for publishers, recently won a MarTech Breakthrough award as the best web analytics solution. It’s free and self-serve, enabling publishers of all sizes to thrive in an always-evolving environment.

Our publisher-first value exchange at scale is what we use to fuel advertising campaigns across the open web, allowing marketers to drive ad spend efficiencies while serving consumers with better ads that are more relevant.

While times have certainly changed with big data, AI technologies, and continuous pressure from privacy regulators, what hasn’t changed since 1700 is that by supporting publishers, advertisers, brands, and consumers, we are investing in a society that’s inclusive and equitable for all. After all, an open and thriving internet is good for everyone.

Learn more about how Quantcast powers publishers, and get started with Quantcast Measure today.