Insights & Analysis: Publicly Traded Companies in Q1 2024

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Every quarter, business analyst Matthew Scott Goldstein details and shares his insights on what he saw happen with publicly traded companies across advertising, technology, and media.

The digital publishing landscape

In recent months, I have devoted considerable time to contemplating the message I wish to convey, meticulously pondering the words I will employ.

The challenge lies in communicating my ideas effectively without perpetuating the label of “the extinction person” in conversations.

While it is essential to plan for the worst, we must also maintain a sense of urgency and hope for the best.

Effecting positive change requires deliberate and conscientious actions. I think I have a plan for the digital publishing landscape over the next two years.

Digital publishing downturn expected in 2025

Most of the information I encountered during Q1 2024, conveyed a negative and discouraging tone, indicating a need for urgency and action in the Publishing world. 

While publishers continued focusing on diversifying revenue streams beyond ad sales and exploring new ventures such as Generative AI, e-commerce, subscriptions, community, newsletters, acquisitions, editorial shifts, podcasts, content licensing to LLMs, and lawsuits; It may not be enough. 

Google Gemini technology in digital publishing

Google’s Gemini technology, which is capable of directly answering questions, poses a challenge for publishers, as it is likely to reduce search results and further diminish website traffic.

The recent Gemini incident and potential leadership (CEO) changes at Google may accelerate this shift, keeping a larger portion of traffic within the Google ecosystem.

Plus, Open AI’s Sora, which can create realistic and imaginative scenes from text instructions, is remarkable. 

Privacy Sandbox implications for digital publishing

Now to the even scarier part, the digital publisher industry is expected to encounter a significant decline in the first quarter of 2025, this conclusion was reached after engaging in extensive conversations with industry experts over the last few months.

This downturn is anticipated to continue for a minimum of three to six months, possibly extending throughout the entirety of 2025. Several factors contribute to this downturn, including the launch of the Privacy Sandbox, which is anticipated to significantly disrupt the online advertising landscape.

This decrease could become a new normal, lower level of programmatic monetization as buy side efficacy is reduced without 3rd party cookies. 

Additionally, the post-US presidential election bump commonly observed in advertising spending is expected to intensify the impact on publishers.

Programmatic CPMs in the Chrome ecosystem, which serve as the cornerstone of most publishers’ revenue, are projected to experience a substantial decline of at least 30%, with some estimates reaching as high as 50%. Some ID solutions that are aiding yields across cookieless environments today actually rely on the cookies from Chrome; so, these will be hit too with 3rd party cookie deprecation.

Low CPMs derived from the Apple/Safari ecosystem may become the norm in the Google/Chrome world, posing a further obstacle to monetization efforts. During this time advertisers will probably move budgets to CTV, Search, Retail Media, and Social.

The anticipated decline is not only significant but also presents unique challenges for digital publishers. To navigate this challenging period, publishers must take quick proactive measures. I know this is basically an impossible task, providing advice like this, but I must try. 

  • Small publishers — In Q1 2025, anticipate a steep decline in programmatic CPMs and take steps now to remain lean. Prioritize the diversification of revenue streams beyond ad sales. Implement cost-cutting measures and explore outsourcing options to optimize efficiency. Focus on editorial, continue to find white space with content. 
  • Medium-sized publishers — To ensure survival in a highly competitive industry, immediate merging with another company is necessary/possible. Focusing on cost-cutting measures, including outsourcing tasks like programmatic, analytics, and ad sales, this is essential. Prioritizing editorial content as a key differentiator is crucial. Transitioning entirely to programmatic advertising may be recommended; unless the publisher serves a high value vertical that lends itself to Direct Sales.  When diversifying away from ad sales, it’s vital to select a single initiative and concentrate all efforts on it.
  • Large publishers — In the face of current industry challenges, publishers should critically evaluate their leadership. If the CEO lacks a strong background in technology, programmatic advertising, Editorial, or M&A, it may be time to consider stepping aside and allowing new leadership to take the helm. The CEO should focus on the current product and bring in experienced senior leaders to spearhead key initiatives. These initiatives, such as e-commerce, community, subscriptions, Generative AI, video, podcasting, and editorial expansion/editorial leadership, should be directly reported to the CEO to emphasize their importance and facilitate the incorporation of innovative ideas. Additionally, publishers must continue to prioritize front door traffic and newsletters, as over-reliance on Google will be detrimental. Additionally, we must convince Advertisers to continue to buy the open web in 2025, just do slightly differently when cookies are gone.  Sit with agencies and lay out the plan of how to buy in 2025 without cookies. Skate where the puck is going.  

Next steps to support digital publishing

On Friday, April 12th, I plan to host a Zoom meeting with publishers and partners to discuss several pressing issues.

  • Promoting Publisher Initiatives: How can we effectively promote and support publisher initiatives, ensuring their visibility and success? Can we share data across publishers? Can we share more resources? Can we share Direct sales teams? Will contextual targeting thrive in 2025? How does attribution work? How long does it take to get marketers to retag their sites? If Privacy Sandbox works, do Publishers stop supporting Safari? Will the UK Publisher community act faster than the US? 
  • Facilitating Mergers and Collaborations: What strategies can we employ to facilitate mergers and collaborations between publishers, enabling them to strengthen their market position and enhance their offerings?
  • Road Show for Expediting Purchases in the Privacy Sandbox: Should we embark on a roadshow to persuade agencies to expedite purchases in the Privacy Sandbox? What are the potential benefits and challenges of this approach?
  • Making the Case to Google: Should we present Google with a compelling argument outlining the numerous unintended consequences the PSB launch may have for the open web? How receptive is Google to our concerns, and what strategies can we employ to engage with them effectively?
  • Role of The Trade Desk : Can TTD provide additional support and assistance to publishers in navigating the changing landscape? What specific measures can be taken to enhance TTD’s involvement and impact? Are today’s DSP/SSP platforms built with massive capabilities to manage the crowded cookie space. Once the table stakes have changed, will platforms be simpler, nimbler, and less expensive? 
  • Direct Buying Trends: As PSB gradually rolls out in 2025, will agencies start to shift their focus toward direct buying? What are the implications of this trend, and how can publishers prepare for it?
  • Run Tests: Set up many tests around all other sources and partners and see how we can move the CPM needle for Publishers. 
  • Publisher Ecosystem in 2025: As the publishing industry approaches 2025, a pertinent inquiry arises: What will the future hold for publishers?  Which publishing entities possess the potential to not only endure but also prosper in the coming years? What key factors will play a pivotal role in determining their success?
  • Agency of the Future: Will it be all driven by general artificial intelligence, achieving remarkable efficiency, leading to heavy reliance on Google and Amazon, based on the marketer’s category?  Will marketers become overly dependent on Google and Amazon for their marketing needs, as general artificial intelligence becomes more prevalent and efficient? The extent of this dependence may vary based on the specific category of marketer.

While I recognize the valuable contributions made by the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) and the Digital Content Next (DCN) to the digital advertising industry, I believe that their current structures, leadership, and membership are inadequate to address the specific challenges faced by the industry. Though, the IAB and OPA/DCN have been instrumental in shaping the development of digital advertising standards and best practices.

The initial team advocating for digital publishing

The looming extinction event bears a remarkable similarity to the bank failures witnessed over the past decade. In the case of bank failures, warning signs were ignored or inadequately addressed, leading to a precipitous collapse of the financial system. Unlike the financial crisis, we now have the advantage of foreknowledge and the opportunity to take proactive measures. However, swift, and decisive action is imperative.

So far, I have six prominent members of this working group. These are some of the smartest minds in digital publishing, but the senior leadership is still narrow in terms of gender and racial diversity. 

  • Rich Caccappolo, CEO Daily Mail
  • Paul Bannister, CSO Raptive
  • Gabriel DeWitt, Head of Consumer Monetization Yahoo!
  • Brad Elders, COO NY Post 
  • Another large Publisher 
  • Andrew Casale, CEO Index Exchange

To ensure the survival of the publishing industry in 2025, we are actively seeking a diverse group of additional C-level executives from digital-only publishers to join our exclusive dialogue.

We aim to foster a collaborative environment where participants can contribute their expertise in technical, editorial, and programmatic areas. Additionally, we remain open to the potential involvement of benevolent billionaires who can provide valuable support.

Free and open news journalism, with a plurality of views, is of pivotal importance in a well-functioning democracy. By joining this endeavor, you will have the opportunity to witness the resurgence of the publishing industry and contribute to its continued success.

Other ideal advocates for digital publishing

I would love to have senior, diverse, representatives from the following organizations join us: Reddit, Fandom, Weather, Axel Springer, Penske Media, Ziff Davis/IDG, and the Washington Post.

These companies are well-established and financially secure, making them ideal partners for our organization. Additionally, if the New York Times are willing to collaborate with us, their involvement would be highly valuable.

Furthermore, I would like to include representatives from DV360, The Trade Desk, Microsoft, and Amazon as well as C-level executives from each of the major holding companies. It would also be beneficial to include a few reputable advertisers such as Target, General Motors, Verizon, Expedia, Disney, Pfizer, Chase, etc.

This group can’t just be Publishers to work, it needs advertisers and agencies, covering all ends of the advertising spectrum. 

A sense of urgency is needed in digital publishing

Regrettably, it is anticipated that several prominent US-based publishers might face significant challenges soon, with the need to scale back the brands they support.

These publishers include Buzzfeed, The Arena Group, Bustle, G/O Media, Conde Nast, Hearst, Vox, Red Ventures, Ziff Davis, Trusted Media, Vice, Nexstar, and many many others.

While acknowledging the potentially distressing nature of this information, it is crucial to communicate it to instill a sense of urgency and address the need for proactive measures. In fact, DotDash Meredith is currently doing this by prioritizing core brands.

What’s next in the fight for digital publishing?

My ability to bridge connections between people is where I excel, and I intend for this pursuit to be the most impactful connection I make.

Even if I don’t achieve success, I find solace in knowing I’ve made an effort. After all, failure is the natural consequence of choosing inaction.

With years of deep dedication to the digital publishing realm, I now embrace the mission of ensuring its endurance and stability for the foreseeable future.

Amidst the challenges faced by digital publishing, the industry’s resilience shines brightly. It will emerge from this period of adversity renewed and fortified, brimming with innovation.

Digital publishing will not only survive but also flourish, providing even greater value to the entire ecosystem.

While the path ahead might be rocky, it is the challenges that ultimately propel digital publishing to new heights, enriching the entire ecosystem. 

The Publishing Phoenix Will Rise!!!! 


Gemini Summary 

The article discusses the anticipated decline in the digital publishing industry in 2025 due to factors such as the launch of the Privacy Sandbox. The author proposes a plan to navigate this downturn, including advice for small, medium, and large publishers. The author emphasizes the need for mergers and collaborations, direct buying, and testing various sources and partners. The initial team consists of six prominent members from the digital publishing industry, but the author seeks a more diverse group, including additional C-level executives, and representatives from various organizations and companies. The author expresses a sense of urgency and highlights the potential demise or scaling back of several prominent US-based publishers. Overall, the article presents a comprehensive plan for the survival and success of the digital publishing industry in the face of challenges.

ChatGPT Summary 

The text outlines a detailed plan and forecast for the digital publishing industry, focusing on the challenges and strategic responses required to navigate an expected significant downturn in 2025. The author emphasizes the urgency and need for adaptation in the face of upcoming challenges, including the impact of new technologies like Google’s Gemini and OpenAI’s Sora, and the significant disruption expected from the deprecation of third-party cookies, particularly affecting programmatic advertising and monetization strategies.

The downturn is attributed to several factors, including the launch of the Privacy Sandbox, expected to disrupt online advertising, and a post-US presidential election decrease in advertising spending. Programmatic CPMs are expected to fall dramatically, with a shift in advertising budgets towards CTV, Search, Retail Media, and Social.

To counter these challenges, the author proposes specific strategies for small, medium, and large publishers, focusing on diversification of revenue streams, cost-cutting measures, mergers, and strategic focus on editorial content and direct programmatic advertising. Large publishers are advised to reevaluate their leadership, emphasizing the importance of a strong background in technology and advertising.

A Zoom meeting is planned to discuss several initiatives, including promoting publisher initiatives, facilitating mergers, and strategizing for the Privacy Sandbox. The text also mentions the importance of preparing for direct buying trends and setting up tests to explore alternative revenue strategies.

The author acknowledges the support of industry bodies like the IAB and DCN but suggests that more is needed to meet the specific challenges ahead. A diverse team of digital publishing leaders is being assembled to drive this effort, emphasizing the need for inclusivity and collaboration with advertisers and agencies.

The piece concludes with a call to action, emphasizing the urgency of the situation and the potential for significant impacts on many prominent US-based publishers. The author positions themselves as a connector within the industry, committed to ensuring its survival and success despite the challenges ahead. The overarching message is one of resilience and innovation, with a belief that the digital publishing industry will emerge stronger and more diversified in the face of adversity.

Perplexity Summary 

The article discusses the challenges and potential downturn in the digital publishing landscape, with a significant decline expected in 2025 due to factors like Google’s Gemini technology, Open AI’s Sora, and the launch of the Privacy Sandbox. The text outlines the anticipated impact on programmatic CPMs and suggests proactive measures for small, medium, and large publishers to navigate this challenging period. The author plans to host a Zoom meeting with publishers and partners to discuss pressing issues and facilitate mergers, collaborations, and direct buying trends. The text also highlights the need for a diverse group of additional C-level executives from digital-only publishers to join the working group and ensure the survival of the publishing industry in 2025.

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