Washington Post builds ad network for publishers to take on Big Tech
The Washington Post on Tuesday will unveil Zeus Prime, a product that will allow companies to buy automated ads in real-time, similar to Big Tech platforms. Zeus will also support a new ad network that will include other publishers.
Why it matters: Advertisers often complain that they would like a better alternative to buying ads on Google and Facebook — where the content isn't always vetted — but there are no other places where they can buy ads as quickly and efficiently in real-time. The Post hopes this product will change that, and put more ad money in publishers' pockets.
The product will allow publishers to open their ad space to marketers directly through a real-time buying tool, similar to what Google and Facebook offer, across the network of publishers' websites and apps.
- Because the new software requires very minimal input from the advertiser — no additional design, coding, fees or approvals are required — advertisers can place their ads directly on publishers websites in real-time, which is not typical.
- The tool will first be available for DC, local-based advertisers, says Joy Robins, Chief Revenue Officer at The Washington Post. "As more publishers license the technology, that pool of available ad inventory will eventually grow nationally across many publishers' sites," Robins says.
Yes, but: While a publisher can choose to license Zeus Prime as a standalone product, if it wishes to join the ad network that The Post is building, it needs to license all three of The Post's commercial software products, including Zeus Insights, The Post's first-party data tool that is used for ad-targeting, and Zeus Performance, its advertising performance tool.
- "There is no end-to-end solution for publishers to grow their advertising revenue," says Jarrod Dicker, The Post’s VP of Commercial Technology and Development. "Zeus gives publishers the opportunity to license a shared technology stack, and have full control over their revenue and the technology powering it. It empowers them to become less dependent on revenue platforms like Google and Facebook."
By the numbers: According to Dicker, the cost to license the software will vary by client, but right now clients are "at the low volume range, half million annually and at the high range, in the millions."
- As a result, Robins says the revenue that will be generated from the Zeus Prime product will be significant. "We're shooting for eight-figures," Robins told Axios.
Be smart: Buying and selling automated ads on websites and apps for premium web publishers has been a major technology challenge for years, and it's part of the reason that Google and Facebook have been able to grow their ad businesses so big and so fast.
- In the past, advertisers had to use third-party vendors which are often owned or influenced by Google or Facebook. Those vendors often took a large cut of the ad money.
- This tech allows publishers to cut third-party ad tech vendors out of their supply chains, so that they can take a much higher cut of the revenue.
Case-in-point: Dicker thinks that Zeus Prime will enable publishers to earn revenue at a rate of more than $10 minimum CPM (the cost per every 1,000 impressions), as opposed to the roughly $2 minimum CPM that publishers sell ads at right now, using outside vendors.
- "Advertising today for publishers is on opposite ends, it's either very premium for custom experiences or very cheap for audience targeting," says Dicker. "We want to bring demand back to the middle. If we do that, we'll be bringing an entirely new revenue opportunity for publishers to band together and really take on Big Tech companies."
The big picture: Publishers are investing more in developing their own advertising and publishing software as a way to make more money.
- With advertising waning for publishers generally, companies like The Post, Vox Media and New York Media sell their own versions of software tools for publishers.
- The Washington Post's software businesses sits within a division called Arc Publishing, which licenses software products — including content management systems and workflow management tools — to dozens of different companies.