Good Morning Vietnam!

Recently I heard an NPR clip about the coffee business in Vietnam. Naturally, my thoughts turned immediately to the state of the publisher in the online media and advertising world.

Vietnam, it turns out, grows really awesome coffee beans. But like other small, economically vulnerable coffee-growing countries, Vietnam is worried about what will happen if it just keeps dumping those precious beans onto the world coffee market and hoping demand earns them a high price. So Vietnam is moving up the value chain. Instead of just being a grower, the country is also now a major processor, a key distribution point for regional coffee shipping and even a direct seller of gourmet blends. In short, Vietnam is taking control of its economic future by making smart decisions about its most precious commodity.

This week's Drift is proudly underwritten by Evidon. Evidon produces new, accurate intelligence on how the digital marketplace really works, so companies can make more informed decisions for their businesses. Powered by Ghostery® data, Evidon solutions include unparalleled insight into the marketing technologies that underpin the commercial internet and the power to control their impact on business.

This is the story I led with at yesterday's AdExchanger Programmatic I/O conference. I moderated the "Publishing Now" discussion, featuring top executives from BuzzFeed, LinkedIn and Business Insider, three specialty publishers who -- like little Vietnam -- are moving up the value chain. As you would imagine, the vast majority of conference attendees were deeply committed to all things programmatic, so our panel ended up being a bit of counter-programming. Don't get me wrong: programmatic technology and channels may still be a significant part of the picture. They're just not the whole picture. A few thoughts and highlights:

  • BuzzFeed bases its economic value on creating "share-able" impressions and have introduced advertisers to a new scorecard.
  • For LinkedIn, highly detailed data and context are the keys to premium status and ad rates, and alternative revenue streams give them the cover to be selective in their ad strategies.
  • Business Insider efficiently builds integrated ad/editorial programs (through re-usable components and models) and then scales the distribution of those programs across its network and the larger web.
  • Each company has executed its formula quite well, but these strategies and tools are available to a great many other publishers. I think much of it comes down to will, commitment and leadership.
  • None of these pubs are saying that programmatic doesn't matter. Both BuzzFeed and Business Insider have robust connections to the ad tech landscape. LinkedIn is, at this point, more "pro-curious" as might be expected. And BI has been extremely aggressive in driving programmatic "private exchanges" through its SSP partner PubMatic.

Taking control of your economic future doesn't mean turning your back on automated marketplaces. It means approaching them from a position of strength. Vietnam doesn't just dump its beans on the world market and hope for the best. And the smart publisher shouldn't simply dump its impressions into programmatic channels either. The decisions are far more nuanced than they seem, and you have more options than you probably even realize.