ESPN made big news today. They decided to sell their ads directly and not use any ad networks. That was big news because many ad networks have been quite successful.
Lots of folks agreed that this was a good call.
I do think that publishers aren’t always getting the best deal. They either leave money on the table, or the ads don’t reflect the brand properly or publishers don’t get enough visibility. Last November I wrote about this challenge and felt like publishers weren’t getting enough value and they need help.
But the decision to go direct vs an ad network is different for different sites. Building an ad sales force isn’t easy. It’s expensive and good sales people aren’t always easy to find. And then they have to be managed like everything else.
Plus, even if you sell directly, most/if not all sites will have unsold ad inventory. And just because the publisher can’t sell it doesn’t mean it’s not valuable.
I think all sites would best served with a hybrid model. Sell sponsorships directly. Period. Then sell your best inventory directly if you can hire the best sales people. Then find the best ad network(s) to optimize the balance of your inventory. These are variables that should be dialed up and down depending on your size, audience and balance sheet. It’s not an all or nothing decision.
And there are some pretty amazing new technologies/companies that are emerging too that will help.
In fact there is one company in particular helping publishers manage these challenges in a big way. And I can’t wait to tell you more about it. But I can’t. At least not yet.
Stay tuned :)