Beeler.Brief: John Shankman, CEO of Hashtag Labs on the Revolution in Publisher Software

beeler.brief Aug 21, 2021

John Shankman:     It's a very exciting time to be in publisher advertising technology. I think, not to use too strong of a word, on it, but I think there's a real revolution going on in terms of software in earnest being available for publishers. I think the big pain point that online publishing has had for a long time is that the big software platforms that came about, i.e. Google and Facebook, were really earning the lion's share of advertising revenue. Meanwhile really what makes the internet great is the ability for publishers to operate independently. Independent publishing on the web has always been amazing.

Honestly, Ben Smith, probably the most marquis media reporter there is today, just had an interesting piece coming out about how intent-based, or what I would even call niche, independent publishing on the internet is poised for a renaissance. That article's great, but I do think it misses an important point, and that point is that not only is independent publishing, the act of writing and publishing interesting editorial content having a moment on the internet, but advertising technology for the supply side is really starting to come together. The idea that software is available to publishers is coming into focus right now. There's a real revolution in the technology products available to publishers.

That is something that's new, I think. Because Google and Facebook and these big software first platforms were always collecting, aggregating, and normalizing these monster datasets, and then building interesting optimization algorithms on top of them. They had these enablement interfaces within their systems that allowed them to optimize for ad performance. Publishers weren't coming from that place. Publishers were coming from a place where producing interesting editorial content was their strongest muscle, and rightfully so. Advertising technology for them needed to catch up, and I think finally we're in a moment where the ability for publishers to aggregate, consolidate, and normalize data and then act on it, is really going to be enabled in a way that hasn't been in the past.

 So I'm hopeful that not only is the time right for independent publishing on the web to make a comeback from an editorial perspective but there's going to be new successes because of the software platforms that are now available that weren't available previously in the previous generation of online publishing. So that's my general thesis, that online ad tech for publishers is going to hit an inflection point in having true software services and platforms available to them.

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