In trimming ad tech, Bloomberg seeks to put its audience ‘first’

Some of its inventory has been replaced with self-promotional ads.
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4 min read

Spring cleaning came early for Bloomberg Media. Last fall, the publisher said it would cut ties with the programmatic open marketplace as well as the chumbox provider content recommendation company Taboola.

The pivot toward an “audience-first mentality,” as Bloomberg CEO Scott Havens called it when announcing the decision, has been underway since then.

“Going forward, if brands want to reach our audience, they’ll need to work directly with our world-class media team,” Havens wrote. As it turns out, ad tech often isn’t great for site performance, Julia Beizer, Bloomberg Media’s chief digital officer, told Marketing Brew, especially for a premium publisher.

“Site performance was something users really react to…There’s just no doubt that having a bunch of third-party libraries on your site is going to slow down performance,” Beizer said. The publisher stopped open-market programmatic advertising on January 1, and Taboola got the ax from Bloomberg’s site on March 30, Beizer said.

Though Beizer said that the open market represented less than 5% of Bloomberg’s inventory, in order to make the user experience smoother, the publisher is giving up relatively easy money. The company hasn’t thrown programmatic to the curb—it’s still cutting private programmatic deals with advertisers, although Beizer declined to say specifically how much.

Open-market programmatic advertising operates at the blink of any eye, as an ad placement can be bought without any relationship or negotiations between a buyer and a seller, so long as there’s an impression (or, you know, a real pair of eyeballs). Many publishers, from news sites to cooking blogs, tap into that open market. But Bloomberg isn’t a blog; it’s a global media company with a premium audience.

“It’s okay to sacrifice some of that guaranteed revenue if we believe we’re building something bigger and better for our consumers in the long term,” Beizer said.

Less is more?

Bloomberg’s strategy is likely out of reach for most publishers, Scott Messer, a media consultant and principal and founder of Messer Media, told Marketing Brew. It’s a premium audience reading premium reporting; stock traders and CFOs can be more expensive to reach than more general demographics (like sports enthusiasts, for example). In instances where direct buys are 10%–30% of a publisher’s revenue, it’s more common for them to cut their sales team instead of programmatic advertising, Messer said.

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“For any programmatic publisher, the single most annoying question is…‘Why shouldn’t I just buy you in the open auction?’” he told Marketing Brew. “So everything that a programmatic publisher should be doing is creating differentiation of their inventory, their offering, their data, whatever they can do to help sell their stuff. And Bloomberg is there, right? They’ve got a big thing going on.”

Over the past few months, Bloomberg has effectively replaced those advertisers buying on the open market with in-house promos—inventory worth $7.4 million over the last few months, Beizer estimated. These are ads for the media company’s podcasts, events, reporting, and new shows like Getting Warmer With Kal Penn. Bloomberg’s own internal data has shown that subscribers are more likely to retain their subscription—or subscribe in the first place—if they consume four or more different verticals, Beizer said.

Bloomberg Media, a privately owned business, has publicly shared that advertising revenue grew 15% in 2022.

The company is also offering its own first-party data capabilities with a product called the Audience Accelerator, announced in October. It’s made up of data, survey responses, and Bloomberg’s own internal audience data to craft a more bespoke media plan for advertisers, like what time of day readers are most concerned about fixed markets, Beizer explained. The audience segments Bloomberg is selling include industry sectors like energy and tech, job functions like financial analyst, and interests like AI and sustainability.

Still, media is a tough business, even though ad spending is still projected to grow this year despite “stressful economic signals,” according to Wall Street Journal. Publishers ranging from Gannett to Bustle Digital Group to NPR have faced layoffs in the past year, with the latter specifically citing falling ad revenue as a factor.

But Beizer said the economic downturn’s impact on ad revenue wasn’t factored into Bloomberg’s decision. “The boom-and-bust cycles of the advertising market were immaterial when it came to that decision about whether we can improve user experience,” she said.

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