Issue #1 November 2021

Essential news for web publishers

Issue #1 November 2021

Thanks for checking out the very first edition of Powered by Ads - a new free newsletter for anyone who relies on ad revenue to support their web publishing. Every month I'll be sharing a short roundup of everything I think is important for independent, ad-supported publishers to know so you never need worry about missing important news.  

Please feel free to share this with anyone you think might find it useful. If you were forwarded this by someone else please sign up for yourself at www.poweredbyads.com

In this edition...

  • Adblocker usage back on the rise
  • Publishers win from Facebook outage
  • Facebook gets all Meta
  • Changes to review structured data
  • Supply chain issues threaten Q4 earnings
  • What Adsense's move to first price means for you
  • Question of the month
  • How am I doing?

Adblocker usage back on the rise

The 2021 PageFair Adblock Report is out and paints a mixed picture for online publishers who rely on ads.  The use of Ad Blocking is on the rise again (+8% on desktop, +10% on Mobile), but part of that growth is blockers that allow so-called "Acceptable ads". The report states that 93% of those using an adblocker that supports acceptable ads do opt in to those formats.

The dual challenges for publishers remain that the "Acceptable ads" standards only represent a very limited revenue reclamation and that the more aggressive blockers are still invisible to this type of industry report.  

The full report makes interesting reading and can be download for free from Blockthrough.

Publishers win from Facebook outage

Whilst many publishers who rely on Facebook to drive traffic will have been hit hard by the widescale outage early last month, many others faired rather well. When Facebook went offline for 6 hours on October 5th, there was a reporting surge of up to 70% in traffic to independent publishers.

The data comes from Outbrain, who's content-recommendation code sits on thousands of independent websites. Outbrain initially reported a 40% increase in traffic, a number that was widely circulated, but later updated that to an estimated 70% increase for some publishers.

The less positive news for the majority of publishers is that it was the largest publishers who saw the biggest benefit as baffled Facebook users gravitated to known trusted sources. More evidence for the importance of brand building.

Stop press: Whilst I was writing this it seems that Facebook and Instagram are down again. The scale of the outage isn't yet clear, but let's hope that some of your get a nice extra boost as a result.

Read more from Outbrain

Facebook gets all Meta

The biggest news from October is probably best filed under "one to watch" rather than "act now", and that is the big Facebook announcement. In short, Facebook are "Pulling an Alphabet" and have announced that the parent organisation is now called Meta. Facebook (the product) will still be called Facebook, but their other products (Whatsapp, Instagram, Oculus etc) will become less entwined with the Facebook product over time. The rebrand also comes with a new focus on the Metaverse, where Zuckerberg clearly sees opportunities to become the dominant player. Cynics might be forgiven for thinking that the whole things smacks of an effort to move away from a toxic brand that only appeals to an ageing audience. The other thing that struck me from the announcement is just how much Zuck now hates Apple. More to come on this, no doubt!

Learn more about Facebook's vision of Metaverse here

Changes to review structured data

Publishers who use reviews on their sites should be planning to make updated to their structured data mark-up after recent changes if they want to continue to get the benefits of rich search snippets. The most recent change is limiting the author element to 100 characters.

Rich snippets provide publishers with a proven way to stand out in search results (or not be invisible in more crowded niches), but it essential to stay on top of requirements changes to reap the rewards.

Via Roger Montti on Search Engine Journal

Supply chain issues threaten Q4 earnings

The final quarter of the year is always a highlight for many publishers, as  end of year consuming spending rush drives up CPMs. Last Q4 surpassed most people's expectations and saved the year for many, but it might not be prudent to bank on the same happening this quarter.

The supply chain crisis that has affected much of the physical trade world is now threatening to impact those all-important Q4 CPM rates. Brands and retailers struggling to fill warehouses may trim advertising spend to match their reduced inventory. On a positive note, the FT are reporting that their is currently little evidence that the biggest advertising groups spend is diminished, but we could see an impact from performance spend as the quarter pushes on.

More on this at FT.com

What AdSense's move to first price auction means for you

Google has announced that AdSense will (finally) be moving to a first price auction model. Adsense historically used a second price model where by the winning bidder only paid a penny more than the second placed bigger (subject to all the adjustments "special sauce" applied). Now the highest bidder will pay their bid.

AdSense is currently the only major demand-source that still uses the second price model. Even Google's sister product Ad Exchange moved to first price two years ago, so this isn't new ground.

This might sound like great news for publishers, but don't go putting a deposit on that Ferrari quite yet. Advertisers respond to such changes very quickly and when AdX moved to first price the difference was small and short-lived. It does though simplify one part of the over-complicated ad world, which is a good thing.

Read the announcement

Question of the month

I thought it might be interesting to ask one anonymous question each month and discuss the findings in the next issue. I've tried to make answering this as close to one-click as I can, so I'd love you to take part.

How am I doing?

That's issue #1 complete. I hope there was something of interest there for you, and I'd love to hear what you thought. If you have feedback or ideas (or just want to say "Hi") email me at mat@poweredbyads.com . I'll read every response.

I'll be back in December when you are all happily counting the rewards from Black-Friday ad budgets.

- Mat Bennett