This sponsored post is produced in association with Appodeal.

As a publisher in a hyper-competitive landscape, there are more than enough challenges that you face in building a successful business. You need to have laser focus and machine-like efficiency in your daily process in order to get the job done, and you have to always be firing on all cylinders to get your business across the finish line profitably. There’s no time to take your eye off the prize.

One of the keys to publisher profitability is maximizing the return on available advertising real estate, yet many publishers find themselves spending more time than they want on this process — or frankly, not enough time — and end up shortchanging their bottom lines.

There are plenty of tools you can use to get the job done, but the problem can be in finding the best tool — the one that meets your (perhaps highly specific) needs, but which also streamlines your process and gets you the best eCPM (effective cost per thousand). It’s much more than filling a square hole with the first square peg that comes along.

To this point, waterfall mediation has been a reliable way for publishers to earn revenue from their available ad slots and to keep all of that ad real estate filled. However, there are real issues with the waterfall model in how it finds ads for publishers.

According to Pavel Golubev, Founder/CEO of Appodeal (a San Francisco-based, programmatic ad mediation solution for publishers), an ad request is sent to the first ad network in a never-changing list, and if it doesn’t get filled there, the request goes to the second ad network, and if it doesn’t get filled there, it goes to a third network, and so on “down the waterfall.”

“That list is based on the average eCPM — basically the average historical performance,” Golubev said. “But that performance doesn’t account, for example, for the fact that one network has a better performance in Japan and a low eCPM in a Europe. And location is just one factor: The final revenue that publishers get from ad networks highly depends on users’ demographic profiles, tastes and preferences, time of day, and context. Context is important to highlight because an advertiser is willing to pay extra if the user has already visited its website or has seen an offer from a competitor.”

The problem with the waterfall method, though, is it can take more than a little oversight for the publisher to maximize the ad-fill rate — by going to each of the ad networks and analyzing traffic, looking at return rate, etc. — in order to try and get the actual eCPM to meet or exceed the planned-for revenue. And while staring at a waterfall on a vacation can be quite serene and awe-inspiring, staring at an ad-network waterfall at the office is much less Zen and a serious distraction from the publishing business at hand.

The alternative: programmatic ad mediation

Thankfully, we regularly and rapidly get technology improvements that lead to the development of new, better techniques, which can make our jobs easier. If you regularly do your due diligence in research and keep your ear to the ground, you’ll not only hear that a train is coming, but you’ll have time to jump on board and benefit from the faster, smoother ride to your desired destination.

For a lot of publishers facing the regular grind of waterfall mediation, there’s a sleek bullet train pulling up to the station and it’s called “programmatic ad mediation.” While the waterfall has been a functional method for publishers to employ in the pursuit of filling their ad inventory, programmatic ad mediation handles the process in a much different way and provides two critical benefits:

1. Automation

Instead of requiring the publisher to manually monitor an ad-network waterfall to fill publisher ad inventory, programmatic ad mediation utilizes an SDK that works behind the scenes to determine what real estate needs to be filled and then seeks out a buyer for those open slots. As a result, the publisher has to do less hands-on work to fill its inventory, and it also assures the publisher the entire available inventory will be filled, which boosts the bottom-line returns.

“You don’t have to do any of [the ad management] manually,” Golubev said. “Everything is done programmatically, with all requests being sent in real time to all of the ad networks to see which of those ad networks will give you the best money for your ad space.”

2. Improved revenue

Programmatic ad mediation utilizes real-time bidding (RTB) to find the best possible price for the publisher’s ad inventory, so it’s auctioning off ad slots to the highest bidder — which is much better than resorting to cascading down through the waterfall just to find a buyer. Also, that programmatic ad mediation puts the RTB call-out for bids across multiple ad networks making it more likely that it’ll negotiate a better bid from among the competing ad providers — and find the advertiser most interested in paying for access to your particular audience. Utilizing that process to fill ad real estate makes the publisher’s inventory more valuable in the long run.

“I get the benefit, because I can tap into the whole marketplace to find who is willing to pay the most for my traffic,” Golubev said. “There is no single ad network that can compete with that, because they all have different advertisers.”

Golubev emphasized that, because the bidding in programmatic mediation is “open and transparent” to all of the advertisers in real time, if your audience has particular attributes that are desirable to certain advertisers — say, a high concentration of NASCAR enthusiasts or people with a salary over $100,000 a year – those advertisers might make a note of that and raise their bids accordingly. Raising your revenue bar in that manner, thanks to data-conscious advertisers, isn’t a benefit that you’ll as likely gain from a waterfall mediation.

When you consider that programmatic ad mediation can free up more of your valuable time while also raking in more ad money, when your fiscal year ends, what kind of suit will be you wearing to scope out your waterfall — a business suit or a swimsuit?

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