Publisher’s Tools – Emperor’s Clothes

August 23, 2008

I’ve often thought that one of the telling signs that our industry is still young is the complete lack of standards. The IAB for their part have established some basics, but when it comes to media owner workflow, there are as many ways of getting ads up as there are companies doing it.

Interestingly, there have been a handful of companies who’ve attempted to sell software to automate the trafficking process, but the lack of consistency means that these solutions have been notoriously difficult to implement, and hugely expensive as a result. One large UK media owner spent 18 months and more than £250,000 attempting to implement a solution. The result was a lot of double entry and a system that added no value for anyone. Last year, it was scrapped for a competitor product. Whether the replacement will be any more successful remains to be seen.

The solutions currently available all share similar characteristics; they’re hugely expensive and require long, difficult integrations, as they’re tweaked to fit with the publishers current workflow. This creates a dichotomy – only the biggest publishers can afford these solutions, but they are the least able to make the changes necessary to make the systems effective.

Perhaps, though, the the industry is now ready to move to the next level. I’ve recently spoken to two companies who are, independently, readying to launch solutions into the UK which change the current paradigm. Both are very similar – cheap (or even free) solutions which, targeted at small and medium media owners, rely on the publisher to adapt to fit the workflow, rather than have a system that needs to be adapted to the publishers needs. Both cited salesforce.com as a model they’re looking to emulate.

We’ll see whether the market is ready for these products, but I really hope it is, as these products will only work if the industry begins to standardise, and indeed, they’ll help drive greater standardisation if enough publishers choose to implement them.

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