(Posted on MediaPost’s Real-Time Daily)

Video has become one of the most popular ad formats for online marketers, with Facebook users watching 8 billion videos a day on its platform alone. Yet while platforms like Facebook are riding the crest of video’s popularity, traditional online publishers are still struggling to capitalize on this trend. Recent reports from eMarketer indicate scarcity issues, even as the market matures.

This is because programmatic platforms have been designed almost exclusively for the buy side, pushing publishers’ perspective and needs to the side.

While ad technology has empowered advertisers to understand their granular audience and find that audience across the Web, it has done little to help publishers package and sell their impressions to tap into that demand. Without these capabilities on the publisher side, the video market is in danger of stalling out, despite heavy advertiser interest.

Fortunately for publishers, their data has the ability to turn the tide. By leveraging their available data, they can view their inventory as an advertiser would, understanding their audience on a deeper level to package segments that appeal to the buy side. The best place to start is by combing through content categories and audience data.

Identifying content categories

Much of the focus on programmatic buying focuses on audience targeting, but context is growing more important in video, especially as publishers try to introduce new viewable ad units to their pages. Because publishers are the ones actually producing the pages and much of the content on their sites, they already have an understanding of the overall categories that their content fits into.

But programmatic relies on granularity, so publishers now need to dive even deeper into the small distinctions that separate the content on their pages. Pages that are packaged as travel content certainly hold appeal, but publishers can go much further — and command higher CPMs — by separating content further into subcategories like leisure and budget travel.

The same goes for political content. Stories with a right- or left-leaning focus attract different audiences, and thus hold different levels of appeal to different advertisers. It’s therefore important for publishers to understand the multiple layers within their content and what resonates with their readers. When packaged with user-level data, this allows for more detailed profiles.

First-party data

That brings us to the other side of the coin, which is audience data. While it’s still in the early days, publishers are taking strong steps toward analyzing their audience data as much as advertisers do.

Advertisers try to understand their current and potential customers, targeting them across the Web with a combination of first- and third-party data.

To date, publishers have relied on third-party cookie data to understand their page visitors, but they stand to win if they can better help advertisers by using their own publisher-specific first-party data. This data is incredibly powerful and is perhaps of equal value to the publisher’s content.

With lower costs and more readily available technology, more publishers are bringing their audience analysis in-house, gathering data and sorting through it on a more granular level to sell back to advertisers. This means going beyond simple demographics to build deeper profiles based on the pages consumers have visited, the kinds of content they’ve viewed (using the detailed content analysis described above) and matching that impression to the best possible advertiser at a CPM that benefits the publisher.

What we’re describing here is simply combining two data sources to build a better understanding of who visits a publisher’s site and how they interact with the content. Publishers may find that they can use this information to adjust their editorial strategies, building more popular content to attract a larger audience, and reaping the benefits of that additional revenue.

Publishers who understand their audience better than anyone else stand to benefit tremendously from the increased demand for programmatic video.