As The Washington Post continues to transform from a newspaper founded in the 19th century into a tech company for the 21st, it’s bringing more partners along for the ride, primarily for its ad tech platform Zeus.
Snopes.com, a website devoted to debunking false claims on the Internet, is the latest site to sign on to Zeus, bringing it to more than 50 publishers so far.
“Our hope is that we can springboard our viewability and site performance, ultimately allowing us to approach higher quality programmatic buyers, direct advertisers and brands,” said Ryan Miller, vp of advertising at Snopes.com.
Zeus serves as an example of a large media company licensing its home-built tech to local news organizations as they seek to compete with the likes of Amazon and Google for both media budgets as well as the tech licensing fees of smaller publishers.
Vox Media, which developed its own ad network called Concert, recently opened up a local news version called Concert Local. Meanwhile, The Washington Post’s answer to those problems, with owner Jeff Bezos at the helm, was to build its own proprietary tech.
“There’s never been a tool that focuses on that because it’s a publisher problem that hasn’t gotten the right attention,” said Jarrod Dicker, vp of commercial technology and development at the Post.
Now, six months after releasing a piece of that tech, called Zeus Performance, ad viewability for those new media partners is performing just as well as it did for Zeus’ first client, The Washington Post.
“We’ve been pleased with the performance in the initial testing phase,” said David Butler, svp of digital operations at magazine publisher Bonnier, noting that viewability, CPM and RPM have all increased under Zeus.
In that time, partners ranging from digital magazines to news websites, including The Dallas Morning News, saw an average viewability increase of 78% across clients. Programmatic eCPMs averaged a 31% increase on Zeus Performance, and RPMs are up an average of 13%, Dicker said.
“It’s become an SEO for CPMs. Publishers can react very quickly to changes in the market,” Dicker said.
A separate 30-person engineering team now handles Zeus operations, including onboarding clients while still allowing them to “drive it” and determine where they want to invest resources.
That was part of the reason Snopes was attracted to working with the team.
“Snopes is a small, lean team, and we are excited to partner with a larger organization that has the bandwidth to support our advertising efforts,” Miller said.
Pricing for the ad stack “takes into account what publishers are going to yield from these performance improvements,” Dicker said. “This is something that will and should pay for itself and then also drive revenue—actual revenue.”