By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

The end of programmatic ads

This is mind-boggling. Josh Marshall writes that his political news and commentary site, Talking Points Memo, took in nearly $1.7 million in programmatic ad revenues in 2016 — and was down to just $75,000 in 2023. Marshall says that TPM is doing OK because he made the move to paid memberships a few years before the ad-pocalypse really set in. But it shows that the symbiotic relationship between news and the tech platforms has now completely disintegrated.

Marshall’s numbers show why for-profit news outlets can’t survive without fairly strict paywalls. They also show why nonprofit is so much more robust than for-profit — it’s easier to get money from foundations, wealthy individuals, paying members and earned income such as sponsorships and events. That’s not to say local publishers can’t succeed at selling ads to businesses in their community. But it does show that relying on third-party ads served up by Google is over.

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1 Comment

  1. First off, $1.7 million in programmatic ad revenues is a nice piece of change.

    Why would he switch to a subscription model when he must have known that a subscription model means fewer readers and fewer page views, and , therefore, fewer advertising opportunities.

    Sure, you get the subscription income, but I don’t understand why you would mess with $1.7 million.

    There may be other reasons for his revenue decline, but I suspect that this business decision was the main culprit.

    As for how this affects for-profit news outlets, programmatic ads should never be part of the business plan for a local news outlet. The ads are too cheap to make any money on them. Certainly not enough money to support a local news outlet.

    Local news outlets need to position themselves as a unique opportunity for local advertisers to reach their local audience – and as such, create an ad price structure that can support their enterprise.

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