The rise of brands as media owners is the big fear among publishers that hardly anybody is talking about

Ad blocking and click fraud may have been grabbing the lion’s share of the headlines in trade press over the last 12 months, but online publishers are just as worried about the rise of brands and agencies as content creators, as the vast majority of them cite content marketing as their biggest opportunity for growth.

The insights were revealed today (1 October) at the AOP Autumn conference, where the trade body disclosed insights unearthed in its most recent members survey where 65 per cent of participants cited ad blocking as the most significant threat to their businesses.

However, over a third (35 per cent) of respondents cited increased content creation by brands and agencies as the most significant threat to their business, exactly the same number of people who answered click fraud when asked the same question.

The reason behind this (often unspoken about) fear is that publishers see bespoke content creation on behalf of advertisers as their most significant opportunity for growth, with 85 per cent of those taking part in the survey citing it as their key priority in the near, to mid-term future.

Fifty-eight per cent of those participating said developing bespoke content would be high on their agenda in the next year, while 54 per cent claimed they would focus on enhancing their revenues generated by programmatic technologies (half said this would involve creating private marketplaces for selected advertisers).

This insight comes the same week as the FT chose to unveil its sponsored content unit FT², which offers brands a host of opportunities to engage with its audience, including a semantic targeting tool that can insert ads among the most relevant content.

However, the FT sales chief Dominic Good pointed out to The Drum that shoring up revenues through bespoke ‘FT-voiced’ content on behalf of advertisers was the main thrust of its purpose.

Meanwhile 54 per cent of those surveyed by the AOP said they would focus hosting on native ads – ads constructed to reflect the look and feel of a site’s editorial - on their properties, with 22 percent of those surveyed reporting that they had adopted a “freemium approach to content.

The survey also revealed that despite over half of all publishers (54 per cent) claiming demand for video advertising inventory is high, 29 per cent said they didn’t see it as a significant revenue driver. This is due to issues around integrating it into their media properties, as well as challenges involved in the selling with such inventory.

Ad blocking was the most commonly cited concern among the participants (fears undoubtedly stoked up by press coverage of the phenomena) with 19 per cent of them describing it as a “major threat”, while 23 per cent said it was a “minor challenge”, and 35 per cent claimed it was a “growing threat impacting the business”.

This fear has sparked a host of new ‘anti ad blocker’ businesses, with Sourcepoint (one such company fronted by ex AdMeld co-founder Ben Barokas) foremost among them. However, 27 per cent of participants said they’d fight ad blocking by blocking all content on their site if their systems detect that a visitor to their site is using an ad blocker.

The insights are based on a survey of 33 representatives of the AOP’s membership.

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