2021 Mediavine Roadmap

aerial view of ocean and winding road

It’s that time of year again.

Despite the challenging circumstances, Mediavine persevered in what ended up being a productive and exciting 2020.

Having reflected upon the past 12 months in Mediavine’s 2020 year in review, we now turn our attention to the year ahead.

Key Takeaways

  • Mediavine invested heavily in its ad technology last year and publishers will see more impacts of this in 2021.
  • The Mediavine Exchange, an OpenRTB Server-to-Server solution, is expected to replace all client-side header bidding for our publishers.
  • Outstream ads are high paying video ads that don’t require publishers to have video on their website. Mediavine has built our own Outstream Player and it plus server-to-server action on the Mediavine Exchange will mean awesome revenue for our publishers in 2021.
  • Mediavine is creating a new Mediavine Ad Management product geared towards creators who are earlier on in their journey to fulfill a need for publishers who are below our current traffic threshold.
  • Google is implementing their new Page Experience algorithm along with Core Web Vitals metrics. We’re testing some shifts in how we render ads as a result.
  • Third-party cookies are vanishing and targeted ads have to adapt to this change. We’re continuing to improve Grow.me, our first-party data solution that also enhances user experience.
  • We continue to expand the Trellis beta phase and will be fully open to the public in the next few months.
  • We are thankful for the support of the publishing community for their trust and thoughtful feedback on all our products and services.

Believe it or not, 2021 is shaping up to be even more noteworthy — in a positive way of course — and for a number of different reasons.

Without further delay, let’s dig in and break down some of the things publishers can expect in our roadmap for the year ahead.

Mediavine Ad Management

mediavine ad management

To mitigate some of the declines in advertiser spend due to Covid-19, Mediavine invested heavily in its ad technology last year.

While these efforts paid off for publishers in the near term, their most significant impacts will truly be evident in 2021.

Part of that is macroeconomic: As vaccinations begin and global markets recover, advertising spend should continue to increase.

Beyond that, and more importantly for content creators, a number of projects we began in 2020 will soon be firing on all cylinders.

Mediavine Exchange: Server to Server

Let’s start with the biggest one.

As we told you recently, we spent 2019 and 2020 building our in-house custom OpenRTB Server-to-Server solution, the Mediavine Exchange.

The above link will direct you to a 1,500-word essay on the topic, if you care for a deep, technical dive, but the key takeaway is this:

The competition is reliant on third-party, off-the-shelf S2S fixes. In building our own solution, Mediavine is once again ahead of the curve.

In the first half of 2021, we expect the Mediavine Exchange to fully replace client-side header bidding for our publishers. If those words mean nothing to you, think about it this way instead:

By going fully server-to-server via the Mediavine Exchange, publishers will be years ahead of the industry when it comes to the fastest-loading ads, the highest viewability and the most revenue per ad spot in the industry.

Beyond that, S2S is paving the way for additional new and exciting aspects of our advertising offerings in the coming months.

Outstream

outstream and native

Another 2020 venture that’s been in the works for awhile, but which we only started talking publicly about recently, is the in-house Mediavine Outstream Player. This should realize its full potential in 2021 and here’s why:

Outstream ads (you can think of them almost as animated display ads) are high-paying video ad units that run in the same slots as traditional display ads without the cost and effort of publisher-produced video.

Thanks to the Mediavine Exchange, we have more exchanges integrated —and greater outstream inventory available — than any other solution, and our ad performance should demonstrate this over time.

Expect outstream to make waves in 2021, especially as our brilliant ad tech team continues integrating it in ways that I can’t even begin to tease yet (although I suppose that itself is one heck of a tease).

Bottom line: We’re now entering the second Decade of Video, and it’s going to be even more innovative than the last.

Native

Native ads, which extend beyond traditional display banner sizes as well as integrate the look and feel of individual websites, are not a new concept. They’ve been the talk of the digital advertising world for years.

However, the Mediavine Exchange (are you sensing a pattern yet?) is about to take this offering to another level.

Due to the complexity of designing, building and integrating these ad units across demand platforms, native ads have traditionally been the realm of just a handful of exchanges — Triplelift, Sharethrough and Google AdX.

Well, that’s about to see a big change with the Mediavine Exchange, with integration from all major partners.

We’re already testing with some big industry players, again, years ahead of the trend. While everyone else will be dreaming of a productive future in native, Mediavine publishers will be living that dream in 2021.

New Publisher Offering and Application Process

application process

To focus on our core publishers, we made a significant change to our ad management service and products in 2020 by raising the Mediavine traffic requirement to 50,000 sessions a month.

This enabled us not only to improve the quality of our offerings going forward but also to drive the highest CPMs in the industry.

As with any shift of this nature, it was not without drawbacks. It created a void for publishers on the cusp of our previous, lower-traffic threshold, along with those launching new websites.

One of our top priorities of 2021 is to fill this void.

The creation of a new Mediavine Ad Management product — one geared towards meeting content creators earlier on in their journey, while balancing the needs of existing publishers — is on our roadmap.

We believe that everyone, from new clients to those who have been with our company for years, will be happy with the results.

A revamped application process for new publishers, which will hopefully speed up our processes and meet ever-growing demand, will play a major role in this project, which we hope to launch by mid-year.

Core Web Vitals: Pagespeed and CLS

pagespeed and core web vitals

Google is upping the ante and changing the pagespeed game once again, throwing down the gauntlet with a new Page Experience algorithm and a new set of metrics — Core Web Vitals — effective May 2021.

While hitting Core Web Vitals will mean a collaborative effort from all of your publishing tools, ads are often one of the biggest culprits in slowing down websites and causing Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS).

On the ad front, Mediavine is already alpha testing some significant shifts in the way we render ads to help publishers solve for both CLS and LCP (Largest Contentful Paint), the two most challenging Web Vitals to hit.

Currently, only 12% of websites are hitting Web Vitals as-is. Imagine how few of them will be able to pull this off while optimizing ads.

Like everything else, Mediavine has been preparing for this for a year, and our publishers will reap the benefits by standing out from the competition and dominating those Google Search results.

If you thought Google was moving the goal posts with that new Page Experience algorithm we just talked about, they’re about to relocate the entire field when it comes to cookies, data and privacy.

We’ve talked about this at length, and it’s no longer just a distant early warning. Sometime near the end of 2021, or early 2022, is Google’s timetable for Chrome ending support for third-party cookies.

No one knows exactly how the cookie is going to crumble (sorry), but analysts believe an ad revenue drop of up to 60% is not unrealistic.

Given the impressive market share of Android browsers and Chrome on desktop devices, Mediavine takes this very seriously.

After all, third-party cookies vanishing means the entire programmatic advertising ecosystem — and the personalized, targeted ads it relies on — must reinvent itself or go extinct.

Not to be overdramatic, but it is that big of a deal.

Fortunately, there are several paths forward and Mediavine is exploring each of them, in some cases incredibly ambitiously.

The two main paths through the post-cookie wilderness are the Privacy Sandbox and First-Party Data, which we’ll touch on below.

The Privacy Sandbox is the Google-led initiative by the W3C (World Wide Web Consortium). It’s meant to establish new, privacy-centric standards through which users control their data instead of advertisers.

While it won’t match third-party cookies in terms of ad performance, we see this as important part of a broader solution.

As Google’s most award-winning partner, we will be on the front lines in terms of implementation as the spec becomes more defined.

With First-Party Data, gathered when users consent to personalized ads by authenticating (read: logging into your site), publishers could actually see higher CPMs than we expect with third-party cookies.

Yes, making more money while respecting user privacy is an attainable goal; but how? The linchpin of that strategy is creating a value exchange with readers, providing incentive for them to log in.

On that note, allow me to reintroduce…

Grow.me

Mediavine launched Grow.me in 2020, but this will be the year it emerges as the foremost first-party solution for publishers.

Grow.me is a series of tools to help publishers forge a better relationship with existing and new audiences.

By providing increased value to readers through these tools, Grow.me enables publishers to encourage users to log in, thereby consenting to personalized content and ads alike.

The idea is that enhanced user experiences will leave readers excited to come back over and over again and encourage other readers to do the same, using the exclusive social functions of Grow.me.

To deliver this kind of value, we’re thinking big in terms of the features Grow.me already includes and its long-term potential.

We’re enhancing social features, creating ways for publishers to encourage readers to opt-in to newsletters AND personalize ads and much more that we’re excited to reveal in the coming months and years.

It won’t happen overnight, but Grow.me will soon become an instrumental engagement framework, providing the tools you need to emerge stronger when third-party cookies are but a memory.

Trellis

trellis

Trellis, our much-discussed WordPress theme framework years in the making, is finally ready to break through in 2021.

Trellis has been slowly expanding its beta phase, and you can expect it to be fully open to the public in the next few months.

Beyond simply being available and looking cool, Trellis is fully aligned with Mediavine’s goals of helping publishers hit Core Web Vitals, grow their traffic and, most importantly, maximize their revenue.

Trellis is built to work in concert with everything we’ve described so far, from exclusive native templates to slick Grow.me integrations.

As we roll out Trellis plugins, such as Trellis Images, you’ll see that this is much more than a theme framework.

It’s a one-stop shop for speed and user experience.

That isn’t to say there won’t be a pretty design. We have big things coming re: our existing child themes, as well as new ones in the making.

Even more exciting than the official Mediavine child themes will be the ones that the community itself begins to build this year.

With independent publishers poised to hit Core Web Vitals easily, while earning more money than even the largest legacy publishers, 2021 will truly be the Year of Trellis.

Grow Social

After acquiring Social Pug and rebranding the popular sharing plugin into Grow Social, we spent much of last year improving the product’s pagespeed, code base and existing features to our exacting standards.

In 2021, publishers can expect even more development from Grow Social, including tighter integrations with Grow.me.

As the fastest and one of the most popular social sharing plugins, Grow Social has great things in store (especially if you also use Grow.me) that we’re excited to announce over the course of the year.

Create

Last but not least, our OG WordPress plugin: Create.

While we’re still waiting on our friends at Google to develop more Schema types that fit in well with the Create brand, we’re returning our focus to its core offerings: Recipes, How-Tos and Lists.

Look for our long-promised improved nutrition calculation and imperial-to-metric conversion functionalities to arrive in 2021.

Create will always be the fastest, most user-friendly option for bloggers building structured content around reader-friendly experiences.

Education and Events

education and events

I wish I could confirm the return of “real world” events in 2021.

We’re eternally confident in our ability to revamp the programmatic advertising ecosystem and lead an entire industry to a safer, more prosperous future but certain things are beyond anyone’s control.

What I can promise is that when it comes to our extensive educational resources, Mediavine will not miss a beat in 2021.

From Teal Talks to blog posts, community groups and social channels, Mediavine is committed to helping content creators of all sizes build sustainable businesses.

Rising to the Occasion in 2021 and Beyond

2021 and beyond

To all four of you who made it to the end of this novel: I’m impressed!

To everyone else, I still love you — and I’m excited for the year ahead.

I know I’m supposed to say that, but if the past year taught me anything, it’s that even the greatest challenges provide opportunity.

This industry evolves so rapidly that providing a concise roadmap for a full calendar year ahead is a daunting exercise — and looking back, some of this might feel incomplete, even anachronistic.

But that’s also a big part of what inspires us year after year. Adapting to sweeping change can be scary but nothing is more rewarding.

Whatever obstacles the industry throws at us, we will face them head on, proactively and with a more secure, open and thriving web in mind.

Finally, I just want to thank you. The support of the publishing community — not just by trusting us with your business, but legitimately helping us build these products — is our biggest asset.

We will not let you down.

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