Richard Stallman, one of the most prominent figures in the American free software movement, once said, “What does society need? It needs information that is truly available to its citizens — for example, programs that people can read, fix, adapt, and improve, not just operate. But what software owners typically deliver is a black box that we can’t study or change.”
While we’ve had a massive shift away from this ideology since Stallman’s time at the MIT AI Lab in the 1980s, the broadcast television industry is still one that has created many “walled gardens” over the past decades. However, its future is looking bright with the continued creation and usage of open source APIs that foster interoperability and allow for the integration of systems that haven’t seamlessly worked together previously. The goal of this approach is to create efficiencies for media buyers and sellers, locking down transparent standards that can be implemented across the entire software marketplace, ultimately removing the “black box.”
BREAKING DOWN WALLED GARDENS
One of the many challenges for advertisers today are ever-present walled gardens that limit access to TV advertising inventory. These platforms try to monetize their clients’ data by charging fees to access that data for transactions. This limits the ability to create improved and simpler transaction models due to “technology taxes” being charged for access inventory and liquidity. The issue with these walls in the television industry is that open ecosystems drive value for both consumers and sellers and walled gardens lack this transparency and access.
Instead of investing ad dollars with ad tech providers who have limited visibility and access to TV inventory, the television industry is beginning to circumvent this system by identifying target audiences through open data gardens. When ad tech providers allow for the integration of data and free open source APIs, advertisers can identify patterns in viewing, device usage, timing, and how these factors impact certain purchases—in other words, attribution. In this ecosystem, having access to this type of data is necessary to intelligently advertise to viewers.
Eliminating silos and switching to open data access will set up both ad buyers and sellers to more fully succeed and more effectively drive ROI.
OPEN SOURCE APIs FOSTER INTEROPERABILITY AND INTEGRATION
As discussed above, most ad tech companies have walled gardens and tell broadcasters that to sell to the vendor’s advertising partners, the vendor’s proprietary platform must be used. The way to overcome these silos is through open source APIs and integrations that are available to broadcasters and advertisers alike.
These APIs provide the TV industry with standards for integrations that enhance efficiencies in buying and selling local television advertising. With these consistent technical standards in place, platforms can begin to work together more seamlessly, resulting in a stronger and more valuable local community overall.
The ability to have choice and flexibility is imperative for today’s ad buyers and sellers and open standards-based solutions are paving the way for automated transactions and software integrations, ultimately driving the industry forward. The end goal is for stations and their station groups, demand-side partners, order management partners, and data partners to all be able to effectively facilitate buying and selling full-schedule television inventory.
A PLATFORM-AGNOSTIC FUTURE
The local broadcast ad sales and reporting process has suffered for a long time due to a lack of standardized interfaces resulting in more time spent by media buyers and sellers. Finally, providers are starting to develop the technology needed for a more streamlined buying and selling process.
Technology vendors who embrace these standards and APIs in a real way will be rewarded with the ability to work with multiple solutions and ultimately offer broadcasters and agencies what they need from their vendor partners: to provide workflow efficiencies. Vendors must assume the responsibility of interoperability among various systems to facilitate the necessary exchange of information and data involved to transact.
Shereta Williams is president of Videa
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