Inventory Digital Advertising (How Does It Work?)

Advertising is one of the most popular marketing methods used by brands worldwide, and owners of advertising platforms have been reaping huge rewards from its popularity. In the modern digital world, a significant portion of advertising has shifted online, and media companies and web publishers are making a killing by selling their ad inventory. If you’re an online publisher looking to expand your revenue streams, consider growing your ad inventory management skills.

What is ad inventory?

Ad inventory is the total amount of ad space a publisher has for sale to advertisers at any given moment. The term was originally used to refer to ad space available in traditional/print media, but in the modern marketing world, it also refers to online and mobile ads. 

In the online ad space, the website owner is usually the publisher. For the valuation of online advertising inventory, publishers use metrics such as the amount of site traffic or the number of ad views they can deliver to advertisers. 

Why is an Ad Inventory Important?

An ad inventory enables publishers to earn ad revenue. With an effective ad inventory management system that leverages modern technology, media companies and online publishers are able to gain a competitive advantage.

Ad inventory management software enables you to automate and speed up deal time while also getting rid of inefficiencies in your ad space sales plan. You can optimize inventory sales and achieve higher advertising ROI with efficient ad inventory management.

Having an ad inventory also enables you and your team to learn more about how this revenue platform works and how you can develop it further to increase income. As a publisher with an ad inventory, you’ll gradually learn which ad networks are the best-performing, how your ad setup impacts your page load time, or even how you can optimally fit your programmatic ads with your direct sales ads.

How does advertising inventory work?

Ad inventory in traditional/print media is straightforward and easy to understand. For instance, newspapers and magazines only have limited page space available for ad placements. Meanwhile, TV and radio stations only have a limited time to run advertisements. Advertisers can, therefore, contact these media companies to buy the available ad space at set prices. 

However, the concept of online ad inventory isn’t quite as straightforward. As a digital publisher, you should pick the right variables when calculating the potential value of your ad inventory. Most publishers determine their site value by multiplying the average number of ads on their web pages with the number of site impressions. 

After valuing your ad inventory, you can sell it differently, with the most profitable sales avenue being direct sales to advertisers. For instance, direct sale for guaranteed placement on a website’s homepage is considered a high-value placement with higher costs.

You can also sell media inventory through ad networks, which are platforms that buy and collate ad inventory from several publishers before repackaging and selling the inventory to advertisers. Ad networks typically classify the aggregated inventory according to the type of site, purchase options and audience demographics, making it easier for advertisers to find the right type of ad space for their campaigns.

Tips: ad inventory management

You need to improve your ad inventory management strategies to boost your bottom line. Some key tips for optimal ad inventory management include:

i. Getting more buyers

ii. Joining adtech communities

iii. Investing in self-serve technology

iv. Strengthening direct-sold inventory

Get more buyers

Boost your inventory demand by looking for ad networks that buy specifically from publishers within your niche. Alternatively, you could reach out to ad exchanges and supply-side platforms to get more buyers.

Join adtech communities

The adtech sector is highly dynamic, and publishers that wish to make more ad revenue must constantly keep up with the frequent changes. One way of staying updated as an online publisher selling ad inventory is to join online adtech communities. These online forums and networks enable you to interact with digital marketing experts and gain helpful ideas that could help your ad space business to flourish.

Leverage self-serve technology

Normally, publishers and digital media companies must set up individual campaigns for each advertiser. Moreover, they have to customize the ad targeting to the requirements of every advertiser. Both processes are time-consuming and can be avoided using self-serve technology.

Self-serve platforms automate the customer service aspect for publishers, allowing advertisers to log in, place ad space orders, and track performance metrics for previous campaigns by themselves. 

Prioritize direct-sold inventory

Set programmatic campaigns to a lower priority, giving direct-sold buyers the first chance whenever you get an impression. You can also build a direct-sold model by reaching out to frequent bidders on your site and pitching them with your traffic count, audience demographics, and rate card.


i. David S. Evans, The Journal of Economic Perspectives: The Online Advertising Industry- Economics, Evolution, and Privacy

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