It’s a sad but true fact: online publishers have been forced into a model of selling pure audience.

Okay, audience is a huge factor — no question there.

But frankly, some sites do a nicer job with their ads. The placement is smarter. The integration with the site is smoother. Advertisers are going to get more of a bang for their buck running ads on these sites.

And some publishers offer great content. They should have a market edge too. When content invigorates the mind, or opens up consumer’s interest in discovering new products and ideas, ads will do better as well.

Yet somehow, a 25-35 male is just a 25-35 male. That’s because there are traits beyond audience that programmatic buying doesn’t do a good job of accounting for — like context. 

Why should reputable and popular sites have their audience relegated into the same demographic containers as generic sites? Why should ads placed next to SEO bait be worth as much as ads surrounded by quality entertainment and information?

It doesn’t make sense the publishers should always be on the short end of the stick when it comes to technological advances. Yet with the tools for selling and distributing ads online, that’s exactly what keeps happening.

This is why so many sites are turning to premium ad products as a way to monetize what makes them special. High-performance, premium ads — now you’re not just selling audience, you’re selling results.

Results aren’t something you can sell in an ad exchange — okay, yes you can offer PPC pricing — but that’s not what I’m getting at.

In the days of yore, when media was consumed in print, newspapers assembled ads for their advertisers. The ads were created to be consistent with the aesthetic of the paper. And papers argued that the ads generated results. But they couldn’t prove it. Not like you can today.

Finally, technology is arming publishers with what they need to push back against CPM compression. Contrary to what exchanges think, it's not just about impressions and clicks any more.

Ads are now capable of being way more interactive (social media, video, etc) than when those exchanges were developed. Pair that with advanced analytics and it changes the conversations publishers can have with advertisers.

Want proof of how your ad did? How about I show you how many video plays your video banner got. Or maybe I can teach you how to interpret your video metrics?

Want to know how many people hovered the mouse on your ad? How long they were engaged? With what content? Sure. No problem.

If you have a quality content and good site design, you’re doing yourself a disservice if you’re leaving all of your inventory to exchanges and selling by impressions and clicks.

You should be developing premium and native ad products, and using data to prove to advertisers why advertising with you — on your site, with your audience, using your ad products — is worth 3 or 7 times as much as the exchanges may suggest.

All around us, growth in web traffic is causing audience inflation — a real problem for publishers who rely on programmatic selling.

Your site and audience is your currency. There is no reason it has to trade at the same rates as everyone else’s. But to charge like that, you’re going to have to sell it yourself.