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What Is A Publisher Trading Desk?

Publisher trading desks are a new twist on the conventional Agency Trading Desk. Rather than being offered by third party agencies, they’re provided by publishers who leverage their internal data and insights to target audiences on behalf of clients. In some cases, these services are offered in-house by the publisher, while in others they’re provided through a partnership with an agency or other type of third party.

Today’s marketers have lots to do. It can be hard enough to find time for meetings, deadlines and everything else on their plate – let alone take the diligence necessary to use DSPs, ad exchanges and impression trading desks to their full potential.

That’s where a publisher trading desk comes in. A publisher trading desk is a tool that allows marketers to outsource and streamline Programmatic Advertising. Real time bidding (RTB) is a type of programmatic advertising in which publishers offer their ad inventory in real-time auctions to advertisers. This process is facilitated through a publisher trading desk. Keep reading for more information about publisher trading desks and how they can help support your marketing endeavors.

Understanding the Publisher Trading Desk

In order to fully understand Publisher Trading Desks, it’s important first to define Trading Desks in general and their purpose. The term Trading Desk refers to media buying teams within agencies who use Demand Side Platforms (DSPs) to purchase ad inventory on behalf of clients. They’re essentially middlemen between DSPs and brands, and are relied upon as a turnkey, managed solution for well-targeted and executed digital marketing campaigns. Trading desk services have been traditionally offered by larger, full-service agencies with the staff and technology in place to support them.

How Does A Publisher Trading Desk Work?

The main value proposition of a publisher trading desk is not necessarily ad inventory itself, but rather how PTDs can use data to bid on and buy media. Publishers have access to a breadth of in-house information regarding all sorts of audiences, their preferences, and habits. Unlike many agencies, they have first-hand insight into consumer behavior on their site or app, as well as how that might change over time. This understanding of their 1st party data gives publishers a significant advantage in programmatic ad buying.
Through publisher trading desks, publishers are able to sell their insight as a service to brands and agencies who want to target specific audiences. They use the information they have to target demographics across the web on behalf of clients, in much the same way that a traditional trading desk would. The big difference is that while a traditional trading desk might use data from a variety of sources, a publisher trading desk relies solely on first-party data.

What Are The Benefits Of A Publisher Trading Desk?

There are a number of advantages that come with using a publisher trading desk.

Monetization Of Data For Publishers

For one, Publisher Trading Desks provide a way for publishers to monetize their first-party data. This is data that they’ve collected themselves and have exclusive access to. In many cases, this data is incredibly valuable to brands and agencies, who are willing to pay for the privilege of being able to target specific audiences.

Efficiency For Brands

Another benefit is that they offer a more efficient way to buy and target media. Because they have such intimate knowledge of their audiences, publisher trading desks are able to target them more effectively than a traditional trading desk. This results in more efficient media buying and can lead to lower costs for the advertiser.

Transparency For Everyone

Finally, publisher trading desks offer a level of transparency that’s often lacking in the world of programmatic advertising. Because they’re working with first-party data, they’re able to offer more insight into the targeting process and the results of campaigns. This level of transparency is something that’s very attractive to brands and agencies.

Examples Of Publisher Trading Desks

Publisher Trading Desks have become increasingly popular among prominent publishers in recent years.

A few examples include:

Washington Post’s WP+ Program

Announced in 2014, WP+ is offered by renowned publisher Washington Post. It offers clients real-time bidding across third-party sites on behalf of their ad campaigns. This programmatic buying solution is designed for clients who want to increase their reach and frequency, as well as improve their cross-device targeting. According to the Washington Post, WP+ guarantees transparency and brand-safety for its clients.


Response+ is the product of world renowned publisher and media company The Guardian, which created the digital performance platform to service the campaign goals of direct-response advertisers. It draws upon hundreds of thousands of insights across a range of audience verticals to provide clients with a unique, real-time understanding of how their target consumers are engaging with digital content.

Gourmet Ads 

Gourmet Ads can be regarded as a Publisher Trading Desk of sorts, as we sell programmatically across our Managed Supply and run Programmatic Campaigns for advertisers on audiences outside of our Managed Supply. These are considered our “Audience Reach” or “Audience Extension” campaigns. We leverage various technologies, such as Contextual Targeting at scale to focus on relevant content.

Publisher Trading Desks offer several advantages for both publishers and advertisers. By understanding how they work, you can take advantage of this growing trend in Programmatic Advertising.

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