Year after year, the situation remains the same: eCPMs decrease, putting constant pressure on media publishers and their advertising partners, who intensify their efforts to keep them on the rise. This decline also leads to a drop in global ad revenue for traditional media publishers, putting them in challenging situations and resulting in significant employee layoffs, as seen in the US, with a potential impact expected in Europe… Before delving into the factors behind this depreciative trend, let’s take a look at the market figures in 2023. 

Decoding the 2023 eCPM Landscape

There is one must-watch metric for publishers when it comes to maximizing advertising ROI, and that is eCPM. It refers to the effective cost per thousand impressions, in other words, the average of all advertiser bids on your ad impressions. 

eCPM formula = (total ad revenue/total measured and sold ad impressions) x 1000

To follow up on the eCPM variation over the past year, we conducted an analysis of data from a relevant sample of 745 anonymized European media sites. These sites ranged from 100,000 to 150 million page views per month and covered almost 20 different media categories, including news, technology & computing, travel, video gaming, food & drink, business, finance, pets, real estate, science, personal finance, and home & garden.

Key findings of our barometer: 

  • Overall, we are witnessing an eCPM depreciation of almost -9% in 2023 compared to 2022 in Western Europe, averaging below €1 for both year of comparison: €0.57 in 2023 compared to €0.63 in 2022, for the web (only display).
  • Seasonal effects remain evident, as illustrated in the graph below, showcasing a decrease in the first month of the year and during Summer and a recovery in the last quarter. 
Monthly eCPM by Year Comparison

Discover our complete European barometer where we are delving deeper into media category analysis, advertising formats, devices, geographies, and more. 

Download the barometer:

How to explain the decrease of eCPM in 2023?

Several factors beyond the control of publishers and AdTech companies should be considered as reasons why eCPMs struggle to increase. 

  • The global World situation: for instance, people’s purchasing power drops caused by inflation may lead advertisers to restrict their budgets, focusing more on the most profitable periods of the year, such as Q4, during Black Friday and the holiday season. Additionally, geopolitical factors, such as the ongoing wars could also be considered as contributing to this trend.
  • The seasonality effect: January, July and August are the worst months of the year in terms of advertising performance. In January, purchase intentions are lower, and advertisers keep their budgets tight as they do not perceive this period as profitable. This leads to lower demand and eCPM. In July and August, users tend to change their browsing focusing on leisure over purchase which also explain the decrease in eCPM. 

For more explanation, read: Why do your advertising revenues drop every year in January, July, and August?

“63% of Publishers Concerned about Decline in Referral Traffic from Social”

From the ExchangeWire article 
  • Users move away from traditional websites: Users are moving from regular websites to social networks for information. Social media gives real-time updates, keeping users instantly informed about current events, trends, and news on their smartphones. On the other hand, traditional media receive declining referral traffic from Social Media platforms. This really challenges traditional media to adjust their strategies in a digital age dominated by social platforms. 
  • Advertisers’ spending is shifting toward social media: There is a lack of scale among traditional media publishers compared to walled gardens such as Facebook or Instagram, which attract large audiences and offer high targeting capabilities and reach. In other words, they better meet advertisers’ needs for spending their digital advertising budgets compared to traditional media publishers. That’s why we have observed, and are likely to continue observing, a trend towards concentration in the media industry through numerous mergers and acquisitions (M&A). 

With the challenging industry landscape of the past years, we can wonder, will the eCPM continue to decrease in 2024? Some sources are enthusiastic about the global ad spend that is expected to grow, due, among other things, to sports events including the UEFA EURO 2024 in Germany and the Summer Olympic Games in France which will benefit the Sport media category. Nevertheless, 2024 will present challenges with the ongoing end of third-party cookies, accelerating the development of first-party data strategies. Make sure to enhance your advertising stack with the right solutions, like those provided by Opti Digital. 

As eCPM is a key metric indicator to monitor in order to increase advertising income, we will regularly share the state of it as a barometer to keep you informed of the programmatic advertising landscape.