Bezos ha convertido The Washington Post en un negocio de tecnología
It has built its own adtech company which includes over a dozen products such as custom ad units and its own “turbo” ad server. The Post also builds software that it sells to other publishers through its software-as-a-service business (SAAS), Arc Publishing, and has employed new technologies including artificial intelligence (AI) to expand its newsroom and advertising capabilities.
In short, over the past four years the Post has become both a technology business and a journalism institution, a mix it believes is essential to succeed in media in the future. Its silver bullet? Jeff Bezos.
Before the ink had even dried on the $250m cheque Bezos handed to former owner Don Graham to purchase the Post in August 2013, traffic at the paper’s site had spiked. The Post had 27 million unique views in the US and under 10 million uniques internationally at the time of purchase. Those views had doubled less than two years after purchase. Notably, points out chief revenue officer Jed Hartman, this spike happened before Donald Trumphad even announced his entrance into the world of politics.
“Jeff Bezos has been far more influential to our growth than Donald Trump,” Hartman tells The Drum, when asked if the publisher has experienced a ‘Trump bump’. However, he does add that the president is “fascinating” and has made politics “pop-culture”, with a higher proportion of both US and international audiences consuming political news as a result.
“I do feel that has put more of a light on the Washington Post,” Hartman says. “We get more individuals that sample the Post because of the increased palace intrigue – whether it is through social or search – but then they realise there is another world of the Post and they stay and become more of an engaged user.”
Don’t walk away from your legacy
Crucial to the Post’s ability to increase its readership in a newspaper landscape plagued in declines has been its continued investment in its journalists, both in print and digital. In fact, where many publishers have been ushering journalists out the door, the Post has been welcoming hundreds of them in. It means the newspaper covers Washington better than any local paper covers its community, Hartman claims. At the same time, it is outpacing the industry when it comes to print ad sales. For Hartman the reason is obvious, if you disinvest in your journalism, the core product worsens, and the appeal wanes for advertisers.
“One thing that has hurt the print industry is yes there is a viable alternative: digital. But that meant people divested investing in print so it has gotten worse. And they start curating rather than creating. That is not very good for your brand. Ours has not gotten worse; it has gotten better,” Hartman says.
He’s also critical of a growing trend of publishers ‘pivoting’ to new content forms and walking away from their legacy business, believing the pendulum swings all over the place in the industry and swinging too hard in one direction is “not a good idea”. Instead, the Post sees video, audio, VR and the like as an “and” not an “or”, a companion to the written word rather than a replacement.
“The written world is remarkably powerful, it has won many Pulitzers and it is not going away. So it is vital that we do both; that is more of a focus than leaving one towards the other,” Hartman adds.
It might still be investing in its print product, but Hartman admits circulation is on an inevitable decline: “We are very comfortable with the pace we are on; we understand it is the reality.”
Which is why Hartman was hired from magazine giant Time Inc in 2014 to turn the Post’s “modest” digital ad business into one that is now well into the nine-figures. Hartman reveals the Post has “more than doubled” its digital advertising sales, significantly contributing to its growth and profitability, and sees this trend continuing.
Building rather than outsourcing
It’s also why Bezos has been spearheading a technological revolution at the publisher that has seen it become a tech vendor as well as a publisher.
“Our owner Jeff Bezos certainly believes that if something is core to you, you build it,” Hartman says. “Google wouldn't outsource their search business.”
It started out as a simple solution to there being no “great” products for publishers on the market.
“There are a bunch of solutions that are the least common denominator solutions that are good for everybody but great for nobody. They haven’t been invested by the companies that own them as much because publishing is a challenging industry – why deeply invest in a product for them? So we made our own,” Hartman adds.
For Bezos it's also about creating a “frictionless customer experience”, which has been crucial to Amazon’s growth. For example, when ad blockers first started gaining momentum, rather than seeing a doomsday scenario the Post looked internally to see what it was doing to drive the demand, and instead created products that reduce ad load time and make the browsing experience faster.
“All of that comes out of Jeff’s involvement with the Washington Post,” Hartman reveals.
So far it has built over a dozen products including a custom CMS that incorporates viral predictors and headline testers that it has licensed to Tronc (formerly Tribune Publishing), a patented “turbo” ad server, Zeus, that can compete with the speed of blazing browsers like Google’s AMP and PWA, plus first-of-their-kind ad units that focus on user experience and speed.
These products are built by the company’s internal adtech ‘company’, Red (research, experimentation and development in advertising), which was formed by Hartman shortly after he joined to bridge the engineering gap between editorial and advertising. Red is headed up by Jarrod Dicker, VP of innovation and commercial products at the Post. Dicker’s charge upon joining the company in July 2015 was “not to fix broken things, like IT will do at a company, but build the future”.
“I think we have found our sweet spot in everything we do which is the combination of technology or engineering and great content,” Hartman says. “That is our unique position.”
“There are many companies that do incredible engineering and technology; our owner’s other company Amazon, Google and Facebook. Then there are some wonderful journalism companies; the New York Times, CNN. We are stronger at journalism than these technology companies, and we are stronger at technology that journalism companies,” he adds.
For Hartman, this hybrid model is the blueprint for the media business of the future and explains why traditional tech/telecom businesses are snapping up publishers, such as Verizon’s purchase of AOL and Yahoo (now Oath) and AT&T’s bid for Time Warner, and why Facebook and Google have been working with publishers to create products with more favourable terms.
The impartiality question
While Bezos may have set up a sustainable media business in a troubling time for news, his purchase of the paper did not come without its critics. Free speech advocates – and indeed the president who calls the paper the ‘Amazon Washington Post’ – have questioned how involved Bezos is in the Post’s editorial output, and whether this affects its ability to hold Silicon Valley giants such as Amazon to account.
Hartman believes Bezos’ involvement is “completely appropriate”, and is focused on the tech founder’s expertise in product development and customer experience, rather than editorial. The senior management team have a call with Bezos every two weeks, and refer to him internally as ‘chief inspiration officer’.
In fact, Bezos’ reasoning for buying the Post was fuelled by his belief that having a powerful, independent, journalistic operation that holds the powerful accountable is a vital part of democracy worldwide. Does this include holding himself, and Amazon, to account?
“100%” says Hartman, “It doesn't mean we don’t have relationships with Amazon but we are very separate.” The Post uses Amazon products, including Alexa and its affiliate marketing program Amazon Associates. But editor Marty Baron confirmed last month that Bezos “doesn’t get involved” in coverage “at all”, including negative stories about Amazon.
Douglas McCabe, chief executive and director of publishing and tech at Enders Analysis, believes Bezos has done a good job of evading the potential downsides of a tech entrepreneur buying an impartial news organisation.
“The downsides could have included: interference; technology innovation at the expense of investment in journalism; an Amazon strategy shoehorned into the publishing business; too much distance, that is, money without intelligence,” McCabe says.
“None of these outcomes have emerged because Bezos has evidently not interfered with the Post’s content at all. He has applied a strategic framework and some tactical elements to generate a means of investing more in journalism in the short and medium term.”
Not the guardian of Amazon, after all.
La red USA Today realinea su organización enfocándola al fortalecimiento de soluciones de mercadeo y negocios de consumo
TODAY NETWORK (NYSE: GCI) announced a major organizational change today that more definitively aligns with the company’s refreshed business strategy, which focuses on two primary businesses: Marketing Solutions and Consumer.
“These organizational changes will better position us to further enhance and expand our marketing solutions capabilities fueled by our audience growth and engagement. I am confident this new structure will open up opportunities, enable us to innovate more quickly and support long-term growth,” said Bob Dickey, president and CEO of Gannett.
Two executives have been named to lead the company’s two primary businesses:
- Leading marketing solutions will be Sharon Rowlands, CEO of ReachLocal, who has been named president, USA TODAY NETWORK Marketing Solutions. Rowlands will focus on further strengthening and growing our business-to-business segment, leveraging not only ReachLocal and SweetIQ, but also USA TODAY NETWORK’s powerful media assets and national and local brands.
- Leading the consumer business will be Maribel Perez Wadsworth, current chief transformation officer, who has been named president, USA TODAY NETWORK. Wadsworth will lead USA TODAY NETWORK’s consumer business to include strategy and operations for the company’s award-winning portfolio of media brands such as USA TODAY, more than 100 local news and niche content brands such as For The Win (FTW) and Grateful. In addition, she will become associate publisher of USA TODAY, as part of the transition associated with John Zidich’s previously announced retirement as president of Domestic Publishing.
“By bringing together ReachLocal and SweetIQ with our local and national media brands, we are positioned to build an even stronger, high-growth marketing solutions business with Sharon leading this unified business-to-business segment. Sharon’s experience and success driving digital performance is a significant asset in Gannett’s strategic transformation,” Dickey said. “Maribel brings vast experience, expertise and proven success to her new role. Her understanding of the USA TODAY NETWORK and the audiences we serve is comprehensive, at both the strategic and operational level, and I know she will take our consumer-focused efforts to the next level and beyond.”
Rowlands has more than 20 years of experience in leading multi-billion dollar companies that serve small and medium-sized businesses, financial markets and enterprise customers. She remains CEO of ReachLocal, a best-in-class portfolio of digital marketing technologies and solutions, which Gannett acquired in 2016 and recently integrated across the NETWORK. The marketing solutions business also includes SweetIQ, an industry leading local listing management company acquired in 2017.
Wadsworth joined the company nearly 22 years ago as a news reporter. In 2010, she joined the corporate team to lead digital strategy for local newsrooms before transitioning to business-side roles where she architected Gannett’s first digital subscription strategy, created the company’s Innovation Lab and most recently served as chief transformation officer.
As part of the new structure, Kevin Gentzel’s role as chief revenue officer will expand to leading all advertising and marketing solutions revenue in North America. He will report to Rowlands. Gentzel will continue to lead national sales, GET Creative, revenue operations and sports media teams, and add all local sales and sales support teams, which include automotive and recruitment verticals, and client analytics. Prior to joining Gannett in 2015, Gentzel was the head of Advertising Sales, North America at Yahoo!, and earlier served as CRO of The Washington Post.
Additionally, Kris Barton has been named chief product officer, USA TODAY NETWORK, reporting to Rowlands. He will lead the product organization developing and managing digital platforms and capabilities for the marketing solutions and consumer businesses. With more than 17 years of experience in digital product development, Barton joined Gannett in 2016 with its acquisition of ReachLocal where he was previously chief product officer.
Finally, in light of Zidich’s upcoming retirement, Gannett Publishing Services (GPS) will report to Ali Engel, senior vice president, chief financial officer and treasurer at Gannett. GPS operates printing and packaging facilities throughout the U.S. In addition to GPS, Engel will continue to have oversight of Gannett’s financial functions as well as the technology organization. Prior to joining Gannett in 2014, she was senior vice president, chief financial officer and treasurer of A. H. Belo Corporation.
Los avisos programáticos de Snapchat alcanzan de 3 a 8 dólares
Snapchat’s ad rates have taken a hit since it started selling ads programmatically.
CPMs for Snapchat inventory that’s sold in open auctions run between $3 and $8, according to three ad buyers requesting anonymity. Those rates are similar to what’s found on Facebook, but the difference with Facebook is that it has much more scale. Snapchat reported 178 million daily active users in the third quarter. Meanwhile, Facebook claims to have 1.4 billion daily active users.
Programmatic buyers typically seek audiences more than context. But Snapchat’s targeting and reporting is pretty basic, said Michael Racic, president of media operations for ad agency iCrossing. Facebook and Google attract a ton of programmatic buyers because they provide hypertargeting across demographics and device type. Snapchat has lots of location data, but the platform is still mostly used by advertisers just to reach millennials. And that’s not a unique enough proposition to boost ad rates, Racic said.
Despite ad buyers pleading Snapchat to open up its application programming interface, there wasn’t much pent-up demand once the company did so, Racic said. Media executives recently told Digiday that Snap plans to bring in more programmatic ads after struggling to fill ad space inside its Snapchat shows. Snapchat declined to comment for this story.
Allowing automated buying helped Snap bring in more advertisers, but the drop in its ad rates is concerning for a company that was once considered a viable challenger to the Facebook-Google duopoly. Back in 2015, Snapchat asked brands for $750,000 a day for its disappearing ads. Those days appear to be over.
On Snap’s quarterly earnings call this week, the company said its CPMs in the third quarter were down 60 percent year over year. Snap reported third-quarter revenues of $208 million, which is a 62 percent increase year over year. But its stock price dropped after its last earnings call because Snap’s revenue growth was below analyst expectations, and the company posted a net loss of $443 million on the quarter. As of this writing, its stock is selling for about half the price as it did on its first day of trading back in March.
About a year ago, Snapchat opened up its API so that advertisers could buy Snap Ads — 10-second vertical video units — programmatically. Previously, advertisers had to work directly with Snapchat’s sales team to get ads on the platform. But few agencies had the resources to create custom ads for the platform, so Snap opened up to automated buying before its IPO in an effort to bring more advertisers in. Its filters and lenses are still sold directly at a premium, but about 80 percent of Snap Ads were sold programmatically in the third quarter, according to Snap.
“Snapchat previously had the market cornered, explosive growth rates and a hard-to-reach audience squarely in its grasp,” said Melissa Wisehart, director of biddable media at ad agency 22squared. “They were able to charge a premium for inventory to limited buyers. But as their leverage for this cost was reduced from pressure by Facebook and Instagram, they simply just flooded the market with supply by opening up inventory to more players.”
A few ad buyers said Snap’s tech stack has yet to catch up to older and larger competitors like Facebook and Google, and until it does, advertisers will have a tough time showing the return on ad spend is great enough to push Snapchat from experimental budgets to a must-have on media plans every quarter. Snap is trying to change that perception. In the past year, it purchased ad tech firms Metamarkets, Placed, Flite and Vurb, which could improve the platform’s attribution and analytics.
“The ad tech acquisitions show that they are now serious about selling advertising the way marketers already buy it, rather than trying to bend the market to their platform,” said Marcus Pratt, head of technology at media-buying shop Mediasmith.
No volverá la publicidad a los periódicos en papel dice Luis Cebrián
El presidente de Prisa, que prepara su sucesión, ha hablado de la complicada situación de los medios tradicionales, del problema de las fake news y de la polémica Junta de Accionistas en la que se cuestionó su labor al frente del Grupo.
La intervención de Juan Luis Cebrián estaba cargada de expectación por llegar apenas un día después de una Junta de Accionistas que ha copado el interés de los medios por las diferentes versiones de lo que allí sucedió. Para Cebrián no fue más que "una Junta normal", pero esa visión no la comparte Joseph Oughourlian, propietario del fondo Amber, que posee el 19% de Prisa. La prensa ha amanecido llena de frases que supuestamente dijo en la Junta, como "la gestión no ha sido mala, es lo siguiente" o "la salida de Juan Luis era algo más que natural, algo indispensable". Cebrián ha sido cuestionado en la tanda de preguntas por esta polémica, a la que ha restado importancia diciendo que "en todas las empresas cotizadas hay las típicas luchas de poder y de influencia". El presidente de Prisa ha asegurado que la iniciativa de buscar un sucesor al frente del Grupo parte de él y que lleva mucho tiempo proponiendo que esto suceda. Cebrián ha propuesto a Manuel Polanco y el relevo "se va a producir el 1 de enero" porque "no depende de lo que digan los acreedores, sino de los propietarios de la compañía". Prisa tiene actualmente una deuda que ronda los 1.500 millones de euros.
Si bien las preguntas se han centrado en el aspecto empresarial del Grupo, que podría convertir 'El País' en una fundación para proteger su independencia una vez Cebrián salga de la presidencia del Grupo, la intervención del periodista ha girado en torno a los retos que tiene delante la profesión, y especialmente los diarios impresos. "No volverá la publicidad en papel, es un fenómeno mundial", ha dejado claro en un momento de su intervención. El sector impreso se ha llevado la peor parte de la crisis, que se traducirá, según Cebrián, en una pérdida "masiva" de empleo, algo que afectará a todos los elementos de la cadena: quioscos (han desaparecido entre 12.000 y 15.000 puntos de venta), impresión, distribución... "Hoy en día no hay ningún periódico de información general en España que venda 100.000 ejemplares en los quioscos", ha reconocido, y ha apuntado que los periódicos en papel "acabarán desapareciendo en no mucho tiempo".
A pesar del sombrío futuro del papel, Internet no será un camino de rosas. Cebrián ha destacado en su intervención cómo la Red se ha convertido en un "basurero de opiniones", donde "sistemas organizados" crean "una política de desinformación". Ha distinguido entre posverdad, que ha definido como "una verdad emocional" que "no se basa en hechos objetivos, en creencias o ideología, sino en las emociones de quien las emite y las recibe", y fake news, que son una consecuencia de este comportamiento. Cebrián ha apuntado a Rusia, Estados Unidos, China, Irán e Israel como países con capacidad de influir en redes sociales para generar opinión pública y ha criticado que ningún país de la Unión Europea tenga posibilidades similares. "Estamos ante un proceso de cambio fundamental en la manera de formación de la opinión pública", ha alertado, una situación en la que "el propio sistema de convivencia es incapaz de reaccionar porque no se sabe lo que es verdad o mentira". En este sentido, la debilidad de los medios tradicionales hace que la sociedad no sea capaz de "buscar un sistema que garantice el rigor, el chequeo de la verdad de las informaciones que hay en la Red". "Si desaparecen esos periódicos, la libertad de información desaparece", ha recalcado.
Cebrián ha propuesto como una posible solución la intervención de los poderes públicos en favor de los medios con políticas que permitan proteger su independencia en un marco financiero de solvencia, dado que estas compañías tienen un papel social que repercute en el propio sistema. "Estamos ante un cambio de civilización de verdad", ha destacado, y los medios tienen que buscar la forma de preservar un papel que durante décadas ha defendido derechos y libertades que ahora están en jaque por la disrupción que ha supuesto Internet, donde "no manda la ley, manda el software".
Los editores estan sacando ventaja de la confianza del anunciante
Marketers’ newfound skepticism of programmatic media buying is starting to turn in publishers’ favor.
Whether burned by ad misplacement or fraud, wanting more control over their digital media-buying operations or fearing the General Data Protection Regulation will trip them up, advertisers are increasing the conversations they have directly with publishers about programmatic media. The upshot: Publishers are becoming more incentivized to share their first-party data more and give better inventory access. In exchange, advertisers are more likely to enable second-party data deals with publishers directly and feel more in control of budget waste.
Business Insider and Northern & Shell are among those saying they’re having more in-depth conversations directly with advertisers around different data-sharing opportunities for programmatic deals.
“We’re talking to more client-side contacts about how to get guaranteed and transparent access to BI audiences,” said Julian Childs, managing director of Business Insider UK. “With GDPR coming into play, these deeper, more transparent relationships between publishers and brands will become more important than ever for brands to ensure compliance.”
That’s because appetite for risk when it comes to passing on data will likely tank after GDPR enforcement starts. Control of data use within the digital ad supply chain will be critical. Having fewer, trusted partner relationships with single contractual agreements that don’t involve data being pooled with other unknown players will be sought after, according to publisher sources.
That said, this shift toward more publisher-client direct deals wasn’t triggered by the GDPR; rather, publishers believe the new law’s terms around data use will expedite the trend.
Progressive advertisers have tried for years to exert more control over their programmatic strategies to varying degrees. For some, that’s meant in-housing data-management platforms to gain more control of first-party data; for others, it’s meant picking their own technology partners and ad servers.
Management consultancies like Accenture have capitalized on advertisers’ desire to do more of their programmatic in-house, winning clients like Melia Hotel Group. The reality is that taking programmatic media buying in-house requires a level of internal media expertise that brands haven’t historically had — and big spending requirements. It’s not for everyone. Most brands still rely on agencies for media planning and buying and campaign executions.
The Rundown: The pivot to subscriptions, Snap’s woes
But Amir Malik, Accenture’s global digital marketing lead, predicts that at least 10 percent of programmatic display advertising will be in-housed globally by 2019.
“The value chain has shortchanged publishers,” said Malik, who was formerly programmatic director for Trinity Mirror. “One of the most interesting byproducts of in-housing is that clients will want to run media evaluation and effectiveness, which means they will engage directly with media owners.” In theory, that means they should net a higher CPM and margin. “The publisher can genuinely benefit from a revenue figure that both the client and publisher have agreed on,” he added.
An upside to that could be a reduction in unknown agency or tech fees, the latter of which has been a problem for publishers as they have gradually become disintermediated from customers due to programmatic trading. That’s something publishers like the Guardian have moved to crack down on.
Clients speaking more directly with publishers also helps those disheartened by agency rebate culture. “The murky world of rebates disadvantages a lot of publishers because if you’re not a publisher that has a rebate deal with an agency, you won’t get much money from them,” said Tim Hussain, head of digital at consultancy Ebiquity. “Even if your offering is right for the advertiser, the agency will do all they can not to use you because you don’t have a deal with them. So the greater the control advertisers have over their rebates, the better it is for the publisher.”
Brands like Jaguar Land Rover are all for publisher-client direct deals. The carmaker is among those increasing efforts to work directly with publishers to help bring transparency to its buys. Speaking at the Festival of Marketing last month, Dominic Chambers, JLR’s global head of digital marketing, criticized the amount of middlemen within the programmatic trading supply chain. The advertiser is now questioning where the value is within the layers of ad tech and in turn dealing more directly with publishers. “We need to get the controls and quality in place, then double down on great content,” he said.
It’s still early, so there aren’t countless case studies of new data partnerships. Trinity Mirror allowed Nestle to use its audience data to target audiences on other publisher sites. Conversations become more in-depth once the publisher understands more about the client’s attribution model and exactly what it’s looking for in its buying data against user targets, rather than campaign by campaign, Childs said.
Other publishers are exploring ways to overlay their DMP data with clients’ data. For example, a publisher could share data, like what football teams a user supports, which could factor into the creative messaging, while using a client’s in-store data to judge the messages’ timing. The publisher could integrate its own first-party data with a client’s CRM data to create profiles of likely customers.
“When brands developed online entities, they became media owners, aggregating audiences as publishers do, and this has created an enormous second-party data opportunity,” said Malik.
The table stakes will be high for such deals, though. “Our data is our gold dust, so we won’t give it up to just anyone or for a monthlong campaign,” said David Hayter, programmatic director for Shortlist Media. The publisher is starting to have conversations internally about how it can leverage its first-party data more with specific clients and whether there is scope for clients to use the data off Shortlist Media’s own properties. These kinds of partnerships would need to be a minimum of six months and in the six-figure price range to work, he added.