Go Local Or Go Home: Meredith Corporation Gets Serious About Location

MeredithVerveMobile isn’t desktop. That might seem like an obvious statement – but just because something’s obvious, doesn’t mean it’s being put into practice.

“Some people don’t get it, and for a time, that was us,” said Michael Cukyne, SVP of digital media at Meredith Corporation, where he and his team focus on broadcast stations in local markets across the US, including Atlanta, Nashville, Portland, Las Vegas and Phoenix.

But Meredith more than gets it now.

The publisher announced a partnership with mobile ad platform Verve on Tuesday that Cukyne said will give its broadcasting arm a two-fold advantage: a consistent look and feel for its suite of station-specific news and weather apps coupled with robust backend sales support.

“The platform allows us to be flexible in areas where we need to be flexible and to be structured in the areas where we need structure,” Cukyne said.

In terms of flexibility, Meredith can select offerings from the Verve platform à la carte depending on the needs of each particular local market, including geo-fencing, geo-conquesting and location-based targeting solutions. In terms of structure, Meredith uses Verve to package and distribute its mobile content with UX in mind.

“All of our content is time-stamped and stacked with the latest news at the top and news from earlier in the day lower in the stack,” Cukyne said. “It’s about making sure people can find what they’re looking for.”

A better app experience leads to more pageviews and more pageviews leads to more advertising dollars – a seemingly simple equation that requires a lot of work from the sales team, especially as mobile starts to make up the lion’s share of digital impressions. Meredith’s mobile footprint comprised nearly 1.5 billion impressions in 2014.

Aimee Irwin, SVP of business development at Verve, sees this trend across the breadth of its publisher client base, which as of Tuesday also includes Fox Television Stations and Raycom Media.

“About two years ago, mobile impressions were about 20% of a publisher’s digital impressions,” Irwin said. “Now it’s over 50% for many publishers. Growth is happening fast and it’s hard for sales teams to A) know how to sell mobile and location, and B) effectively and efficiently monetize their infilled mobile inventory.”

Meredith faces this challenge in local markets in particular.

“At times, publishers can get spread pretty thin. New products and services rear their heads every year,” Cukyne said. “Back in the day, we had desktop and we sold banner ads. Now the sales team has to sell audience extension, contextual, geo, SEO, SEM – there’s a lot out there.”

It’s a complex landscape, but it’s also a landscape replete with selling opportunities, and location is starting to top the list. Automotive and quick-serve restaurants are low-hanging fruit for Meredith right now – location-based coupons and geo-targeted ads designed to encourage people to drop in to a local pizza joint or car dealership, for example – but Cukyne is looking to keep the momentum going with geo-conquesting and geo-fencing efforts.

“Location is what people expect when they’re out and about on mobile, and that means local,” Cukyne said. “But we also need to stay true to who we are. We’re a broadcast company in local markets and we need to differentiate ourselves from the national brands – and that’s where local comes into it. Local in terms of content delivery and content discovery, and local in terms of sales and providing local businesses with a platform that gives them the ability to reach our users.”

And that’s what the Verve partnership is about. With hundreds of millions of mobile impressions monthly, publishers like Meredith need to train their local sales teams and educate advertisers about the benefits of location-driven mobile advertising.

As Verve’s Irwin put it: “For a long time, publishers were trying to sell mobile just like they sold desktop. But mobile isn’t an add-on. Publishers are starting to realize that you can’t bundle something that big.”

It’s a matter of education, Cukyne said.

“What do we mean when we talk about location? We’re talking about knowing where an individual is at a certain period of time so we can serve them an ad. We need to bring that level of understanding to clients so they know what they’re getting and how to use it,” Cukyne said. “Let’s not overthink things and let’s not oversimplify them, either.”

 

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