Say Media CEO: Media Companies Will Live Or Die By Content Platforms

Matt Sanchez SAY MEDIA NEWThe best way for publishers to survive these days may be to become technology companies.

“Media businesses will win because of their content platform strategies,” predicted Say Media CEO Matt Sanchez.

Say Media is both a technology provider and publisher of numerous online magazines including xoJane, ReadWrite, Remodelista, xoVain and Not Impossible Now. As a vendor, it’s known for its publishing platform Tempest, which enables publishers to create more engaging content and ad units to drive better engagement.

The platform also offers rich data and attention metrics. “Bringing everything together into one stack gives you better control and insight,” Sanchez said.

Those insights bolster the advertising and editorial sides: “We’re telling advertisers they need to think more like publishers,” said Sanchez. “Tools that make better content can also make better advertising.”

Say Media plans to use its technology platform to build a broader advertising network. Tempest, which is free for publishers, runs on five sites not owned by Say Media: Beauty Editor, House of Brinson, LifetimeMoms, BIO and Fashionista.

In exchange, Say Media manages all the sites’ unsold inventory. Advertisers who buy one of Say Media’s custom, high-impact ad units can distribute that to a broader network of sites running on Tempest.

Sanchez talked to AdExchanger.

AdExchanger: Many publishers, such as Medium, Vox and The New York Times, are using content management systems to address challenges of digital. What value does yours bring?

MATT SANCHEZ: The main focus of the [CMS] is finding those who are trying to publish a digital magazine, but who haven’t or can’t make an investment in a modern technology stack. We solve the challenges of design, finding audiences and monetization for them. Our platform is a full stack, and brings content, commerce and advertising integrated together.

What does bringing content and commerce together mean?

We’re trying to connect inspiration to purchase. When an editor writes about product, we can smartly create a pullout, and have a product with a link to buy it. When someone writes about amazing discovery on Remodelista, people want to know how to buy it. It’s that type of platform-level integration and connecting the dots. We’re still in the early stages of what that looks like.

I’ve seen product links on Say Media’s beauty site xoVain. Can you share any results for how that’s going?

We don’t have a ton of data yet to share. Right now we’re trying to respond to reader demand about how to find a product. We monetize through affiliate relationships. From a publishing stack standpoint, there’s another layer there with technology about finding the best offer, and we are thinking through that.

Sponsored content poses a challenge because it has to be created in the traditional CMS. How does your CMS deal with the workflow for sponsored content? Is it a native ad server?

Yes. Everything is built into our platform seamlessly. If we want to create a piece of sponsored content that has a particular type of badging to it, so that it’s clear that it’s advertising, or promote that through a couple of sites on homepages, all of that is in the same platform.

By taking a holistic approach to the publishing platform, integrating advertising and content into one solution, we can create a better product for the advertiser and the reader. When you hear people talk about a native ad server, a display ad sever and the different ad products [they are] using, oftentimes [they’re] trying to integrate multiple tools into one experience that weren’t designed to talk to each other. Ultimately that creates a lot of friction and overhead because it’s not all baked into one solution.

Another issue with content marketing is that people are just buying articles without any idea of how much audience they’re getting. We launched Accountable Content, which guarantees it will get a certain number of reads. It’s not just buying an article, it’s knowing it’s read.

What kind of measurement capabilities does Tempest have?

We’re really focused on attention metrics: How much time people are spending, drop-off in article, what the abandonment curve looks like, heat mapping, all those things. Because data is an integral part of the publishing stack, you learn a lot about what’s working and what’s not.

Time spent is the metric we use the most on the advertising side. We’ll do A/B testing against different types of executions to drive more time against a piece of content, or targeting, and it’s all centered around how much you’re spending with content.

How is Say Media entering private marketplaces? Will the custom high-impact units you’ve created be available programmatically?

With Tempest, we’re making that inventory available into private marketplaces, where you can deliver a high-impact ad experience at scale. We should be able to make that a more efficient buy and available through programmatic.

How long have you been doing private marketplaces?

The trend of last six months has been getting those private marketplaces in place. This year was the year of getting the wiring in place, next year it will roll out. There will be a ton of things happening on that front. We’re using AppNexus for our private marketplaces.

What kind of value can you add with having a network of sites in private marketplaces?

[With Tempest], we’re providing platform at no cost to publisher, and our yield solution for inventory they don’t sell themselves. They can run their businesses the way they want to, and we’ll manage what they don’t sell, and deliver revenue back to you. That allows us to create a large footprint of high-quality inventory that’s consistent in how it’s set up.

That scale problem in private marketplaces is going to continue to be a problem unless there are richer, high-impact ads. That way, you can execute a premium format and know that is will work across all those environments.

If [a premium format] only lives on one site, it’s not enough for the marketing community to pay attention.

Monetizing mobile has been a big challenge for publishers: More traffic is going there, but it gets lower CPMs. What are you seeing, and how are you addressing this issue?

It’s definitely an issue in publishing. The big question for publishers is how brands are going to play in mobile.

The way you’re going to get back to something valuable, to make a mobile session make sense for advertisers, is an in-stream, full-screen canvas for an advertiser to really tell their story. Our Adaptive unit is our answer to that.

On desktop it’s the only ad in the page as you move through the content column, and it’s responsive to a full-screen experience in mobile. We’re seeing great engagement with those ads, great time in frame, that ultimately will be the right kind of way to solve for the mobile experience. We’re starting to see the value of mobile sessions come back up as we get that type of advertising up and running.

 

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