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AccuWeather has launched a branded BBM Channel to extend its social connection to weather fans. The company, which has a longstanding relationship with Blackberry, has joined the ranks of brands such as Time and Disney in creating its own dedicated BBM Channel. The new AccuWeather BBM Channel will offer a range of breaking weather information, including severe weather updates, breaking stories, local weather images, radar and more, which Blackberry Messaging (BBM) subscribers can access across mobile platforms.
AccuWeather timed its Channel release to coincide with last week’s expansion of BBM when Blackberry announced an update to BBM for all users as well as making Blackberry’s private social network available to iPhone and Android smartphone users. AccuWeather’s Coordinator of Social Media Jesse Ferrell says that the move made sense to extend the brand’s mobile and social reach, “BlackBerry has a huge audience who is always connected and online, and we are thrilled to be able to interact with that audience through this Social channel.”
BBM Channels is Blackberry’s social engagement platform that works within BBM. It allows people to connect with the businesses, brands, celebrities and groups of interest. It also lets users engage in in conversation around content in a similar fashion to Twitter and Facebook while providing brands with integrated monitoring and measurement tools.
“Social Media in general helps AccuWeather inform its audience about inclement weather, while reinforcing the brand,” says Ferrell. Though the audience may overlap with other social channels on which AccuWeather is already active, Ferrell says that delivering content within the context of Blackberry Messaging will extend the reach of its weather related information to an audience that might not yet be as familiar with what the AccuWeather brand offers. And, as Ferrell points out, “Because of its real-time and local nature, weather is always a win on Social Media.”
This Q&A is part of OPA’s “Three on Three” series where we ask three industry executives the same three questions on a topic to uncover actionable insights… If you want to learn more, keep an eye out on our site for more interviews. Today’s Three on Three is with Neil Johnston, Cox Media Group’s Executive VP of Strategy & Digital Innovation on Premium Programmatic.
Q: How would you define Premium Programmatic as it compares to what we’ve come to know as “Programmatic Advertising”?
A: The value proposition of programmatic advertising is the efficiency and scale that automated buying confers. Premium programmatic retains these values, while adding in the safety and fidelity of guaranteed site-direct buying. Technologically speaking, this means bypassing an RTB exchange in favor of exposing and booking a subset of inventory directly against a publisher’s primary ad server.
This has advantages for both demand side buyers and supply side publishers. Buyers are able to selectively access quality, site-specific, high impact inventory in a highly efficient way, while publishers are able to increase yield by accessing the high demand programmatic sales channel in a transparent and optimized way.
Despite the moniker, “Premium” does not necessarily mean better – it’s simply another buying tool that suits certain campaigns more than others. The name is more a reflection of the relative scarcity of this guaranteed inventory compared to the rest of programmatic space, as well as the higher prices that come with that. Premium may be better suited to certain branding campaigns, for example, while RTB might be better leveraged by performance campaigns run through DSPs that can optimize against its scale in real-time.
Q: Describe the way in which your organization handles programmatic?
A: Our CMG properties leverage the technology of our subsidiary, Cox Digital Solutions (CDS), on the programmatic supply-side to excellent results. Some of our sites seek to maximize yield, others maximize fill, and still others are most concerned about protecting CPMs and direct sales channels. CDS’ proprietary dynamic floor optimization technology lets us optimize demand tailored to our properties specific needs.
On the sell-side, our inventory has been included in private exchange deals facilitated by CDS through our partners at Casale Media to buyers such as MediaMath. We are currently exploring our options to expose guaranteed inventory programmatically.
Q: What types of marketing initiatives lend themselves best to leveraging programmatic and how can the premium approach better deliver?
A: Practically any campaign, shy of a truly integrated/native one, can benefit from the advantages of programmatic. While there is currently a bias towards premium for branding and RTB for performance, the lines are blurring, as scale and measurement improve optimization in the premium space, and transparency and viewability improve brand safety in the RTB space.
My advice here is simply that while programmatic will evolve, it’s here to stay. So get educated. And, more than anything, get started.
Neil Johnston is Cox Media Group’s (CMG) Executive Vice President, Strategy and Digital Innovation at the company’s headquarters in Atlanta where he oversees Strategic Development, CMG Digital and the company’s growing portfolio of digital investments. Johnston previously served as Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer of Cox Media Group. He also was Cox Radio’s Chief Financial Officer from September 2000 until it was made private in 2009.
For premium access to Cox Media Group inventory, please contact Andy Levi at Cox Digital Solution (email@example.com).
Note: This Q&A is part of OPA’s “Three on Three” series where we ask three industry executives the same three questions on a topic to uncover actionable insights.
For a time, free looked like the only option for the media business. The model seemed to be a veritable free-for-all. Because, despite digital content consumers’ insatiable appetite, models that made this all-you-can-eat buffet profitable—or at least as profitable as offline legacy models—remained elusive. The upside of the rise of free was that market pressure caused many media businesses to experiment with monetization methods and, in many cases, they have diversified their revenue streams, strategies, and organizational structure which makes them more resilient in the long term.
Yet contrary to the seemingly overwhelming tide of free, many media organizations sustain subscription-based models. In fact, according to research conducted late last year, 95% of OPA members have an ongoing subscription based strategy. And these strategies are far from stagnant.
Subscription Model Starting Point
While its longstanding subscription business makes it one of the industry’s paid content poster children, the Financial Times continuously pursues the development of new offerings that maintain customer affinity and feed the bottom line. When considering a new premium offering, FT.com managing director Rob Grimshaw suggests that you first focus on “what is unique or different about your product. Then he says, “take advantage of the flexibility that the web environment offers. You don’t have to put up a gigantic blank door on the site that says ‘pay to enter.’ The web offers many ways to do these things: You can build sampling in, you can use freemium models.”
Though Michael Crosby, COO of The Deal says that a subscription based initiative “is no different than any business idea,” he suggests examining the market and look for a problem that exists. Then ask “Can we provide insight or analysis the fills that gap?”
Sarah McConville, Harvard Business Review Group VP and HBR Press publisher, also approaches the development of subscription offerings from distinct value propositions. However she says “we always start with audience. For whom are we developing this? What job are they hiring Harvard Business Review to do?”
Innovation and Experimentation
As Grimshaw points out, digital media provide an opportunity for a great deal of flexibility and experimentation with pricing, offerings and customer experience. At FT.com, they not only view subscription models as a revenue stream, they are a means to better understand, serve and retain customers. “Subscriptions create a direct relationship with your audience,” he says. “You learn so much about them including demographics, onsite behavior and other information that can be very powerful from a marketing and advertising point of view.”
One insight that he has put to work for FT.com was that “engagement is absolutely critical to the success of subscription models.” This engagement imperative was a driving force between the company’s Fast FT product, which provides a continuous stream of “intelligent first-response to the news.” While the creation of a near-real time news culture marked a shift for the FT, Grimshaw says it has paid off with those visiting Fast FT spending ten or more minutes on the site.
HBR has also made a significant change in approach over the past year by offering “All Access” as its primary offer to subscribers. Readers can access their Harvard Business Review subscription in print, online, and via your iPad, and access to the current issue as well as the online archive of 50+ years of HBR articles. McConville says “we were really pleased to see that, in a time when many media brands are cutting subscription price and offering more content for free as a way of maintaining circulation levels, with “All Access” we’ve been able to add more subscribers, and increase the price with this subscription. Harvard Business Review’s 1H13 AAM Publisher’s Statement was the highest paid circulation level in HBR’s history at 260K. “
At The Deal, Crosby says they focus on helping readers come up with “ideas for their next deal through our editorial insight.” Realizing that these readers will then want to figure out how they might have a connection with someone who will help them make that next deal, The Deal launched a subscription offering called “Connections” that does just that.
Subscription Success Strategy
To create a content product that pays, Crosby says you must have an “obsessive focus on the user experience” Understanding how it fits in with their daily workflow is the starting point that will ensure that a user “needs to have your service.”
One piece of advice McConville says it is essential to align the editorial and commercial stakeholders in a shared understanding of how offerings serve subscribers. However she also suggests “bringing in the skeptics, listen and take them seriously.”
Grimshaw agrees that much can be learned from peers and your own team. However, he suggests that one of the best ways to foster innovation in subscription content offerings is to “look outside of the boundaries of the publishing industry.” He suggests looking at the retail industry, gaming, and others pioneering the space to find inspiration for the next generation of subscription innovation.
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Disney has joined the ranks of Fortune 500 companies launching accelerator program. General Electric made headlines last year when it announced StartsUpHealth with the mission to build 1,000 sustainable health and wellness companies within a decade. And two years ago, Nike partnered with TechStars to create the Nike+ Accelerator Program, which is designed to drive digital sports innovation. Disney also opted to partner with TechStars, a mentorship-driven seed stage investment program.
While he notes Disney’s respect for the past, Kevin Mayer, EVP, Corporate Strategy and Business Development at The Walt Disney Company, says this initiative is an extension of Disney’s “long, storied history of innovation.” According to Mayer, “We have also been leaders in entertainment technology development with inventions like the multiplane camera, audio-animatronics, circle-vision 360° and Fantasound. I see Disney Accelerator as an extension of this legacy and a new way of bringing together the creative energies of the media/entertainment and start-up communities to inspire innovation.”
Disney Accelerator will select 10 startup companies for a three-month mentorship and seed-stage investment program which begins June 30th. Participants will receive $120,000 in investment capital to develop their ideas. They will also receive mentor support from top Disney executives, including Disney chairman and CEO Robert A. Iger and John Skipper, Co-Chariman, Disney Media Networks Group and President of ESPN, along with others from Pixar, Marvel, Lucasfilm, ESPN and Walt Disney Imagineering and the investment community.
“While the seed capital is clearly a boost for the selected start-ups, the most valuable aspect of the program is its unique access to the time, expertise and involvement of Disney Accelerator’s diverse group of mentors,” says John Kosner the EVP Digital and Print Media, ESPN who is one of the participating mentors. “These new companies will get the benefit of all the ideas, experiences and lessons learned from some of the most successful and innovative leaders Disney and its network has to offer.” The list of mentors also includes Anne Sweeney, Co-chairman Disney Media Networks and President Disney-ABC Television, Group; Jason Calacanis, CEO and Founder, Inside.com; and Alan Patricof, Founder and Managing Director of Greycroft Partners.
According to Meyer, that the Disney Accelerator “unites the start-up community and the media/entertainment industry in an effort to collaborate on new, disruptive, innovative products that could provide opportunity or value for our business and inform the future of the media and entertainment industries.”
Along with access to stories, characters, technology and other resources from across The Walt Disney Company, selected teams will also present their companies and products to industry leaders and investors during an Investor Demo Day in September.
Applications are being accepted through April 16.
This Q&A is part of OPA’s “Three on Three” series where we ask three industry executives the same three questions on a topic to uncover actionable insights… If you want to learn more, keep an eye out on our site for more interviews. Today’s Three on Three is with Joe D. Weir, VP of Digital, A.H. Belo.
Q: In mobile advertising, what is the most important thing to consider?
A: I think that it is the ability to reach the consumer where they are. “Where they are” means two things: First, it can mean geolocation. But it can also mean where the consumer is within the buying cycle.
For example, I am going to dinner. So first we need to think about how we play a part in where they are physically. Then we need to think about where they are in their decision making process about dinner. At that point, we factor in our relationships with businesses, grocery, restaurants, to help marry up the consumer and “where they are” with our advertisers.
People are using mobile more often, in more places and more ways; they are using it in line to buy movie tickets or at the grocery story, or pumping gas. But behind all that may be them doing something bigger. For example, maybe they are in the process of buying a car and using mobile to explore and research products.
We need to understand how the consumer is using mobile so we can connect them with content that helps them make better decisions or, as we’ve done through our partnership with cars.com, to bring buyers together with sellers in the marketplace. Another factor to keep in mind is the importance of reviews. An exciting opportunity for us has been matching up consumer reviews with other content.
Mobile helps change the landscape because of its mobility, but also because of its connectivity. It allows for more data points around various topics.
Q: Describe one of your recent or forthcoming mobile ad initiatives that you think is particularly innovative:
A: First let me tell you a bit about our approach. The way we’ve looked at mobile is that we’re trying to build a network of mobile access. We have variations of our content that is HTML5 that can be pulled up and rendered on whatever device consumers are on—mobile or tablet. We also have applications that we’ve launched for iOS and Android and we’re working with Windows right now.
If you look our stuff, you’ll see things like “Dallas’ Best Burgers” and “Dallas Skyline”. Obviously, we also have our core offering like Dallas Morning News as websites, epaper and applications. One of our strengths, as with a lot of newspapers, is sports.
I think one of our most innovative stories is in sports. So it is an understatement to say that High School football is big in Texas. In December, we had a game that broke the national High School attendance record with more than 54 thousand attendees. Needless to say, we’d been creating all this content around High School ball and realized we needed a mobile play in that space.
The way we created the SportsDay High School app, and the way we sold the whole campaign, is a good example for media companies. The app delivers all of the content we were creating, but we also built live score delivery into it, which is really optimal for mobile. It also includes push notifications and alerts for teams you are interested in. So what we did was work hard to create an app experience audiences would really want.
Then we sold a single sponsorship to the app as part of a much larger package, which had print, desktop and mobile components. Albertsons sponsored an entire High School Sports package. It even includes a community element where Albertsons honors top players at a banquet. Mobile, for us, fits into something bigger. It allows us, as publishers, to pull together revenue opportunities that might exist in a range of areas as one larger sale, which delivers more to the advertiser as well.
Q: What is working in mobile advertising, and what do we need more of, in order to drive success in this area?
A: We need a couple of things. First, there needs to be as much standardized delivery of advertising as possible.
We also need the best ease the integration of mobile into our existing business. There are a lot of media companies right now who, with their mobile, are doing ad serving with x company over here and then on desktop, with y company over here. And all of those systems are separate and don’t talk to each other. All media companies need to look at their technology stack and figure out how their technology can support the needs of salespeople. It needs to be very efficient for pre-sales—to understand how big the audience is and what the opportunity is. It also needs to be efficient for post-sales—I’ve closed the business and need to implement the campaign across platforms.
We have this great group of sales people who go out into the market every single day. Their job is to sell audiences and those audiences exist on mobile, print, desktop, tablet. So to make the most of that, we need to create the best technology stack to distribute the ad dollars seamlessly across our different platforms. The easier this is for sales people, the easier it will be to get those dollars in the front door.
Joe D Weir leads sales of all digital offerings of DMNmedia and is responsible for product development and digitally related strategic initiatives. Prior to joining DMNmedia, Joe had been with Belo for 18 years. His most recent position was Vice President of Digital for Belo since 2009. His responsibilities included digital strategies for revenue and audience growth across new media platforms. Weir was named a “Digital All-Star” in 2010 by Broadcasting & Cable magazine. In 2009 he was named “Outstanding Young Alumnus” from his alma mater Hardin-Simmons University and in 2008 he led WFAA.com to be honored with a National Edward R Murrow for online innovation. Weir currently serves on The University of North Texas RTVF (Radio, TV and Film) Executive Board.
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At 75, Glamour is not afraid to experiment to maintain its youthful appeal and please its digitally-savvy readership. The Condé Nast publication has introduced ecommerce initiatives in the past, including Shop Style, which used the affiliate model, and SnapTags, a social/mobile experience. This week it debuted its most holistic ecommerce effort yet Shop Glamour, which allows readers to buy items, pay through one shopping cart, and receive their haul in a Glamour-branded box, even if the items are from multiple brands. In developing Shop Glamour, Glamour partnered with AHAlife for the e-commerce technology and fulfillment capabilities as well as the development of a mobile app and responsive website.
Executive digital director Mike Hofman points out that “Glamour readers are great experimenters; this is a very fashion-forward magazine and they want to try out the latest styles and trends.” Glamour fans also rely on the brand’s editorial perspective to help them identify those trends and how they can “translate into a woman’s real life.” Shop Glamour, says Hofman, is a natural extension of the relationship the editors have with their readers. The offering includes more than 200 brands curated by Glamour’s editorial team. Hofman says, “Our fashion and beauty teams are thrilled with the project. Seven editors have already curated ‘boutiques’ of their own.”
This, says Hofman, is a natural extension of the editorial process. “We are used to providing fashion and beauty inspiration and providing a curated shopping experience is an extension of that.” And, he points out, “in some ways, editorially-curated is the holy grail of shopping tools.” Maintaining reader trust is an important component of any brand extension so Glamour is maintaining a “strict wall” between what the editors choose and what is promoted by advertisers.
While not every item in the magazine’s editorial and advertising content will be shoppable, every ad in the March issue will be as will many items featured in editorial spreads. At launch, 20 advertisers are participating in Shop Glamour across the app and video, including L’Oréal Paris, Maybelline, Sexy Hair, and LOFT. Other features of the app include additional editorial content and behind-the-scenes celebrity videos.
Shop Glamour includes two components developed with AHAlife: shop.glamour.com, a fully-integrated ecommerce site, and the shopping app, which uses image recognition software to display the shoppable items from the page on a phone. The mobile component is one that Hofman is particularly enthusiastic about. “Your phone is like oxygen now, especially for users in our demo of women 18 to 34.” While he says only a few years ago, he might not have viewed mobile as a “sure thing for commerce” today, it is a given. “Glamour’s online mobile audience is north of 40% of our readers. With that fact, and all of the trends around mobile commerce, the mobile app is a key piece.”
The Glamour audience, says Hofman, “is a contemporary reader who expects to have inspiration, and the ability to act on it, wherever and wherever she wants to—in-book, on her tablet, online, and in stores.” And Glamour is betting that its latest foray into taking the reader off the page to deliver a satisfying content experience will be a hot new shopping trend.
This Q&A is part of OPA’s “Three on Three” series where we ask three industry executives the same three questions on a topic to uncover actionable insights… If you want to learn more, keep an eye out on our site for more interviews. Today’s Three on Three is with Brian Colbert, CRO, About.com
Q: In mobile advertising, what is the most important thing to consider?
A: From an ad creative standpoint, there is still a tendency for advertisers to cram too much information into too small of a space on mobile. While phone screen sizes have increased over the years, they still pale in comparison to desktops and always will. The hardest thing for advertisers to accept in mobile advertising is that “less is more”. Be quirky, be relevant, be interesting but most importantly, be concise.
Secondly, it is still baffling the amount of blue-chip national brands that don’t have mobile websites. Consumers have grown to expect mobile-optimized experiences and advertisers risk damaging their brand image if their mobile experiences are not up to par.
Lastly, brands need to realize that mobile is the primary digital platform now. It’s a mobile world and brand strategies need to adapt faster to harness the full capabilities of the mobile platform.
Q: Describe one of your recent or forthcoming mobile campaigns that you think is particularly innovative:
A: We continue to iterate on our mobile platform with new ad executions, but one that has proven to be extremely effective is having our 320×50 ad unit stay fixed on the screen as the user scrolls. Because our content is long-form in nature and requires a lot of scrolling, we felt that having the banner disappear as the user scrolls, which is fairly typical with the mobile web, was not the optimal ad experience. We feel we have achieved a good balance of providing an impactful mobile ad unit for our advertisers yet not disrupting the content experience for our users.
Q: What is working in mobile advertising and what do we need more of in order to drive success in this area?
A: More and more advertisers are beginning to take advantage of mobile rich media and some executions that leverage the functionality of the phone—GPS, accelerometer, touchscreen—have made the ads much more fun and engaging than their desktop counterparts. If done well, mobile ads can actually enhance the user experience.
But the balance that publishers and advertisers need to keep in mind is that there’s fine line between “engaging” and “intrusive”. The use-case for mobile often differs than desktop and users are less inclined to tolerate ads that disrupt their user experience since they are often on-the-go and under greater time constraints.
Brian Colbert is the Chief Revenue Officer for About.com, where he oversees premium and programmatic sales, ad ops, sales development and yield management. Prior to joining About.com in October of 2013, Brian was Vice President of Mobile Advertising Sales at Pandora. Previously, he was the Senior Director of Mobile Advertising Sales and Strategy at ESPN. Brian has a B.A. in Political Science from Duke University and an MBA from New York University’s Stern School of Business in Finance and Strategy.
Note: This Q&A is part of OPA’s “Three on Three” series where we ask three industry executives the same three questions on a topic to uncover actionable insights.
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