This is the second segment in our three-part series from the DCN The Next Conversation dinner — an event we hosted inside the Digiday Publishers Summit in Vail, CO on March 26th. This time we cover a topic that’s arguably over-analyzed and bordering on eye-roll inducing: Millennials. But this demographic is increasingly prevalent in our workforce and we need to make the most of them in our organizations as we seek to engage them as audiences. So we felt it was an important discussion to have with the folks gathered around our table — the media leaders who are hiring and managing the next generation of talent and are the cultivators of organizational culture.
“I think there’s a great amount of discourse and discussion and openness that comes from employing people who say ‘why’”.
–Brendan Spain, US Commercial Director, FT.com
“…We’re not all like that. Treating us like everyone else is really important. BusinessInsider embraces Millennials but they don’t call us ‘Millennials’”
–Michelle Denhart, Sales Development Director, Business Insider
“Hire young people who are smart and do cool things around them and you’ll be fine. Let them shape the workplace.”
–Neil Vogel, CEO, About.com
“A Facebook audience is very different than a Twitter audience which is very different than a Snapchat audience. As a publisher I’m going to publish and promote content in each of those individual areas based on what I know about that audience in that area. So, I’m not doing it specifically for a Millennial.”
Tech, some would have you believe, has a “woman problem.” However, the problem is much larger: While U.S. Universities are on track to graduate about 400,000 computer science majors by the year 2020, the U.S. Department of Labor predicts that we’ll need about 1 million more than that by then. So whether or not we want to focus on issues of gender, tech has an undeniable people problem.
The discussion around women in tech roles is not unfounded, however. Despite promising reports of universities such as the University of Toronto setting a slew of female STEM records and Carnegie Mellon, UC Berkeley and Harvey Mudd trumpeting record-setting female enrolment in computer science courses, the statistics around women in tech are not pretty. The number of women computer science graduates has steadily declined since 1996 and while women earn 57% of all bachelor degrees, they only represent about 12% of computer science degrees. And for those who do join the field, 56% leave by midcareer—an attrition rate that is almost double that of men.
With that in mind, I sat down with Katharine Zaleski, co-founder and president, Power to Fly, at our recent members-only Tech Day to discuss why it is important to have more women involved in tech roles in media companies as well as how to better attract and retain them.
After spending more than a decade at the Huffington Post, Washington Post and NowThisNews “building a career that required spending about 10 hours a day in an office,” Zaleski found herself a new mother questioning the viability of balancing her hard-won career and a new-found affinity for home life. She quickly realized that there were many women in a similar position, or that might not want (or be able) to move to New York or Silicon Valley to pursue their ambitions. This led Zaleski to team up with Milena Berry to found PowertoFly, which connects women seeking tech jobs (remote and in-office) with organizations looking for (female) tech talent.
Zaleski pointed out that she’s far from alone; women leave the workforce in their thirties because they can’t work strict office hours and participate in as much of the after-hours camaraderie that is one of the cornerstones of tech team-building. She also says it is unfortunate that so many companies think they are improving employee retention by “extending the male college experience and creating a ‘campus’ where you can get your hair and laundry done.” Many women, Zaleski believes, will be put off by a company that “considers personal life a distraction.”
Instead, Zaleski encourages organizations seeking female tech talent (and, arguably, any tech talent as the market becomes increasingly competitive) to embrace remote working in order to broaden the pool of available skilled workers. And this may require developing new management skills and embracing many of the collaborative and real-time tools younger workers will already be very comfortable using. It also mandates a much needed shift, according to Zaleski, on “output and results…In fact, if we ran our in-office culture more like remote culture, we might all be better off.”
It is also essential that companies give their want ads a reboot so that they are more appealing to women. She cited an organization with which she worked that was baffled why it wasn’t attracting more female applications: their job ad began “seeking a superman.” It can also be useful to demonstrate a willingness to provide remote working, family leave benefits, and other benefits that show that the company is one that values work-life balance.
To keep women from leaving tech careers, it is certainly important to create an environment in which employees are treated equally and fairly. It is also essential to be clear about job expectations (that don’t revolve around how much time is spent in a given cubicle) and the path to upward mobility. It is also beneficial to invest in on-going skills-based training.
And to those who cite the “pipeline problem” as the primary reason women aren’t better represented in technology? Zaleski responds: “I get annoyed that the conversation is so focused on college and high school girls when there are so many qualified women out there looking for jobs. Let’s get these women jobs they can live with.” And that, she pointed out can help build a generation of role models that will inspire more young women to devote their skills to the future of tech.
At our Digital Content Next members-only Tech Day, held April 2 at the Time and Life building in NYC, topics included dealing with cyber security threats, how to make decisions about moving into the Hybrid Cloud and how to respond to the challenges brought on by viewability and ad blocking.
This event brought together senior-level technology executives from our member companies to learn, network and share common experiences from their respective – and sometimes very different – businesses among them Slate, CBS Interactive, AP, Forbes, About.com, Everyday Health, and Hearst. We also hosted a special interview with Co-founder and President of Power to Fly Katharine Zaleski. Three takeaways from the event:
Flexibility is key
“Different groups needed to interact with content in very different ways.” By decoupling the schema from its CMS About.com “Created a content schema that could grow and change as business needs do.”
— Nabil Ahmad, CTO, About.com
“Moving to the cloud has allowed us to cut the order processing time but even more importantly, it allows us to move from concept to deployment much more quickly.”
— Lorraine Cichowski, SVP, CIO, Associated Press
“Flexibility is a bad word to a lot of people… but allowing people to work remotely and be focused on outcomes actually allows them to work longer and harder.”
— Katharine Zaleski, Co-Founder & President, Power to Fly
Building its CMS using Google Polymer Web Components allows Atavist’s CMS to quickly and flexibly produce interoperable custom elements. The result “encourages unique and creative stories” that include “easily assembled blocks of images, sound, video and interactive charts.”
— Jefferson Rabb, CTO and
Thomas Rhiel, Director of Reader Experience, Atavist
Integrated Tech Is Integral to the Business
“It is essential to be a technology-enabled company…technology can enable better monetization. You need your tech team to be tied into revenue goals. If they are in the loop, they can make ad delivery better or faster and make you, as a publisher, able to perform better than anybody else.”
— Dan Check, Vice Chairman & VP, Engineering/Product, Slate
“You must have a security strategy from the top down. The reality is that employees are often the weakest link it any company’s security…it is essential to not only inform employees, but also to enable security to be everyone’s business, not just the tech department.
— David Hahn, CISO, Hearst
“Today’s audience wants to easily transition across devices: 40% of users run the same app in multiple devices, many switch between devices to complete a task. We need content and UX to work together to maintain a seamless experience.”
—Deepak Chokkadi, VP, Software Development and
Premal Parikh, CTO, Everyday Health
Invest in Tech Talent
“For me the whole thing is culture. You want people who will fit in and inspire others around them…you can do a lot to train them and get them fully up to speed.
—Nabil Ahmad, CTO, About.com
“The numbers speak for themselves, we don’t have enough people in tech so we can’t afford not to have women in these careers…I think we have to give up this idea of being valued by the amount of time you sit at a desk and evaluate our tech performance based on outcomes.”
—Katharine Zaleski, Co-Founder & President, Power to Fly
“As we work on our strategic cloud planning, we find that tech staff needs new skill sets so we are doing cloud training for some of the staff.”
—Lorraine Cichowski, SVP, CIO, AP
Click here to see the full agenda with speakers and sessions.
Thank you for your attention. I should be grateful for it, given that the average human attention span is now 8 seconds, 1 second less than a goldfish. I’d say let that sink in, but I may have already lost you.
I came by this remarkable statistic by way of Rhonda Crawford the Vice President of eCommerce at Delta Air Lines, a speaker at Digital Content Next’s annual member Summit, held January 21-23 in Miami, FL. She faces the daunting task of creating a content experience that meets the needs of her audience—travelers—during each phase of their journey. While her content perspective differed from many of the event’s speakers—who hailed from The New York Times, ESPN, Business Insider, NBCUniversal, The Daily Beast, among others—her goldfish statistic hit home with everyone. It also elegantly reflected the theme for DCN’s 2015 Summit: The Attention Economy.
In today’s Attention Economy, as DCN CEO Jason Kint put it in his opening remarks, “we are competing for attention with individuals, institutions, and brands… Media companies used to hope for 30 minutes of focused attention every day or maybe every week. Now, it is more like hoping for a few minutes every day. The goal, of course, is to improve the quality of that time.”
In an Attention Economy, quality rises to the top—and not just as a measure of traditional media engagement. For example, Tony Haile, CEO of Charbeat said that a number of brand recognition studies report that good creative is one of the best predictors of advertising success. Haile is one of a growing number of advocates of moving away from click metrics to time spent as the way to measure ad impact. Brendan Spain, US Commercial Director at the FT, echoed this sentiment and emphasized that brand marketing must be outcome-oriented and “optimized for attention.” This is in line with his publication’s editorial strategy as well, which focuses on the connection between great content and reader attention.
This theme was consistent throughout the event, whether the speaker was a media or marketing executive. As Julie Fleischer, Director of Media and Consumer Engagement at Kraft put it, “They only call it branded content when it’s lousy. Otherwise, they call it content.” She called for constant innovation in marketing creative and distribution, going so far as to suggest that media companies rethink who they bring to sales meetings and include “the dev guy and the product people. Progress happens when we stop thinking about packaging and build something new.”
R “Ray” Wang, author of the forthcoming book Disrupting Digital Business said that “good content rises above all the noise” and urges businesses of any type to focus on “transformational innovation.” The future, according to Wang, is about “the fan experience and mass-personalized journeys at scale for an audience of one.”
Fleischer from Kraft said that all organizations must “Know their customers on a proprietary level,” which leads to content and experiences that truly engage. And content creates a two way street with customers; she finds that “we learn an incredible amount from our consumers based upon their interaction with our content.”
So has the FT, particularly when it comes to ad impact and what Spain calls “the new currency of the web: time.” In its studies of the impact of exposure time on ad recall, the FT found 17% recall in ads viewed for under 5 seconds, and an almost 80% increase in recall for ads seen for over five seconds. According to Spain, they’ve already shifted their internal sales conversations from quantity to quality, focusing on the value of attention. And from what was heard at the 2015 DCN Summit, the larger industry conversation will be moving that direction as well.
I could not be more thrilled at the enthusiasm for great content across the media industry— whether in the advertising, press, investment or journalism communities. That enthusiasm was never more apparent than at the 13th Annual Digital Content Next Summit last week, which gathered senior executives from across our membership to explore opportunities and innovation. We also came together to tackle challenges. And, in my opening remarks for the Summit, I captured four common themes that challenge content companies as they strive to reach their full potential in the digital transformation:
1. Pressures on display advertising. The flat to declining ad prices, which have resulted from abundant supply, have triggered a downward spiral that can only be slowed by the quality dimension. The transition to viewability will help, but the viewability conversation is mired in a malaise of too many inconsistent ad solutions and buyers taking advantage of the transition.
Fraud in the digital display chain is also massive problem: It tops the list of marketer concerns. And let’s not forget about the shift to mobile, which continues to accelerate. This shift is a good thing because it provides opportunities for personalized, useful content experiences. But we need to keep in mind that ad pricing on mobile is 30% of that on tablets and desktop.
The result, which I wrote about in The Trust Principle, is a marketplace that is mostly bought and sold on direct response without value for environments and brands. Google, Facebook and countless intermediaries have swallowed up the roughly 65% growth in digital advertising that has taken place in the past three years, while content companies’ revenues have remained flat overall.
2. The Attention Economy. It’s in full swing. We now have the opportunity to consume media 24/7 on countless devices, unleashing significant opportunities for content companies.
Here’s the rub: Anyone can be a media company. Individuals now compete with century-old institutions. Non-profits go head to head with for-profits. The competition is fierce whether the company is pre-revenue, or raking in billions.
I would argue the goal of capturing a consumer with 30 minutes of entertainment once a week is dead. Capturing 30 minutes each more morning with a newspaper is dead. Now we’re all trying to get a consumer to come by for a few minutes each day. We must provide a service to them—whether it is entertaining or informing and make sure to use their time well.
3. Business model innovation. The days of brainstorming non-advertising revenues as an opportunity are gone. It’s now a requirement to innovate your business model. Companies can’t simply compete by attracting mass audiences and serving ads against them. Being a great media brand is not enough. Today, organizations of any size or longevity need to think like start-ups and continuously experiment and innovate.
Yes, brands must own the relationship with individuals and monetize that relationship through advertising, but also in countless other ways to bring value back to their business—by delivering value to their user.
4. Protect our art. Data is all the rage, but it is art that defines us. Whether it be the journalism and free speech we fight so hard to protect, or copyright and content piracy, this so-called “content” is precious stuff. It is why consumers rely on us, and trust us and it is how we get to know them in the process. So yes, protecting our first party data (which comes out of customer relationships, as well as those with marketers) is also essential. But we build our businesses on this art and we need to protect it to make sure we can continue to fund and pay for it in the future.
Big challenges: Hell yes. But we are facing them as an industry, together.
Hit me up on Twitter (@jason_kint) if you want to dive deeper into any of these challenges or if there are others that you think we need to focus on.
It’s no surprise that photos of sunshine, swaying palm trees and shots of the shoes-optional networking on the beach were highlights of the tweet stream from this year’s Digital Content Next (DCN) Summit, held January 21-23 at the Mandarin Oriental in Miami.
However, in addition to lovely weather and networking, this year’s members-only DCN Summit generated non-stop discussion of the event theme: The Attention Economy. From the kick off by OKCupid Founder (and author of Dataclysm) Christian Rudder, who looked at the relationship between data and dating, to the closing session in which EVP Rick Allessandri showed how deeply Univision understands and connects to its customers —speakers, DCN Members and special guests alike, remained engaged and attentive, despite the lure of the sandy beaches.
In case you missed this year’s Summit, here are three key takeaways:
1. Relationships Matter. When seeking to attract and engage audiences, understanding them and catering to their interests and needs is a top priority.
Jason Kint, CEO of Digital Content Next, set the tone for the importance of trust in the age of data, pointing out that, given the ever-increasing competition for user attention online, trusted sources will move to the front of the line. That trust requires building a personal relationship with audiences; data allows us to do so, when ethically collected and skillfully applied.
Ray Wang, author of the forthcoming Harvard Business Review Press book Disrupting Digital Business urged attendees to strive for “mass, personalized scale for segments of one.”
Editor-in-chief John Avlon demonstrated his understanding of The Daily Beast’s millennial-dominated audience: “Don’t bottom feed to attract millennials… offer a high-low mix that doesn’t taste like medicine.”
Vice President of eCommerce Rhonda Crawford spoke about Delta’s content strategy, which strives to optimize content for different “stress-levels” of the traveling experience (from planning to boarding passes). “When balancing content and functionality, ask yourself if are you enriching the experience or getting in the way?”
Rick Allessandri discussed Univision’s customer-centric philosophy, which has led to a successful series of brand extensions all arising from its close audience relationship and a desire to maintain their trust by serving their needs.
2. The Need for Speed. Throughout the event, speakers emphasized the need for continuous experimentation and innovation without fearing the fast-failure.
Julie Fleischer, Director of Media and Consumer Engagement at Kraft, may have summed it up best when she said, “The pace of change will never be slower than it is today.” She discussed Kraft’s agile approach to marketing, which emphasizes creativity and fresh thinking over tried-and-true.
Kendall Aliment Ostrow, Digital Agent at UTA, offered a Hollywood’s-eye view of the transformation that’s taking place in the entertainment industry and, in particular, the pace at which younger consumers adopt and drop social media and technology tools. Keeping up, according to Ostrow, is essential in order to identify the best channels and formats to reach audience younger audience and also to identify talent, suggesting “…find a 14-year-old to follow—one that won’t make you feel creepy for doing so.”
Noble Ackerson, co-founder and CEO, LynxFit, shared that
while wearables ”launched” in 1780 with the first pedometer, the pace of development has ramped up exponentially of late. Rather than chasing the next thing, Noble encourages companies to focus on creating useful wearable content experiences.
DCN CEO Jason Kint echoed the “need for speed” mantra when he spoke about DCN’s focus on the business issues of today and the future for digital content companies noting the change in its board structure voted in at the event which will better reflect this evolution and surface creative ideas from the breadth of its members.
3. Quality, not Quantity. Another recurring theme of the Summit was that, in an Attention Economy, it is important to make the most of customers’ valuable time through excellent content experiences.
Edward Felsenthal, Managing Editor of Time.com pointed out that the tension between content we want to consume and the limited time we have to consume it is not new: He kicked off his talk with a Henry Luce quote from the 1923 prospectus for TIME: “No publication has adapted itself to the time which busy men are able to spend on simply keeping informed.” And while his publication continues to attract and engage audiences almost a hundred years later, TIME’s continued focus is on high-quality journalism that respects the value of its reader’s time.
Brendan Spain, US Commercial Director of the Financial Times and Tony Haile, CEO of Chartbeat, offered a candid look at what it’s like to transact ad-sales based on time. As Haile pointed out all ad views are not created equal: “impressions are not a commodity. There is a difference between one that gets a lot of attention and one that doesn’t.” Spain spoke about the FT editorial team’s focus on writing deeply-engaging content to support the time-spent monetization model. Their paying subscribers spend 10 or sometimes 100 times more minutes with content and that, in their beta tests, “the shift to attention over impressions yields more engagement and more value.”
Frank Igrec, Brand Director of Dick’s Sporting Goods pointed out that engaging content can be branded, yet as interesting to the viewer as editorial. He played some of Dick’s Hell Week series to hammer home the point that native advertising can add value to a publisher’s site when well-executed.
Ray Wang, author of the forthcoming Harvard Business Review Press book Disrupting Digital Business, summed it up when he said that “We’re moving from selling products and services to selling brand experiences….You are competing for time and attention; focus on delivering experiences and outcomes to succeed.”
Time is money: true. But time, as it turns out, may not always be on our side.
The web is awash with stories about ad viewability problems and the need for measurement standards. The hard truth is that because we can count clicks, we do. Yet almost anyone really thinking about the true measure of digital content success realizes that a click might measure little more than clumsy fingers or fleeting glances. What content creators—whether from media or marketing—really want is engagement. And, as DCN research recently revealed, an emerging measure of engagement is time spent.
Yet as anyone with an overstuffed inbox and more push notifications than they can handle will attest, there are never enough hours in a day to do what we need to do, much less read everything we want to. Time is among people’s most valuable resources therefore if a consumer spends time with content, we can assume that the content provides them some value.
This topic is so meaty and relevant to aspects of our business both today and in the future, we decided to make the theme of our annual member’s-only DCN Summit this year: “The Attention Economy.” We’ll examine how everyone in the digital media business needs to put the customer first and create experiences that make the most of their valuable time.
One of the most vocal champions of time based measurement is Tony Haile, CEO of Chartbeat, who will team up with Brendan Spain, the FT’s US Commercial Director to discuss the real-world applications of time as a metric for advertising performance. The FT has been an early mover in selling display advertising based upon the amount of time its audience spends with content. Spain plans to come armed with FT data generated by the first six months of experimentation with this strategy to provide insights into whether or not time spent with an ad message does, in fact, generate greater measureable impact.
Demonstrating engagement on one platform is challenging enough, but many media organizations reach consumers across a broad range of channels and need to measure the entirety of their audience. At this year’s Summit, three organizations—ESPN, NBCUniversal and AOL’s Adapt.tv—will explore how they are tackling cross platform measurement.
While advertising is certainly an important means to deliver advertising, an increasing number of brands compete for consumer attention with content. Dick’s Sporting Goods has gone all-in on content and Brand Director, Frank Igrec plans to reveal his beguilingly simple content marketing strategy: create content people actually find compelling. Attendees will also hear from Delta Airlines, which approaches content as a means to of super-serving its customers, as well as Mt. Dew, which has found content to be the best way to reinforce its brand among its millennial target. These sessions will look at the innovative work these organizations are doing to step up their content game in order to attract and genuinely engage audiences.
Last year around this time, more than one pundit predicted that 2014 would be “the year of data;” unfortunately, the sobering light of early 2015 has delivered a fair number of articles calling 2014 the year of data breaches. It appears that consumers, media industry players are developing a bit of a love-hate relationship with data given the necessity (and challenge) of addressing privacy concerns, the seemingly limitless potential for hacks, grim statistics around ad viewability, and ongoing discussions about which metrics really matter to marketers.
On the the positive side – particularly for marketers, is that data is providing opportunities to create compelling new marketing offerings and personalized content experiences. While just-right, just-on-time content is hardly controversial—particularly in the context of trusted content providers who are transparent about what data is collected and why—there remains some concern that data-driven content creates a “filter bubble,” in which content is so tailored to your stated interests that you rarely see anything else, even if it is about important issues.
For consumers, data-driven content creates a mixed reaction: frustration when sites don’t tailor content offerings to their needs and even more when they are served ill-fitting pseudo recommendation links or followed around the web with content-targeted advertising. So despite the challenges in collecting, protecting and leveraging data, the focus our industry shines on it is merited. Given the insights and opportunities data provides, it is also well-worth the effort to understand its power and potential.
This year’s Digital Content Next Summit, the member’s only annual meeting of DCN’s senior executives from more than 60 digital media brands, is themed “The Attention Economy” and will focus on the myriad ways our attention is pulled, stretched, interrupted and engaged. While advertising and marketing have captured the lion’s share of attention, there are many other ways that organizations online are putting data to work, not only to measure attention but also to attract and engage in the first place
Christian Rudder, the co-founder of OKCupid and author of Dataclysm, will kick off the event with an unprecedented look at what data can reveal about people and ways in which should or shouldn’tuse this information to shape online experiences. Rudder has had his share of success with data: OKCupid is not only highly trafficked with impressive time spent statistics, but also a highly-rated dating site. He has also had his failures, some of which drove his most revealing explorations of data. Ultimately, though, this Harvard-trained mathematician has developed a committed relationship with data and will share his “intimate” knowledge of the subject.
Certainly, getting to know users is one of the most appealing applications of online data. But most of us aren’t in the matchmaking business so we put that information to work in other ways. DCN Member, Business Insider, uses data to grow attention through mobile, social and other channels. At the Digital Content Next Summit, President and COO Julie Hansen will discuss how they’ve created a site that leverages algorithms and editors to produce recommendations that actually satisfy visitors. Business Insider also provides its entire team—business and editorial—with real-time dashboards to optimize content creation, delivery across channels and increase value for readers and marketers alike.
The CEO of Dynamic Yield (a DCN Supporter Member), Liad Agmon will share insights in his Summit presentation on ways in which organizations can harness data to increase user engagement. In particular he has found that, given decreasing user attention spans and the real-estate limitations imposed by mobile browsing, the need to show visitors exactly what they are looking for has become critical. Agmon’s point underscores the theme of the DCN Summit for 2015 and the rest of the 2-day agenda: Today’s consumers have a voracious appetite for content, but a finite amount of time in which to consume it. Data is a powerful tool—and an essential one to master—as we seek to make meaningful connections in this attention economy.
The majority of digital content is consumed on mobile devices. Most people check their phone before brushing their teeth. And more than 90% of people have their mobile device within reach 24/7. This behavior creates an unprecedented opportunity to deliver mobile content and marketing; it also means that the breadth of use-cases, expectations and needs vary as much as the times and places consumers find themselves using their devices throughout any given day. Mobile is not just the most popular way to experience digital content; it is also the most personal — and perhaps most complex — way to do so as well.
At Digital Content Next’s members-only Mobile Day held December 5th at The New York Times building, speakers shared a wide range of approaches to and experimentation with mobile content and delivery. They also examined some of the distinct challenges of meeting the demands of today’s mobile content consumer.
News seems like one of the most obvious fits for mobile content consumption. However, according to Editor-in-chief Anthony De Rosa, Circa was created because they felt that news was not optimized for a mobile audience. He pointed out that, “news consumption is very different on smart phones and we don’t want to shoehorn the desktop experience to mobile.” In particular, De Rosa believes that mobile apps over-use push alerts and said that the number one reason people delete apps is because of too many unwanted push alerts. The Circa news app only pushes story updates to users who have opted-in to follow a particular topic. The company “atomizes” its content and, rather than creating and publishing entirely new versions of stories as they unfold, Circa sends users directly to the updated aspects of stories they follow. Atomization does not mean less information, however. “There’s an idea that we only give people high-level stuff at Circa, but when users follow a story, they actually consume what amounts to a long form article over a longer time—but in a way that is better suited to the mobile experience.”
Circa is currently building out its website; to date its entire experience has been built to suit app delivery. Several of the DCN Mobile Day speakers noted that they see higher levels of engagement in apps than mobile websites. CNBC’s VP of Product and Design Deepanshu Bagchee reported that apps deliver the most engaged CNBC fan base and panel agency executives reported that, overall, they perceive apps to be a more engaging environment. Morgan Petti, Associate Director of Mobile at OMD Airwave said “we see more engagement and time spent with apps” and Andy Hoffman VP, Mobile Marketing at Havas Media / Mobext noted that “if your goals are about high-engagement and impact, [focus on] apps.” ‘
In contrast to those voices, Vox Media Product Manager Lauren Rabaino told DCN Members that they recently “killed mobile apps” opting to go with responsive design throughout its network of sites. As a company recognized for its agility and technological acumen, the move to streamline from four code bases to a single one can clearly be seen as allowing the company to focus on delivering an optimal website experience across devices. It also allows standardization of ad units for delivery throughout its seven brand sites.
Condé Nast’s Executive Director of Digital Development Ned Newhouse reported that the company “has “reached the magic number of 50 percent mobile web and 50 percent desktop.” While it has made a huge investment in video through its Condé Nast Entertainment division and delivers video through a portal, partnership program and websites, Newhouse said “we are really focused on deploying the video through our branded mobile web products because that’s where the loyalty and traffic exists.”
Sara Poorsattar, The New York Times’ Director of Video Products, has found that page views are higher in mobile environments, but noted that because of the “additional commitment and barrier of entry in mobile,” they do better with video on the website. However, they also see a lot of video views coming through YouTube because of the prevalence of the YouTube app. Poorsattar said that the Times is looking closely at the offline experience in developing for mobile, noting that video news is something users might want to consume during a commute or other times when they have time to focus on longer form but may lack consistent connectivity.
The offline experience is also one that Bagchee is closely evaluating. “We see that when people are on the move we see things like quick stock checks. But we are working on surfacing more contextually- relevant video and possibly creating video that people can watch later on the office Wi-Fi.”
For the Times, mobile video represents an opportunity to reach younger and international audiences. CNBC is also among those that believe content needs to be available on a wide range of delivery channels including YouTube and Facebook to reach a younger demographic while its older demographic is more inclined to use the app. Interestingly, Christy Tanner SVP and GM of CBS Interactive Media Group revealed that the TVGuide app experience is the only one that its under 35 demo (about a third of its audience) really knows, despite the fact that it is a 60 year print-legacy brand.
Tanner said that her company, which launched CBS All Access a few months ago, is focused not just on mobile but on creating a true multi-screen experience because “it is possible to engage audiences, and for them to have shared experiences, on any size screen.” And, as Newhouse from Condé Nast said, “It’s a mobile dominated world. This is the core device we use everywhere, but it is just another means to an end. Content absorption is not device specific.” While there are certainly ways in which content and experience can be optimized for time and context of mobile consumption, mobile cannot be conceived of in a silo. While it is a dominant part of users’ content consumption habits, creating a seamless experience across devices remains the goal.
eMarketer estimates that 142.5 million people in the US—56.3% of internet users and 44.7% of the population—will watch digital TV shows at least once a month this year, and this will tip to the majority of consumers in 2016. And 22% already watch original video online each month, according to the IAB. Both firms report that flexibility of viewing is one of the greatest drivers in online video viewing, which isn’t surprising given the evolution of video consumption from on the couch, to on-demand, to on-the-go.
The opportunity this creates has not been lost on media companies of all types. Certainly, traditional broadcasters increasingly offer web-based or app viewing (TV Everywhere) options. But even organizations that have a print-legacy or began as text-based online are adding video to their content mix. A wide range of these offerings were explored on November 6th at Digital Content Next’s Video Day..
Todd Beilis, managing director for the media & entertainment industry at Accenture, was certainly bullish on the opportunity for online video saying “Cord cutting is real, which creates a genuine opportunity for the people in this room.” He specifically focused on the incremental opportunity which sits between amateur video and online delivery of broadcast television fare. He said that Accenture has identified between 20-25 million household where there will be a prime opportunity by 2018 and as many as 8.6 million households where there is already an opportunity for an incremental offering that competes with Pay TV.
Beilis pointed out that key ecosystem players are already starting to reposition to address this growing market. Though he said that the 35-49 demographic is the fastest growing audience for online video, Accenture believes that this new market will be dominated by Millennials who want a “seamless, any-screen, digital-first experience with analytics-driven personalization—all priced significantly lower than pay TV.”
Growing Online Video Innovation
Meredith Corporation is already making strides to address this market. According to Laura Rowley, VP of Video Production and Product, Meredith reaches more Millennials than MTV, boasting 60% of that coveted population. While she points out that the company has “a long history in sight, sound and motion” including local TV and a nationally syndicated daily lifestyle show, the company has been on the move to build up its video inventory for all of its editorial titles, with about 10 thousand videos in their library so far and a recent Connected TV launch. Despite this, the company is still best known for its magazine brands, which include Better Homes and Gardens, Fitness and Family Circle. Thus, when she began Meredith’s video push, Rowley said she “hired a video team with TV and analytics experience to collaborate with our magazine editors instead of just telling the magazine staff to ‘do video.’”
When Justin Maiman joined Business Insider (BI) in the newly-created role of executive producer of video about a year ago, BI was producing three to five videos a week. Today, the site boasts about 25 new videos per week and 10 million views a month. How-to videos represent a about 20% of the videos BI produces and Maiman offered a few tips on how to make them, which included finding universal, evergreen topics that will appeal to your audience and making videos people want to share. For his audience he focuses on jobs, career, strategy and technology, but has also has had good success in videos about life in general as well, such as “The Truth About ‘The Most Interesting Man in The World’” and “Scientists Discovered What Makes Someone a Good Dancer.”
Maiman says that the entire BI team is involved in creating video now and that field shoots or animation work well. His over-arching strategy: Keep the video length short, to 90-seconds or so; put the video together in a day or two, post it on a Monday but know that in six months or so, it can be shared again.
At Time Inc., which is producing 700-800 videos a month, J.R. McCabe, the company’s senior vice president of video, says there’s no one length that works for their brands, which appeal to both lean-in and lean-back audiences. While they’ve done well with shorter videos that complement text-based content, they have also seen success with short-form documentaries. McCabe said that Time is “putting a model in place to monetize video on our own sites and create the ability for demand-side marketing to capitalize on the shift from TV to online video.” Given the company’s recent hiring of Mark Ellis in the newly created role of senior vice president of corporate sales, monetization is clearly high among its online video priorities and they are exploring a wide range of solutions to that end.
Demand for video far outpaces supply at Slate, according to Anthony DeMaio, the company’s associate publisher and vice president of national sales. However, rather than invest further in video creation, the company has taken a different route to increase its video-related revenue by partnering with Teads to incorporate “outstreaming” advertising into its text-based content, which runs between paragraphs on article pages. The video ad only plays when 50% or more of the ad is in view and sound is user-initiated. For Slate, this addresses viewability concerns and gives the site “life beyond pre-roll”.
NewsBeat Social, on the other hand, went all-in on video from the start, producing more than 50 “snackable news” videos a day that are not more than a minute long. And, according to the company’s Director of Operations, Tyler Peterson, “something amazing happens when you put relevant engaging video down someone’s newsfeed… you get engagement by real people, not bots.”
Given that the majority of digital marketers plan to increase their digital advertising spend by 22% and, in particular, plan to migrate a portion of lucrative TV ad budgets to digital, and the fact that 90% of consumers are already watching video content online, it is no surprise these companies—and many others—are exploring ways in which to meet the demand from both marketers and consumers alike. Beilis from Accenture also said that video advertising supports higher eCPMs that are two to ten times greater than general display ads.
However Beilis also pointed out that inventory is not the only issue with growing online video revenue. Audience measurement remains a challenge, he says. He also advises organizations targeting this growth market to create robust first-party data and analytics infrastructure and employ market-leading ad delivery capabilities.
“Digital Content Next is the only trade association in the industry that solves problems for the content companies of today and the future.”
—opening remarks Jason Kint, CEO of Digital Content Next
In keeping with this vision, on November 4th, 2014 Digital Content Next and FirstMark Capital co-hosted their first-ever “Meet the Startups” event. Seven start-ups were given ten minutes each to talk about the problems publishers face today and how their companies are innovating to solve these problems now and in the future. The goal, according to Lawrence Lenihan, FirstMark Founder and Managing Director, was to provide an opportunity for DCN members to get to know how the technologies presented may affect and impact the media industry.
Lenihan called out several trends currently causing disruption and that he thinks publishers should be monitoring: mobile; brands are going direct to consumers; the internet of things, big data and the cloud. While most of these themes were touched upon throughout the day, the need to keep up with rapidly evolving consumer expectations around content discovery, consumption and delivery dominated the presentations. The FirstMark funded companies on the agenda were TapAd, Testfire, Pinterest, Artisan, Tubular, Disconnect, and NewsCred.
It certainly doesn’t’ come as a surprise that mobile and device proliferation continues to change user behavior, communication, consumption habits, content discovery and shopping. As such, many of the day’s featured startups address the evolving expectations of today’s consumers and the innovation required by publishers seeking to grow audiences in a crossplatform world.
Are Traasdahl, Founder and CEO, TapAd pointed out that today’s consumer moves seamlessly across devices up to 27x per hour. As content companies strive to be mobile-first (or mobile-only) and master mobile’s very different platform, they are investing a huge amount of resources. It is necessary, though, because Traasdahl says that the publishers with which TapAd has worked are seeing as much as 75% of traffic coming from mobile. He finds that a key focus for his company is helping publishers keep pace with consumer demand for content on any platform at any time and maintaining user experience and trust across these platforms.
And keeping pace is no small undertaking. According to Testfire founder and CEO Robert Chea, publishers are investing vast amounts on mobile app development. Companies like TestFire and Artisan aim to increase resource efficiency in these areas by offering their improved QA tools and “instant publishing” technology, which enables real-time modifications. These innovations are designed to improve consumer engagement and product satisfaction, and to free up developer resources and increase productivity.
TapAd’s Traasdalh noted that advertisers are also demanding better targeting, consistent messaging and cross-platform measurement–overall, improved results–from publishers. Their device-bridging solution that “connects a billion devices to individual consumers” provides advanced measurement and increases consumer satisfaction by enabling brands to create consistent experiences across devices.
While device proliferation provides a multitude of challenges for content companies, it also provides opportunities to stand out and improve user experience, which several of the startups also addressed. Smartphones and tablets provide consumers with additional hours of media consumption but in return, they are flooded with many more options. David Ives, CRO of NewsCred said that 200MM pieces of content are shared a day, 1.8 billion photos are uploaded, 500 million tweets are posted, and 400 million Snapchats are sent. Companies like NewCred are stepping in to aid in the process of content discovery and creation for both brands and publishers.
Citing a statistic that 70% of consumers prefer getting to know a company through content vs. advertisements, Ives pointed out that as brands strive to become publishers and connect with consumers through great storytelling, third-parties such as NewsCred are bridging the gap. The company offers a software platform in addition to content strategy, licensing and creation for brands and publishers.
Perhaps the best-known start-up of the day was Pinterest, which has had a big impact on the way users consume content via its visually-focused content discovery and sharing platform. Pinterest is growing as an important traffic driver for publishers, driving highly-qualified, passionate consumers to their sites. Rob Macdonald, head of Media Partners for Pinterest, emphasized the ways in which the platform can help publishers leverage evergreen content, plan editorial calendars and uncover additional audience insights.
Tubular is also focused on providing insights, in their case all focused on video content. Data, according to co-founder and VP Enterprise Allison Sterns, drives successful content offerings, distribution and promotion. The company works with brands and publishers to leverage YouTube data to create content that resonates; partner with aligned influencers; and effectively engage fans and advertise to the right audiences.
Perhaps one of the most disruptive startups on the agenda was Disconnect, which offers users an alternative paid browsing experience in which they control their personal data and keep their online activity private. While consumers increasingly offer information about their preferences through participation in social content, the increasing number of ways in which data is collected about them across the digital ecosystem has turned the subject of privacy into one of the most important technology discussions of the next decade, according to founding member and COO Gus Warren. For publishers, the Disconnect solution decreases the “leverage” held by Google, Facebook, etc. and drives higher CPMs by offering “private and secure advertising.”
These FirstMark startups are building their businesses by helping content companies such as A&E, RueLala, DIY, Vice, Jamie Oliver and Time Inc. keep up with a rapidly-changing consumer environment and market demand, increasing labor and workflow efficiency. The over-arching goal for these startups, it seems, is to help publishers better serve their customers demands and desires by improving content discovery, maintaining trust, and offering advanced analytics and consumer insights.
Jason Silva, host of National Geographic’s Brain Games, started off Content All Stars by pushing the audience out of their comfort zone so that they were ready to gain a fresh perspective on the power of awe to prompt innovation.