Rumble young man, rumble.
Dear Ad Tech Entrepreneurs: Please Don’t Start The 857th Mobile Ad Network or DSP. Start this.
Background: media companies (publishers) are always looking to grow their audience. In this era of larger entities growing larger and audience-based buying, scale is important and keeps a media entity relevant. Scale has cache: it can be a proxy for quality and market leadership. It’s better to say you reach more of “X” audience than anyone.
Problem: there are lots of ways to grow audience. Most of them – SEO, social, email subscribers – take time. There are others that are more direct, such as buying traffic. This can be a short term fix but have ramifications. We are seeing more and more articles about bots (non-human traffic) being a growing problem. And we are seeing that traffic from vendors are highly susceptible to bots. This is a problem on my number of levels. Not only is it fueling a bad part of the ecosystem, non-human traffic does not deliver high quality affinity users. The other way to attack this is some of the audience/content ad networks which get varying reviews in terms of audience quality. Again we are focused on the upper end of the market.
Startup idea: A closed premium audience development exchange. Call it a consortium of publishers who are frenemies or maybe even enemies. The reality of digital is that audiences move quickly. Get content, move to the next thing. So if a publisher is going to “lose” a user once they have finished reading an article or watching a video, why not use it as a biz dev opportunity? For example, a user who is ready to leave a Conde Nast property that matches the audience of a Hearst property would have the opportunity to discover similar content. Hearst would then reciprocate in a 1:1 relationship. I have no idea what the actual mechanism to do this would look like but have some ideas.
There you go. Rather than see the 857th mobile dsp, I would love to see someone tackle this problem. Feel free to throw tomatoes, give feedback or run with it… and if you do the latter, please let me know, I would love to help.EDIT: a couple of folks asked how this is different from audience/content networks like Outbrain (including the founder of Outbrain:) https://twitter.com/yarongalai/status/390664135480184832). I’ll use a digital media analogy. This would be a private exchange, if you will, versus an open exchange or network. Very focused and “premium”.
Constraint inspires creativity.
I used to take a laptop everywhere: to and from work, home with me on the weekends and when I went on the road for work or vacation.
Over the past year or so, especially as apps have gotten better, I find myself taking the iPad home most evenings instead of the laptop. However it has never felt quite right leave the laptop behind on a business trip for fear that I’d need access to a file or program.
So this week I decided to take a laptop-less trip as a trial. This was a low risk proposition, as I would be in Chicago and have access to a laptop if I really needed it at our office there.
Now that I’m back I can honestly say that I never missed having one. In fact it was pretty awesome not having to deal with it at the airport, taking a separate power cord and lugging it around town.
I used my iPhone for primary communication and the iPad for the rest. The following iPad apps were what I used to get the work done that I needed to:
OWA (Microsoft 365’s Outlook Web App) for email and calendar (plus it’s cloud based, allowing me to find files as I needed them)
Slideshark for reviewing and annotating presentations
Cloud On for spreadsheets (I prefer Office Mobile but it’s not on iPad yet)
iPad Notes app for taking notes and working on blog post
Plus the Kindle Cloud Reader for reading on the plane.
Now if I needed to do some hard core content creation (presentations or big excel-based projects) I might have been looking for a laptop, but I knew there was a low risk of that happening on this trip.
I think that between the apps and LTE connectivity, the iPad/iPhone combination is so good that the laptop is going to stay in the office from now on.
EDIT: Check out this profile of Jack Dorsey in the New Yorker. He seems to be a fan of the iPad as a primary device as well.
I do everything I can to break media
I thrive on failure. I thrive on things that are not perfect. It sends me back into the ring to get it right.
I use Tumblr for this blog for a few reasons: simplicity and ease of use, having a place to call “home” and park my personal domain, and honestly because I just like the layout (this is a premium template by the way). But I realize that most of my posts and content are not really “Tumbly”. They are geared towards a specific audience of mostly professionals.
So while my posts “live” here, I link them out to a number of places. And while Twitter is a must for amplifying content, increasingly I am finding LinkedIn to be the platform of choice.
In fact this week I had a real lightbulb moment when LinkedIn started showing stats on “Who’s Viewed Your Updates”. It’s similar to “Who’s Viewed Your Profile”, in fact it’s right underneath it on my homepage. I realize that this might be in beta. Essentially it gives you a look at the views and engagement of your posts.
I was very surprised at the reach of some of my latest posts. But if you think about how LinkedIn promotes content and the network effects of being being a degree away from tens of thousands of people at all times, it’s not surprising at all. And I’m not in the “Influencer” program, promoting them or anything like that.
The other thing that I find really interesting is LinkedIn’s SlideShare. I do a lot of presentations at conferences. In fact after teasing out a few slides for my last one at IAB MIXX during advertising week, I got a few requests for it, but it wasn’t recorded or posted by the IAB to my knowledge. So unless you were one of the 100 or 150 people in attendance during our track, you missed it.
So we created a version for SlideShare and posted it. A day later, with very little promotion (just a couple of Tweets) it was sitting at 500+ views. That’s 5x reach to a new audience in just a day. At no cost. Talk about content marketing.
And this is just for me as an individual. It gets even more interesting with the possibilities for a business with sponsored posts, etc. I think as a platform for thought leadership and PR for businesses LinkedIn is already an indispensable tool, and they have a chance to own this space very soon if they don’t already.
Yesterday I had the honor of being nominated to the Board of the Governors Island Alliance.
Governors Island is an incredible, historic part of New York City. It is the closest you can get to the Statue of Liberty and only a few hundred yards from the Brooklyn waterfront. Here are some amazing recent images.
You may know Governors Island from its summer concerts, parks, and arts and educational programs. And while those will continue to be a focus of development, there are a lot of questions on what comes next. There are historic buildings that can be developed and used for education, the arts or the hospitality industry.
This is where the Alliance comes in. The Alliance takes an active role in planning, building a constituency and fundraising. Upon visiting the Island, I was motivated by the idea of playing a part in the development of something special for future generations. I plan on leveraging my experience in digital media, technology and social media to help in a variety of ways. I am very excited.
During a panel at Advertising Week, moderator Adam Kasper asked: “How does a startup break through when their target is advertising agencies?” (You can see my answer here starting at 27:43)
It was a good question. Think about that fact that there is a fixed amount of time any agency person has to evaluate new opportunities while they are still managing accounts. Then think about the fact that are cumulatively 3,000 funded startups and public companies across the various LUMAscapes, all vying for attention. Breaking through the noise is not only important, it’s everything.
Over the years at Undertone I have been in the position of wanting to develop new relationships (less so today than in the beginning, but there are always new agencies, personnel and account changes) and talking to agency leaders about what works.
There are two tactics I have found to work incredibly well. I talked about them on the panel and will expand upon them below. Before getting into them, I am going to make a very big assumption that the startup in question has a good product and a differentiated market position. Without those it will be very difficult to get in the door, and the conversation won’t be very long once you are in. That said, here they are:
Rule # 1: You Only Need One
Someone once told me that you only need one customer to be in business. This is a phrase that stuck with me. It’s an interesting perspective to have with the agency business. Large agencies will have typically have a bunch of accounts. Depending on your model, some may not be a fit, some may be a fit, and a couple might be absolute no-brainers. And while the temptation to try to talk to everyone is understandable, DON’T.
My advice is to focus only on those that make sense. Give them a compelling reason to take the meeting. Really listen to what their needs are and if your offering needs a tweak or two to meet them, do it. Bend over backwards, service the hell out of them and make sure their campaign is a success. Make them a rock star at their agency. They will become evangelists and help you with other accounts within the agency. And hopefully turn into great case studies that can be used to win other business.
Start with one.
Rule # 2: Make People Smarter
One of the best things we ever did at Undertone back in 2007-2008, when there was a boom in ad networks (literally hundreds and hundreds of them!), was put together an “Ad Networks 101”. The space was moving quickly and agencies really wanted to understand the landscape, how the companies worked and how to evaluate them. We got a ton of mileage out of it and would present it anytime, anywhere. Sometimes to a few people, sometimes to 50+. By focusing on education we were able to elevate ourselves from the pack who was just looking to do a sales pitch and meet a lot of new potential clients. It was a total home run. Despite the fact that the slides themselves weren’t all that much to look at, in retrospect.
When I think about all the new and emerging categories today like big data, programmatic, social, mobile, etc. I think the opportunity is even more relevant. Don’t complain that buyers don’t “get” what you do… Do something about it!
Beyond the 101 presentation, I think ongoing education is extremely valuable. There are a lot of ways to do this that range from easy to more resource intensive. Sending relevant articles, compiling benchmark data for a custom post-campaign report, newsletters, doing surveys of your client base, developing an index that is reported on quarterly or yearly, etc.
Breaking through is hard. You will see that the common thread in both of the above is taking a long-term interest in adding value versus just going for the sale – another element that will separate you from the pack.
Last week in NYC was Advertising Week. I gave one presentation and participated on three panels. It was a busy, fun week.
One of the panels was really interesting. Advertising Week’s Nasdaq Venture Series brought together a group of us within the ad tech/media space to talk about a variety of topics. The video is posted here.
If you want to see my comments on various topics you can skip to them.
6:52 - I was asked about attribution but threw a little cold water on the previous comments about Rocket Fuel’s first days of IPO results “changing everything” (I eventually got to attribution).
15:23 - Mobile ad formats and why I am excited about them (one of my big topics all week).
22:43 - Industry consolidation - is it happening and what are the drivers behind it?
27:43 - My tips to media/tech sellers on breaking through to ad agencies.
33:32 - One of the things I am most excited about at Undertone for 2014: Media Labs.