VP Steinberg Says Fox News Looking To Out Innovate The Competition Starting With Audience-Focused Media Products

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Jeremy Steinberg, Fox NewsJeremy Steinberg is VP, Digital Sales & Business Development, FOX News Network. He recently discussed his views on the digital advertising around audience-based buying and display advertising.

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AdExchanger.com: Is innovation in the data-driven, digital advertising world affecting your strategy at FOX News?

JS: It's definitely affecting our strategy and in a positive way. I think it's good for our business and I can see two marketplaces developing. You have the premium-branded budgets that advertisers have, and then you have the more commoditized exchange‑based, real time bidding DSP world. Our strategy is to play in both in a big way. I think data plays in both. We're actively working with AdMeld and with Google Ad Exchange. Specifically with AdMeld we're very proactive with how we manage data, and how we price data, and who can access data.

On the national side, we have a product that we launched called FOX News Plus, which basically is a host of new data and technology services which will really maximize advertiser effectiveness across FOX News.

Do those break out between guaranteed and non‑guaranteed offerings, if you will?

Right now, FOX News Plus is only guaranteed. What we've done is - and I say this as much as I possibly can - that data is great, technology is great, but so is brand. I think advertisers are looking for quality content and an engaged audience, but they like the technology that ad networks and DSPs offer. As a premium publisher like myself, I'm going to give them both. That's the direction that I'm headed in.

People come to me - they want my audience, they want my content. And what we do is we come up with unique opportunities around our content, around our users, but also utilizing technology to help target their specific audience needs.

What I like to say is FOX News has always provided a premium and engaged audience that performs for our partners. By adding FOX News Plus, we're going to continue to offer the same quality audience and advertiser experience. But we're adding all these new data points to maximize the effectiveness of any campaign and to reach their target audience, which is something that they're more prone to want to do today.

What do the FOX News Plus products look like?

Right now, we're working with a host of third‑party data providers and managing it internally on a case by case basis.

There's three levels of service. There's FOX New Plus Audience, there's FOX News Plus Demo, and there's FOX News Plus Retarget.

Let's say we have an advertiser that comes to us and says, "I want early adopters of new gadgets." We'll create a custom audience for them: FOX News Plus Audience, Gadget Geeks.

Basically, we'll take psychographic information, like gadget lovers and technology professionals and intent‑based information as in "in-market for new gadgets." We'll marry them all together to create this gadget geek audience profile.

Is this just for FOX News inventory?

It's only on FOX News right now. We're not buying anything nor are we doing any targeting off of our sites right now.

But, what will happen is we'll have an advertiser that will want a very specific niche type of content, like the gadget section and we'll retarget those users across FOX News, which improves performance – this is FOX News Retarget.

The second product, level two, is demo. Someone comes to us and says they want to target moms. The solution is FOX News Plus, Demo Moms. We'll take demographic information, like gender and maybe we'll add in demographic information like "has kids." So pretty straightforward,

Here, certain advertisers are comfortable with certain data providers, others are comfortable with others. We obviously want to do what they're most comfortable with, but at the end of the day, I think they rely upon our best judgment to create these segments for them. That's kind of what we're doing now, we're using some thought, we're weaving it into everything that we do.

What happens on the back end here? What can you say about the technology involved here?

Right now, it's a manual process. We have been looking for the past year for the right technological solution to make this more of an automated process.  In the very near future, I'll be able to announce that we've partnered with a best-in-breed technology vendor who is going to help us create the next iteration of our FOX News Plus product.

And with it will be enhanced targeting, and most importantly, unique insights which we can then take to our advertising partners and we can tell them information that they otherwise would not have known. My hope is it changes the game for us. Because up until this point, most advertisers know more about my audience than I do, because they're getting information from ad networks and from their own first party data.

I've been able to sell them on... We have a great audience. But what I haven't been able to provide them is the insights that they couldn't otherwise get, and in the very near future, I will. That is a major advantage for me moving forward as a premium publisher, because this is something that ad networks and DSPs won't be able to get.

I'll be able to go to an advertiser and tell them, "Hey look, you thought this was your target. Well, you know what? We actually see that these other people are engaging with your ads. Maybe we should start targeting more to them?"

Is there an area where you're thinking this is going to be particularly applicable among your clients?

I don't see why it couldn't work for any category.

Do you see a brand or a direct response side to this? Or do you see both?

Initially, it will be for our national advertisers, but I do see a DR side to this down the road. We are very active in the RTB space. We're probably one of the first premium publishers to really dive into this in a big way. We've been doing it for well over a year, we've just been a little quiet about it. But we've had a private network for almost 18 months and we've seen a huge uptick in interest from day one. It's been growing ever since. I see an opportunity to provide some unique learnings and targeting capabilities to not only all RTB buyers, but specifically the agency trading desks.

Stepping back a bit, do you feel that it’s getting easier for you to try to understand the guaranteed and non‑guaranteed opportunities and establish a rate card?

Yes. And it's getting easier every day. I'd venture to say that two years ago, it was very difficult to wrap our head around a remnant business. Now we've flipped it, and we are very confident in our ability to monetize our site, both nationally and through remnant. I do not see it being cannibalistic either, because both parts of our business are growing.

But, my stance and my strategy has been to-date that I'm not going to shut myself off and just focus on national. What I'm going to do is I'm going to out innovate. And I'm going to keep giving advertisers a reason to buy me direct. And I'm going to be the most advanced, from a technology perspective, to be the best at remnant and real-time bidding. And that's what we've done. Things that we're learning in remnant, we're applying to national, and vice versa.

But the digital marketplace is way too inefficient. So, all of my agency partners are trying to figure out a way to make buying digital media easier, which will hopefully speed up the transition of dollars from offline to online. And if they can't figure it out, the money won't shift.

So this is the direction it's going. It may not be where we end up, but the idea of automating buying, to some extent, to reduce the cost of buying, is what people are fixated on right now. I don't see why I should fight it. I want to be the best at it.

Do you still see the 80/20 revenue breakdown between what you expect on the custom and guaranteed side versus what you expect on the non‑guaranteed side, which I would associate with the 20 percent?

We have a massive site. We do close to a billion page views a month. It's virtually impossible to sell the entire site out to national. I would venture to say, I don't know if we're at exactly 80/20, but the majority of our revenue is national.  But that 20, let's say 20, 30 percent, makes up a lot of revenue.

Do you see your remnant business growing down the road?

Well, all of our revenue is growing. The mix within my remnant business is shifting. I have multiple ways of generating revenue in my remnant business. It used to be ad network heavy, and now it's shifting to exchange and real-time bidding in a material way.

Is this momentum affecting your staffing at all?

So we've been investing in both parts of our business, the national direct guaranteed business, and the remnant business. So we're adding in both areas.

But what do think about mobile and video these days, and how that's going to fit into your sales strategy?

Obviously, we're a video company at our core, so video is a very important part of our business. There is a ton of demand, so unfortunately we cannot fill all of the requests we have from our ad network partners. But I would say over the next six to 18 months, we'll probably see a dramatic increase in our video volume. I think there will be a lot of demand on the national side, but especially being a news site where there's peaks and valleys, there will always be room for ad network partners, whether it’s direct or on a real-time bidding basis. The targeting is becoming more important in video. For a while it's been contextual targeting and now it's audience‑based targeting. That will change the business over the next 18 months, but we feel very well positioned.

And, mobile is exploding.  Our mobile website has grown from ‑ these are Nielsen numbers ‑ four million to 12 million over the past 13 months. Page views are in the 10s of millions. We've launched dedicated android apps for news and business. We've launched dedicated iPhone apps. We launched the FOX business iPad app, and in the very near future, we'll be launching a FOX News iPad app. We were the number one most downloaded free iPhone news app last year, and we launched in April.

We've seen a huge amount of advertiser interest, far greater than... Over the past 12 months, it has been far greater than the previous 12 months.

What are your thoughts about trying to take advantage of the local advertising opportunity?

I see local as a huge opportunity for us.

How biddable do you see things becoming? Can guaranteed become part of the real-time biddable world, for example?

I don't think real time bidding is going away any time soon. It will continue to grow. I think that it's simply too efficient of a means to place advertising dollars for clients. What will happen though, is publishers and buyers will get more sophisticated. And then what's going to happen is you're going to see the advent of premium marketplaces, and you're going to see the advent of futures. Ultimately, advertisers want leverage. They want to be able to use their buying power to get a better deal.

This new world doesn't allow them to do that. So what will happen is down the road, they'll come to people like me and they'll say, "Listen, I'm looking for XYZ audience. I want to buy it in advance." And then what you've basically developed is a futures market where my top advertisers have now used their buying power to out leverage their competitors and out leverage all the mom and pop shops that right now are on equal footing. But they'll be buying specific audiences based on either my data, their data, or third-party data. That's what's really exciting for me - when that happens. We're a ways away from it, but that's ultimately where I hope it goes.

How long do you think that will take?

There are instances where we're testing it now, but I think it's going to take some time for it to develop as an overall industry practice. There are a lot of technological hurdles.

Follow Jeremy Steinberg (@jeremysteinberg), Fox News (@foxnews) and AdExchanger.com (@adexchanger) on Twitter.

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