Men's Sporting Vertical Scout Media Taps Big Digital Talent With An Eye On Programmatic

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ramsey-scoutScout Media is pulling together an A-team of digital talent in the wake of founder James Heckman's repurchase of the business from Fox/News Corp.

The new leadership, including Ross Levinsohn as executive chairman and Ramsey McGrory as EVP of programmatic and media partnerships, will help build Scout into a larger content and commerce play with programmatic at the core.

Scout is a men's interest vertical media company focused on football, golf, baseball, hunting, fishing and military themes. It was created from both the reacquisition of Scout.com from Fox, which purchased it from Heckman in 2005, and the print publisher North American Membership Group.

Scout boasts 300 websites, 35 magazines and three TV shows reaching an audience of 21 million. Its annual revenue is north of $100 million, half of which is derived from ecommerce.

Levinsohn, the interim Yahoo CEO before Marissa Mayer was picked to fill that role, most recently ran Guggenheim Digital Media, the investing vehicle that owns The Hollywood Reporter and Adweek. He will be executive chairman of Scout, which he once oversaw as president of Fox Interactive Media.

Another key hire is that of McGrory, the former CEO of Yahoo's Right Media exchange and more recently AddThis. McGrory will be EVP of programmatic and media partnerships, leading everything to do with programmatic ad sales, data, audience products, content distribution and partnerships.

Scout management believes the company has a big opportunity to ramp up commercial offerings – like sports paraphernalia and fishing trips to its male-dominated audience – in part by leveraging programmatic tools.

"Like many premium publishers, programmatic is new for Scout, but I think it goes well beyond the simple non-guaranteed inventory strategy or reach extension," McGrory said. "I believe programmatic means the fusion of technology and data to deliver great ad, content and commerce experiences for consumers."

McGrory said that could mean leveraging programmatic technologies to support the audience buying efforts of endemic sports brands, or national advertisers seeking to reach a broader male demographic. What it doesn't mean is selling on the open exchange.

"What we’re not going to be doing much of is RTB or open marketplace auctioning. Our focus is elsewhere, and the risks associated are simply still too high," he said. "We will strike private marketplace partnerships with advertisers and agency trading desks, and those will be part of larger partnerships we have in place."

Other notable hires at Scout include those of Chief Revenue Officer Ben Madden, former president of Maxim; Chief Operating Officer Mark Stieglitz, a former product guy at Yahoo; and SVP of marketing Freddie Laker. Most of the new hires have at one time or another worked with Heckman, who has founded and sold some splashy startups including 5:1, which Yahoo bought in 2011 for $30 million.

McGrory shared more on Scout’s data assets and its programmatic strategy.

AdExchanger: What is the state of play with Scout's programmatic activities today? What's the opportunity both for programmatic sales and buying, i.e., "reach extension?"

RAMSEY MCGRORY: Like many premium publishers, programmatic is new for Scout, but I think it goes well beyond the simple non-guaranteed inventory strategy or reach extension. I believe programmatic means the fusion of technology and data to deliver great ad, content and commerce experiences for consumers. Scout already has unique content, a membership business and significant ecommerce.

Where will Scout make in-house investments in technology and where will it partner?

We're doing both aggressively. We are in a new era of digital publishing and there are a lot of larger technology companies focused on how to integrate ads, content and commerce into premium vertical publishers with scale.

Scout has an amazing content curation and distribution system that allows over 1,000 journalists to publish their content daily.  We’re going to own that piece. We’re partnering on core ad serving (DoubleClick), video ad serving (LiveRail), ecommerce (Magento) and email (Silverpop). We’ll continue to evaluate technology and partners as we execute on our plan.

Talk about the Scout data set. What are the use cases for how you can leverage that data for content development, advertising and off-site placements?

In an AdExchanger article on data, I talked about different types of data in the marketplace. Across Scout’s advertising, membership and ecommerce businesses, we have significant amounts of anonymous and personal data. I think we’re just at the beginning of figuring out how to use data to create awesome experiences for consumers. Our average user session is six-plus minutes, so we don’t have engagement issues. Our focus will be on leveraging data to attract more users and engage them deeply in their passions. We want that fan who comes to read a story about Tom Brady getting injured (again) to come back everyday, buy football gear from us, then get hooked on our fishing content and take a trip to Montana with his daughter and son outfitted by us.

What sources of advertiser demand are a fit that aren't already in Scout's advertising mix?

There are three types of advertisers who are interested in Scout. First, endemic advertisers want to be where their most passionate potential customers are. For example, Orvis or Barbour advertising on our fishing and hunting sites. Second, national advertisers who want to be in front of our passionate audiences. For example, McDonald’s or Nike sponsoring our fantasy football and football recruiting centers. Last, those advertisers who have broad target audiences and believe our user experience, targeting and price is right. We do endemic well, are focusing hard on national advertisers and leveraging programmatic for the audience-driven advertisers.

What we’re not going to be doing much of is RTB or open marketplace auctioning. Our focus is elsewhere, and the risks associated are simply still too high. We will strike private marketplace partnerships with advertisers and agency trading desks, and those will be part of larger partnerships we have in place.

 

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