Thrillist Brings In Digital Publishing Vet Anderman To Steer Native Ads, Mobile

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Todd AndermanEarlier this week, Thrillist Media Group, publisher of a young men’s local lifestyle guide network and e-commerce app, brought in digital ad sales vet Todd Anderman as the company’s president of sales, marketing and operations. Most recently the chief media and revenue officer of mobile ad targeter Jumptap, Anderman spent much of the past decade working for traditional media, including serving as SVP, digital media at HFMUS, and, before that, as the president of Dennis Digital, where he built the online and mobile businesses for Maxim along with Dennis’ other brands.

In his new role, Anderman is expected to bring the relationships he cultivated with major print advertisers over the years to a sensibility that will be increasingly geared towards evolving ideas around native advertising, and a “holistic” approach to content and marketing, particularly around social media and mobile. He spoke with AdExchanger about his goals in those areas.

AdExchanger: One of the big topics publishers and advertisers are interested in these days is the idea of Native Advertising.  What’s your take on the trend as you get started with Thrillist?

TODD ANDERMAN: Like anything else, it’s good if done well. That is really one of the unique opportunities here at Thrillist, which is all about recommending to guys how they should spend their time and money. It’s not just about throwing up an ad unit around that kind of content, though those opportunities do exist. It is about finding out from marketers what product they have that should be recommended to our audience.

The challenge is how do we write about that in the Thrillist tone? Secondly, how do we do it from a tightly integrated perspective, where it is a value to the subscriber and to the user of our properties and those who attend our events. Really make it part of the whole process where it becomes part of the recommendation of how they spend their time and money.

Is the challenge eased by the e-commerce aspect of Thrillist’s sibling site/app, Jack Threads? How do you maintain the balance between editorial, which as you say is about recommendations, not a thumbs up-or-down review, and an advertiser’s message?

There are really a couple of different aspects to the business here that are very attractive for a media company. Obviously, one aspect of it is content but the other aspect is commerce. We build a lot of product through Jack Threads and Thrillist is a lot of our own product but we also have the ability to sell other product as well. That unique combination of content and commerce and doing it through recommendation of product, I think is very exciting.

As you say, Native Advertising when done well is fine. When it’s not, it’s not. How do you ensure that the native ads you run are in fact “good?”

We have a great content team that produces all of the editorial for our properties as well as for our advertising partners. The idea is to do it from an editorial perspective so that it completely resonates with the users, as opposed to marketing messages that comes purely from outside.

About five months ago, former Maxim editor Keith Blanchard was brought in as Thrillist’s chief content officer. Among his roles are developing programs for advertisers that integrate them in to the site, and at the same time, maintaining that voice that makes tremendous sense from an editorial perspective because he is an editor.

If we make sure that you start with a complementary message to the content we run, it actually becomes the content. To the user, it is just as valuable as any other piece of content. This is something that is challenging to achieve, but we’re in a very good position with Keith and his team. These are real editors that have spent their lives building content that appeals to readers, now producing similar material for advertisers.

So where is the line drawn between the ads and the content?

We will clearly differentiate between the two for the user. If something is directly coming from an advertiser, we want to make sure it is of the same quality of the content that we are producing for editorial.

Apart from further developing Native Advertising, what are your other goals as you settle into the post?

Obviously, we are going to look at a number of opportunities. One of the areas that is naturally important for the company – and for everyone else these days – is mobile. The best way to describe the interaction between the Thrillist guide and the Thrillist demographic, is that the audience generally has a smartphone in one hand and a credit card in the other.

This is a guy who is on the go and is getting his information on the phone. He is getting his daily emails from Thrillist on his phone, but he is in the mindset when he is interacting with Thrillist and is looking for something to do— where am I going tonight; what am I going do this weekend; I need something to buy for XYZ event? There’s this combination of using the mobile device, plus an openness to look for recommendations because they want to spend their time and money the best way possible, that makes them rely on the brand to figure it out.

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