A $100 Million Retail Media Upstart; Publishers Are AMPing Down

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Swiftly Goes The Retail Long Tail

The retail media startup Swiftly raised $100 million, on top of $20 million raised since 2019. It’s an eye-popping number, despite no valuation, and will cheer other retail advertising startups that hope smaller chains can seize the Amazon opportunity.

Swiftly’s co-founders previously started Symphony Commerce, an ecommerce management tech for large CPG brands. After Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods, retailers started reaching out to create their own online platforms. “We looked at the space at the time and thought, ‘Well, gosh, this is a big market opportunity,’” Henry Kim, Swiftly’s co-founder and CEO, tells AdExchanger. 

Amazon is the go-to retail advertising example … $31 billion in a year will do that. Walmart and Target also recently disclosed ad revenue for the first time, clearing $2 billion and $1 billion, respectively. 

The question is whether regional or even smaller national chains can capitalize. 

Swiftly works with retailers such as Family Dollar and Save Mart Supermarkets. Go to a Family Dollar, Save Mart or any Kroger banner and you’ll be amazed at how many shoppers use a phone number at checkout, Kim says.

Digital media would kill for those email submission rates. 

Brick-and-mortar is accustomed to playing defense, at least compared to ecommerce, which is always on the attack. But retail tech can be “democratized,” according to Kim. “What brick-and-mortar retailers have is very difficult for larger, pure-play ecommerce retailers to compete with,” he says.

AMP Unplugged

Enthusiasm for Google AMP is waning (to say the least).

New survey results commissioned by the publishing trade org DCN point to flagging faith in Google’s Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP). The majority (96%) of news publishers currently use or have used Google AMP – but 57% are reevaluating its use and 48% have either stopped or will soon stop using it entirely, according to a survey of DCN members conducted this year.

DCN member pubs say they adopted AMP for faster load times and the promise of better search results.

One of the main reasons behind the migration away from Google AMP is growing distrust of Google’s influence and tactics. Recently unredacted court documents from Texas’s antitrust case against Google shed light on how the company (allegedly) tampered with auction dynamics and artificially boosted AMP results by deprioritizing non-AMP links and allegedly even throttling non-AMP site loads.

The Wall Street Journal reported last month that Vox Media, BuzzFeed, Complex and BDG are testing their own mobile-optimized page solutions to phase out dependence on AMP. Based on these DCN survey results, that list is only set to get longer.

Changing The Channel

Back in the day, an entertainment studio sales leader would distribute content to owned-and-operated networks and channels like DVD sellers, Blockbuster and iTunes. If a show was syndicated to other channels, everybody got rich. 

Now the job involves selling content “across a multitude of partners,” according to Mark Garner, EVP of global content sales and business development at A+E Networks, speaking to Digiday. And that’s underselling the word “multitude.” 

Studios with shows in production and valuable content libraries are figuring out a complicated calculus that involves subscription stickiness, licensing versus ad-supported or subscription revenue, new competitive tensions, including within a company, and shifting dynamics when it comes to what people watch online.

One A+E show, “Kings of Pain,” for example, which chronicles pain tolerance rates in different countries, was a dud on the History Channel and would have been canceled after one season, Garner says. But it took off with digital viewers and is now produced specifically for streaming media.

Broadcasters have also shortened distribution deal terms. Studios once preferred longer terms, which meant reliable income. Today, they’re more inclined to cut short deals in case a show happens to blow up on Netflix or Amazon Prime and, all of a sudden, immense value starts accruing to their co-opetition.

But Wait, There’s More!

Shopify launches Linkpop, a “link in bio” tool with shoppable links for social creators. [Coywolf News]

Apple has to try harder now. [NYT]

WideOrbit and Comscore expand on efforts to automate linear TV advertising. [TV Tech]

Ampersand amps up its TV ad targeting data features for local campaigns. [B+C]

Stagwell’s high Q4 earnings were driven by $75 million in new business. [Adweek]

You’re Hired!

Outside Interactive names its first chief content officer, Amy DuBois Barnett. [release]

DeepIntent expands its team to focus on pharma’s CTV advertising shift. [release]

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