Evolve Media’s Evolution Into Video

BrianFitzgeraldLifestyle content publisher Evolve Media is evolving its ad formats along with its publishing assets.

Evolve historically competed with such vertical media and ad services hybrids as Say and Federated Media, beginning originally as a blog network. Over the last 15 years, it has acquired 50 vertical interest and publisher assets (sites like Crowd Ignite and BabyAndBump), according to its cofounder and president Brian Fitzgerald, investing also in performance marketing and publisher technology.

Evolve will likely acquire more content providers generating between $5 to $15 million in revenue, Fitzgerald noted. And it will increase its emphasis on video. In 2011, Evolve Media rolled out an ad-supported video distribution platform and services group, SpringBoard Video. As part of that platform, Evolve is beta-testing a native video ad format, called INgage, with three advertisers. The format launched last Wednesday.

“You have such a march to market by agencies and advertisers to buy and audit on a viewability metric that many are utilizing multiple vendors and they’re asking publishers to be judged by or held accountable to methodologies, measurements and results that are completely independent or unverified,” Fitzgerald said.

But when publishers are faced with multiple third-party audits, they are unable to audit their own inventory, make forecasts around what is and isn’t in view and package and optimize their own inventory. This places them at “a real disadvantage,” Fitzgerald said.

Google’s Active View viewability product, recently accessible to publishers, illustrates Fitzgerald’s point.

“Yes, it’s nice to have independent products like DoubleVerify out there and to have those reports, but then I have to go manually go back and try to cross-reference, optimize and manage ad delivery against different third-party sets of numbers,” he said. It’s in the publisher’s interest to integrate viewability tools into their ad stacks, which is why Evolve introduced INgage.

Video viewability measurement is complex. Although the Media Rating Council recently lifted its advisory on buying video impressions on the basis of viewability, there are discrepancies between different delivery standards such as the Video Player Ad-Serving Interface Definition (VPAID) or the Video Ad-Serving Template (VAST).

“The market is hard because everyone prices on a CPM, it runs out of view and advertisers are paying for impressions they’ve never seen,” Fitzgerald said “We’re pricing [INgage] on a Cost-Per-Engagement model, and we’re saying that we will not charge you unless at least 25-50% of the ad has been viewed, depending on the length of the ad, and measure against an engaged audience.” Evolve claims its INgage unit is Nielsen OCR, VAST and VPAID-compliant. Its initial publisher integrations include branded entertainment sites CraveOnline and TotallyHer.

Although INgage is in beta on Evolve owned-and-operated sites, “we are in discussion with a number of large, independent publishing groups that don’t have their own video platform,” Fitzgerald said. “Many of them are using third parties like Ooyala or BrightCove, so we’re in talks with them to offer this on a SaaS basis to those publishers down the road.”


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