New York Media is putting programmatic front and center.
The publication has long serviced programmatic deals yet didn’t tout them in market. But as programmatic becomes the dominant way to transact, New York Media hired Jeremy Fass in July to head its programmatic revenue operation. His mandate? Be proactive about programmatic, not reactive.
“Due to the shift in the marketplace and digital traffic growth, it made sense to focus on programmatic,” said Fass, who has logged time at Condé Nast, Facebook and PubMatic.
He’s using a programmatic playbook to get New York Media’s existing deals to run more smoothly, identifying how to supercharge advertisers’ campaigns with its data and adding new partners.
The changes at New York Media go beyond its programmatic business. A dynamic paywall is starting to gate content. The publisher, once focused on covering the New York market, now engages a bigger and broader audience as its titles, including The Cut, Vulture and other blogs, attract readers interested in fashion and culture. And the family operation may be up for sale.
- Giving programmatic buyers better access: New York Media historically allowed remnant inventory to be sold programmatically. But Fass upended that approach to give programmatic buyers a higher priority: “If you are a marketer with an always-on strategy and looking for specific audiences or frequency cap based on machine learning, programmatic is not remnant.” Programmatic and direct buyers are now prioritized equally. “We do things like reserve inventory for programmatic partners and reserve priority to ensure that our marketers are prioritized effectively.”
- Bringing a human touch to programmatic deals: When Fass joined New York Media, he examined its existing deals and figured out how to make them work better. Beyond technical troubleshooting, he’s improving communication about deals. “Traders are busy. You have to share response rates and win rates and figure out what the upside is [for them],” Fass said. If he can help buyers learn how to win more inventory, New York Media benefits, too.
- Making open-marketplace deals more effective: Many buyers use open marketplaces, so Fass created rules by geo, device and ad size. “We have seen a large improvement in CPMs by focusing on optimizing the open marketplace,” Fass said.
- Productizing first-party data: From The Strategist, its product-recommendation blog with an affiliate model, New York Media now understands its audience’s purchasing behavior and intent. With the help of its data science team, “we are looking at the ecommerce data we have and packaging that.”
Run-of-site deals are de-emphasized in favor of ones that focus on specific content and audience segments. A technology client, for example, can run a branded content deal plus display ads served next to technology content to people who have consumed much technology content or those who have shopped for software. “We can serve to an audience to remove waste,” Fass said.
- Balancing ads with subscriptions: The introduction of a subscription business helps New York Media understand its readers better and can bring additional data to bear for its advertisers. But it also comes with more responsibility. New York Media is thinking about how and if an ad experience might differ for subscribers. The audience development team is learning from its advertisers how to balance branding and direct response messaging and use its own tools (such as branded content and reader behavior data) to build its subscriber base.
- Testing new partners and modernizing infrastructure: Fass is conducting a performance analysis of existing partners and shopping for new tech partners to add next year. “We are very much focused on finding strategic partnerships for 2019,” he said, with the goal of having the optimal stack to drive yield.
While many publishers are paring back the number of partners they work with, New York Media is moving in the opposite direction to round out a lean set of partners to foster competition and better serve advertisers. “We’d like to do more business with fewer partners, but Facebook has unique demand [and] Amazon has unique demand,” Fass said. “These platforms – and anyone with unique demand – are whitespace for us.”