Sydney Finkelstein is a professor at the Dartmouth business school and focused on what makes great leaders great. In his new book, Superbosses, Finkelstein looks far and wide for leaders who stand out by spawning another generation of leaders.
PopSugar sees 60 percent of its traffic from mobile. The challenge now is how to make money off it. With its fashion search engine, Shopstyle, mobile converts at only one-third the rate as desktop. The story’s not as bad but not great with its media business. Part of the reason, CEO Brian Sugar said, is that display advertising doesn’t work in mobile. In fact, PopSugar wants to rid its site of mobile banner ads by the end of next year.
Platforms are altering the media business, but not as much as some think, according to Omnicom’s Jonathan Nelson. The giant ad holding company doesn’t feel the need to build its own tech platforms or start investing in startups. Instead, Omnicom is focused on stitching together giant platforms for clients.
Wendy Clark, CEO DDB North America and former svp, sparkling brand center at Coke, is 29 days into her agency job. Clark said she wants to make the agency model more flexible and more collaborative. That'll also help keep talent around she said, adding that one big reason millennials leave the agency world is because they think they should be promoted faster and the current organizational chart does not allow for it.
Carrot Creative is unusual in that it is owned by Vice Media. It’s also unusual in boasting a 7 percent turnover rate. One of the secrets: Carrot’s partners bought a pizza place, Fornino’s, after selling to Vice, which enables them to keep staff happy with plenty of pizza and beer.
For Mindshare chief strategy officer Jordan Bitterman there's no question Snapchat is poised to join the ranks of the most important platforms. It has the audience, it even has the ad formats. What it doesn't have, Bitterman said, is the "foundational" ad infrastructure: the easy ability for advertisers to target specific user groups and to then measure how their campaigns have worked in a verifiable (and easily comparable) way.
User experience is about empathy for the end user, Barbarian Group’s Colin Nagy said on the Digiday Podcast. Many publishers miss that as they strive to churn pageviews and banner ad impressions. The result: navigating digital media is like walking on a sticky movie theater floor.
Former Wall Street Journal reporter Jessica Lessin started The Information, a Silicon Valley news site, on the premise that the business model for news is broken. Most publishers are dependent on ad revenue and therefore do whatever is needed to achieve big audience numbers rather than focus on providing real value. The Information instead relies on $399 annual subscriptions that allow its eight-person edit team to produce two deeply reported pieces a day.
Much has been said about the death of the big agency -- and even, the dumbing down of creative in a digital-first world. But Susan Credle, the incoming global chief creative at FCB, thinks the real issue isn't the death of the big agency, but the deterioration of quality of advertising.
Credle, who joined the Digiday Podcast this week, said that what she worries the most about isn't whether agencies will survive, but what needs to be done to go back to the days of great advertising is that agencies need to take seriously hard look at the immense amount of "offensive" garbage that they're putting out in the world.
"Just look at banner ads," she said. "We need less of them. We don’t even know how to break type on banner ads. It’s disgusting and offensive to me. There are words at the bottom of the left-hand corner for no reason. It’s not thoughtful. Advertising online needs to be like architecture. Sure, you can build a box that keeps you warm and provides shelter. But it drags down society because it's ugly. So you should put out actually beautiful architecture."
Agencies usually have discrete roles in the media world. They create ad or buy them, rarely both. But they always rely on media companies for distributing their messages.
Maybe that’s not how it should work. Jason Stein, CEO of 130-person social content agency Laundry Service, believes agencies are squarely competing with publishers, which are at heart brand content engines. Laundry Service, which was recently acquired by Wasserman Media Group, has launched a new unit called Cycle which is a media distribution are of 1,000 social media influencers and 1,700 athletes.
“BuzzFeed and Vice are our biggest competitors now and in the future,” Stein said on this week’s Digiday Podcast. “The only difference between what we’re doing and what BuzzFeed is doing is we’re using brands’ channels and people’s channels, and BuzzFeed is using BuzzFeed Video, BuzzFeed Food and so forth. But BuzzFeed executes media buys. They’re getting a content budget and they’re executing a media buy behind that content. So much of those views are through media.”
Vivian Schiller sees fallout coming in the shift of publishing to platforms like Facebook. It will favor not just those that are nimble but those that are larger. The key for publishers, the former head of news at Twitter said, is to focus on the interests of platforms, and where they align with the publisher’s.
About CEO Neil Vogel says modernizing the expert content site means focusing in on verticals. In 2015, it’s impossible to be all things to all people. So About plans to compete in key verticals like health, travel and lifestyle with specific properties. “You can make the case we’re on the wrong side of history. We were built for a different time.”
The rules of engagement between publishers and platforms continue to be written. John Battelle, a media industry veteran, believes the media world is in the midst of a period of “chaos,” as it navigates this uncertainty. Ultimately, however, Battelle is optimistic that processes and systems will come into place that don’t swing the balance of power too far in the platforms’ direction.
Advertising is in a bit of crisis right now, according to Unilever vp of global media innovation and ventures Babs Rangaiah. The chaotic shift from analog to digital has left too many players, too much uncertainty and frustrated consumers. What’s driving consumers to use ad blockers is what ails digital advertising: bad ads that create a poor user experience, hog bandwidth and sometimes infect devices with malware. The wake-up call could improve advertising, Rangaiah said.
Ian Schafer, CEO of Deep Focus, sees anyone who creates content for marketers as competition for agencies. That increasingly means publishers. The challenge for agencies is that publisher business models often entail offering creative as an add-on to distribution. That ends up driving down the cost of content marketing, he says.
It might seem like Facebook’s world, but GroupM chief digital officer Rob Norman said on the Digiday Podcast that advertisers still have questions about whether ads are even welcomed there. On video, in particular, advertisers struggle to compare impressions on Facebook with TV commercials. Those doubts will keep Facebook from competing for TV budgets, Norman predicted.
Mozilla content services VP Darren Herman talks about the Web's "oh shit" moment, where ad tech has gone wrong, and the real value of the ad blocking debate.
Ad dollars are shifting to programmatic channels. Ad blocking is on the rise. In an increasingly converging media landscape, everyone is your competition. But in this week’s episode of The Digiday Podcast, longtime consultant Wenda Harris Millard, president and COO of MediaLink, sees much to be hopeful about. Marketers are beginning to see the benefits of intelligent use of data. Programmatic can increase publisher CPMs. And while she’s concerned about ad blocking, she thinks it ultimately will result in fewer, better ads.
The past few months have been dizzying for big digital media upstarts, with BuzzFeed and Vox Media earning sky-high valuations and, just this week, Business Insider selling to Axel Springer in a deal valuing BI at near $450 million. They represent some amount of panic by traditional media companies behind all three deals, but they also represent a vindication for the early wave of digital media companies that had legions of doubters, according to Bryan Goldberg, co-founder of Bleacher Report and founder of millennial women’s site Bustle.
On this week’s Digiday Podcast, Cindy Gallop, entrepreneur and activist, discusses how to make change happen in the ad industry. Gallop, who consults agencies on changing processes, said often it’s the people at the top hampering change. White men who run holding companies have “zero interest” in reinventing advertising. They also have little interest in bringing more diversity to the industry. Gallop also said that women need to be hired in greater number if change is going to happen.
Marketers are suffering from an identity crisis, struggling to cope with the rapid changes in digital media and wonder if they (and their partners) are still relevant. Publicis Groupe chief strategist Rishad Tobaccowala sees this malaise behind the recent spate of giant media reviews, which are wrestling with issues beyond simply how to get more value from their media spending.
News publishers need to adopt a product mindset, according to Washington Post CIO Shailesh Prakash, which means starting from the question of what user need is being addressed — and then sweating all the small details in design, ease of use and speed that going into meeting that need.
Salon’s a vestige of a Web era long gone. It was launched in 1995 and has had money concerns ever since. But it has attempted a turnaround in recent years by focusing on a broader range of coverage, tech and mobile. Leading the charge is CEO (and CTO) Cindy Jeffers, who has injected more tech into Salon’s editorial. “Tech has been a key part of building the business over the past few years,” she said on this week’s Digiday Podcast.
Techmeme is a good case study in how utility and influence can result in real staying power. The site, founded in 2005, has somehow managed to remain a must-read in tech circles despite the rapid rise of Twitter. Gabe Rivera, Techmeme’s founder, said that Techmeme’s power is in its ability to find, filter and present news all around the Web. Unlike most publishers today, it’s managed to remain a destination.
This week's guest on the Digiday Podcast is creative chairman of Droga5, David Droga. Droga, who leads the indie agency network that has grown to over 400 employees, is obsessed with figuring out how creativity can live in the digital space. The problem, he told Digiday, is that agencies get caught up in trying to be innovative because they feel they have to. "Just because an option exists doesn’t mean you have to do it," he said.