Live Blog: Publisher Forum Columbia Gorge

Recap from Publisher Forum

Today marks the hottest day of the year here outside of Portland at the Columbia Gorge. Today also marks our first day of sessions at Publisher Forum. Coincidence? Maybe. But, we like to think the blazing ad ops leaders in the house had something to do with the record heat. Stay tuned (from the comfort of your air-conditioned room) to this page as we live blog our 33rd Publisher Forum from Skamania, Washington. 

KEYNOTE: A Consumer-Based Publisher Strategy, Deanna Brown, President, Byliner

9:27 a.m – Deanna Brown, President at Byliner takes the stage to chat about a new take on ad-supporting publishing. “When I think about the business going forward – I’ve been a CEO, I’ve worked with [editorial] – I’m here to get you guys engaged.” Today’s first keynote is about content, not programmatic or ad data. 

9:28 a.m. – Going beyond the ad: Brown will discuss why contemporary publisher revenue strategies have to look at alternative revenue models. Autheniticity is crucial: “You’ll get in trouble if you’re not authentic.” 

9:30 a.m. – Content, content, content? How about some context: But, it’s not simply about the content, it’s also about the context. Content on Facebook is going to look much different thant it will on Pinterest, or on Twitter, etc. (“[And], it better,” says Brown.) 

9:32 a.m. – Oreo and the Super Bowl: “They have a news-based team about a cookie.” How a simple marketing ploy can makes moves because of context. 

9:33 a.m. –  Google homepage: “It’s hands down the best user experience design in the planet because it ultimately does one thing – It cares about the user,” Brown says. User-centricity, Brown also describes Uber‘s app interface as a perfect example of user-centric utility. 

9:36 a.m. – Let’s chat ads: We know about the demise of the banner all too well. Why do we dogpile the media on something that struggles? But, there’s still a lot of creative and promise in advertising. But, it’s going back to the user and the context that’s going to save the ad. 

9:44 a.m. – Engagement: It’s not so much about the ‘click’, it’s about engagement – “It’s not something you do, it’s something you are,” says Brown.

9:50 a.m. – On multiple revenue streams: If you’re not looking at multiple revenue streams, you’re not doing it right, says Byliner’s Deanna Brown. 

9:52 a.m. – Subscriptions matter: Even if you’re the most venerable brand on the planet, you still have to tell consumers why they need you. In-app purchases, freemium model are both very successful modes of subscription. Ease of use, timing, crucial to subscription numbers today.

9:58 a.m. – Bringing content and e-commerce together: Dwell magazine: we don’t pack, we don’t sell, we curate., they represent other products, as well as manufacture their own products, and partner with complementary manufacturers. Markkit: commerce, communication and entertainment all rolled into one; Markkit uses YouTubers and users to drive fashion commerce. 


4:38 p.m. – “I spent a lot of time talking to people,” says Melissa Bertram on how she learned to navigate the ad ops space. “We give [advertisers] a point of view; helping them understand.” “If you don’t want to be a team of order-takers, you have to be proactive,” Bertram says.

4:39 p.m. – “We benefited a great deal from the traditional [media] structure,” says Discovery’s Elizabeth Hobby. “I think it’s the evolution of, ‘yes I can do this,’ ” says PGA TOUR’s Raef Godwin. You become a lot more – i.e., sales ops and revenue ops, Godwin points out. 

4:41 p.m. – “Does programmatic change the dynamic,” asks Rob Beeler, Content Czar, 8 Meter Media. Instead of causing friction, it’s trying to understand the role of the salesperson that is critical to ad ops’ day-to-day operation. 

4:44 p.m. – “There should be a natural tension between operations and sales; and, if there isn’t, someone’s not doing their job correctly,” Bertram says.

4:46 p.m. – “The most important thing you can do as a manager is keep your eyes and ears open; nuture talent and listen to what they says,” Hobby says. “You need that feedback [as you move farther and farther away from the nuts and bolts]. It’ll give your team a voice – if you don’t give them a voice, they’ll walk away quickly.” 

“If you don’t let the guy before you figure it out; they’ll never let you go.” You won’t be able to grow career-wise yourself, says Bertram. 

4:48 p.m. – We’re striving for automation. And, each of these automations takes more and more people. But, we’re accomplishing more, says Godwin. It’s now crucial to have the strategic components of your team grow. 

4:51 p.m. – “From my point of view, the way we’re structured – we’d say ‘advertising operations’, but we inform [more],” says Hobby. “There was a natural split, where [the company] had to built out a team for these new functions.” 

4:55 p.m. – “You were at the very first Publisher Forum, what were the topics then?” asks Beeler. “Well, inventory management for one things,” Hobby says. “And, process workflow – how do you structure your workflow from deal to execution. Those were the big ones, really.” 

4:56 p.m. – “It was the early days of the real jelly of the ad server,” says Hobby. 

4:58 p.m. – “The first five years I was in ad operations with KBB, I didn’t go to events. I made up all of the processes myself, Bertram says. “When I found out about AdMonsters, I remember arriving and I remember thinking, ‘These are my people.'” 

“For me, I love the comparing and I love the sharing; and, how I get the most out of it [AdMonsters] is exactly that,” Bertram adds. “I feel like you give what you get; and, I try to give because I still have questions.” 

4:59 p.m. – “Your role models became your peer group [at AdMonsters], Godwin notes. 

KEYNOTE PANEL: The Next Transformation for Media Companies, Martin Nisenholtz, Adjunct Professor, Columbia University 

9:20 a.m. – “I very quickly began to love the product piece,” mentions Nisenholtz as we begin our morning keynote. The panel begins with an anecdote of one of the first interactive product launchs in the country. In 1995, Nisenholtz moved to The New York Times to begin NYTimes digital, i.e.,

9:25 a.m. – Broadcast is still a big business today because it’s very hard to amass an audience that big. But, can interactive match broadcast sometime in the future? 

9:27 a.m. – “It’s very unheatlhy for media businessed today to have one revenue stream,” Nisenholtz says. “To have a website with one revenue stream; it’s doable, but it’s very, very risky.” There’s a big difference between an article on a website and user-generated content in the way it appears on a Facebook feed – advertisers seem averse to putting value on types of placement, Nisenholtz says. 

9:30 a.m. – From the end of the dot-com bust to the recession, digital publishers were growing at double digits every year. If you look at it through that visiton, there was light at the end of the tunnel, says Nisenholtz. But, that single revenue tactic no longer floats in the post-recession online publisher world, Nisenholtz contends. 

9:32 a.m. – “For those of us that have been doing it for a long time; it was clear 30 years ago that digital was about advertisers becoming content providers, Nisenholtz says. “The Ford website is about Ford being a content provider.”

9:37 a.m. – On viewability “This notion of trust, which is bubbling to the top, it’s really the next thing,” says Nisenholtz. The bigger issue, however, is how do we move from simple automation to scalable trust, Nisenholtz contends. 

9:39 a.m. – “The word scale at Google is like a religious term,” Nisenholtz jokes .Very few publishers have scale, however. Even the NY Times is a relatively small player, even though it’s a very huge brand, Nisenholtz says. 

9:41 a.m. – In order to support your newsroom, you need revenue, you need advertising. The newsroom is a very big part of the revenue cycle, says Nisenholtz. And, advertisters/publishers have to take note. “How do you build the pipes that develop multiple revenue streams,” asks Nisenholtz. 

9:44 a.m – The largest buy in broadcast? House ads – broadcasters spend tons of money promoting their own content. “Why don’t interactive online publishers use house ads to promote subscriptions and other consumer revenue streams?” Nisenholtz asks. 

9:48 a.m. – “What used to be a kind of back office function is becoming much more strategic,” Nisenholtz says. “And, the more strategic it becomes, the more opportunities for people in this room to grow into senior roles.”

“Now, it’s not about ad selling, it’s about the pipes that sell them,” Nisenhotlz adds.