Supply-Side Insider:There have been a lot of changes at Time Inc. recently, including the elimination of the publisher title. What’s the thinking here?
Mark Ellis: It’s part of a broader organizational structural change that we started making back in January, where we’re aligning brands together and creating category sales teams. As part of this reorganization, we were looking at the title of publisher, which everyone thought was fairly antiquated, because it denoted a print-centric company. We’re moving to being a digital-first company and we wanted the titles and sales structure to reflect that.
SSI: Does the new structure change the way agencies will interact with Time Inc.?
ME: Part of the benefit will be that we’ll have less people calling on them because they’re representing a wide portfolio. If an agency wants to go deep with one of our brands, we still have an organization that can do that, but also one that can handle much wider requests more efficiently.
SSI: Have you had a positive response to these changes from clients and agencies?
ME: We talked to a lot of our customers over the course of the last year prior to announcing the first changes in January, asking how we can be better partners, and the feedback was that they wanted data- and insights-driven ideas. They also wanted us to know their business better -- rather than them having to knowing our business better -- as well as a single point of contact and end-to-end solutions. These new structures support all those goals.
SSI:: What do the new “Centers of Excellence” do vis-à-vis clients and agencies? What authority do they have over individual Time Inc. brands?
ME: We centralized a lot of the activity that happened in pockets and silos across the company, like social and video. For example ,we had pockets of social activity across all the different brands, but now the brands can tap into the social center of excellence for a bigger program. So if they wanted to align, for example, with Travel + Leisure and Food & Wine, they can find out what it costs, where it’s distributed, how many impressions they’ll get. It’s a resource that’s available both internally and to clients.
SSI: What’s Time Inc.’s scale like on social media now?
ME: We’ve got more than 200 million people each month that follow our content on social media within the U.S., and we’re putting out over a thousand pieces of content on social media every day. Any piece of content will immediately go to six or seven social media platforms.
SSI: How big of a problem is ad blocking for Time Inc. currently? What are you doing to counter it?
ME: It is a small problem that has the potential to become a big problem. We’re working closely with the IAB and deploying a variety of techniques right now to address it, and we’re testing techniques like asking consumers to turn off their ad blockers or give us other kinds of information in return for content. We’re also making sure that our ads are light and encrypted and don’t slow down our page load times.
SSI: Roughly what proportion of Time Inc.’s ad sales are conducted programmatically at this point? Where do you see things going a few years from now?
ME: I can’t give you the exact number, but it’s a significant piece of our digital inventory that’s being sold programmatically, and growing. Down the road, some people are saying 50% will be sold programmatically but we may not fall into that category because so much of what we sell is long-form content, partnerships, really integrated programs as opposed to just selling IAB ad units.
SSI: Is there a disjuncture between big, bespoke premium programs and programmatic sales, or can they be integrated?
ME: They absolutely can work together. We want to create big programs for our partners that do both upper-funnel things and lower-funnel things, and we can put targeting and programmatic line items on anything we do. If they want to buy directly that’s fine, and if they want to buy programmatically, that’s fine ,too, it’s just another way to buy. I would honestly prefer to have our sales staff highlighting what makes Time Inc. unique and premium rather than having to devote time to all that [sales logistics].