Playbuzz's Neal Sinno Finds New Ways To Monetize Online Content

Playbuzz has grown into a full-fledged storytelling platform since it was founded in 2012 by Shaul Olmert and Tom Pachys. Neal Sinno, GM, North America, at the Disney-backed storytelling platform, talked with Publishing Insider about digital media in the new year.

PI: What are you most excited about in 2018?

NS: The changing role of the journalist, and what that means for today’s newsrooms. In 2017, we began to see more traditional publishers, like The New York Times, increasingly veer away from their traditional approach to storytelling and experiment with more engaging, creative methods to harness readers’ fleeting attention spans. Readers spend an average of 15 seconds or less on a piece of content.



This means editorial teams will come to rely more on third-party tools that help journalists write articles that are visual-first, interactive and data-driven. I’m eager to see how this move shifts outlets’ metrics of success, with teams likely focusing more on KPIs that show meaningful reader consumption, such as engagements within each article, dwell time and completion rates.

PI: What are Playbuzz's growth plans in the coming year?

NS: We plan to continue — and expand upon — our work with premium publishers and brands that utilize our storytelling tools to authors, distribute and monetize content. In 2017, HuffPost utilized our tools to make politics more accessible to readers; Sky Sports and BBC created interactive editorial to make readers feel like they were right there at the game. Netflix utilized our branded content offering to help launch their latest season of “Orange Is The New Black.”

In 2018, we will build out our machine learning and AI capabilities beyond the existing optimization of engagement, into AI-driven, authoring-assistive technologies to enable journalists to craft interactive content quickly and easily.

We are also looking to help our partners drive more revenue. Immersive, interactive content keeps users active and on-site longer, thus resulting in better ad monetization opportunities. 

PI: How has Playbuzz positioned itself competitively as a platform? 

NS: We are constantly refining our tools, based on reader and partner response. We initially created a chapter-based video tool that enabled content creators to edit and customize several YouTube clips in order to deliver readers “the good parts” of video.  Content creators wanted to take it a step further and create new videos themselves. 

This was the catalyst to building our Playbuzz Video tool, which provides creators with capabilities to easily edit, customize and create videos, including access to thousands of Getty Images, music and template themes.

In the same vein, our partners were seeking a tool to create full-blown pieces of interactive editorial, versus adding in interactive elements to their content. That feedback ultimately led to our transition into a storytelling platform, enabling publishers to craft entire, interactive articles with a suite of capabilities and monetize the content.

PI: How does Playbuzz help partners monetize their brandsparticularly in a crowded environment? 

NS: Content created within the Playbuzz platform has been built to drive KPIs, including viewability, completion rates and geo-targeting in order to maximize effectiveness. For example:

—We produce long-form, interactive narratives via our storytelling platform and distribute them at scale to relevant publishers utilizing our editorial tools. These campaigns have achieved an average CTR of 4.6+%.
—This year, we are launching ad units that take the interactivity of our storytelling tools, while natively blending into editorial, so users have a positive reading experience with ads.
—Using our in-house ad serving technology, we can monetize content created within the Playbuzz platform for our publishing partners.

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