Commentary

Panel: The Studio System: Are Publishers Agencies Yet?

Moderator Tara Meyer, VP, Branded Content Sales & Strategy, New York Post, Panelists Jackelyn Keller, VP of Revenue Strategy, Dotdash, Michelle Madhok, CEO, SheFinds Media, Sam Moulton, VP Marketing, OutsideJohn Toth, Vice President, Americas, Reuters 

Keller: Dotdash Creative think of ourselves as custom content and branding content team. 20 FT employees, design, data, pre and post sales. Synergies, editorial team. 

Madhok: SheFinds helps women who want fancy things online. Small, started 14 years ago, scrappy. 10 FT people. Staff up with freelancers when needed. 

Moulton: Outside is small, independently owned brand. Rely heavily on editors for ideas. We staff up as necessary. Network of editors and freelancers.

Toth: Reuters brings B2B angle to panel. Produce a lot of video content covering world events. Studios around the world. 

Meyer: New York Post produces text and audio, video. Diverse team in studios, come from marketing background. Having work done inhouse vs outsourcing, how to decide. 

Keller: we are product first, anything outsource we have product guidelines in how brand will be integrated. Most is custom-rich media. 

Moulton: I try to hide information from brands and agencies, esp. with video. 

Toth: Whatever will give us the best quality content. We play in financial space, core competency on building content internally. 

Meyer:Distribution strategy, do you allow brands to own content, share the rights with advertisers?

Keller: Co-owned. value that publishers can offer to advertisers. Keeping product itself, we have a refresh, distribution depends on execution. We don’t tap into social as much as other publishers.  Lowe’s video performed well. We could see people were interested in kitchen renovations. Summer vs winter. Actual content based on insights. Distribution only relevant to kitchen renovations.

Madhok: B2C brands want us to create content that will add credibitlity to their social Channels. We license seals.

Moulton: distribution is greatest challenge. Always looking for solutions. 

Toth: We own the content, including licensing. On distribution side, we are fortunate on news agency side, thousands of publishers take our content on a daily basis. 

Meyer:Challenge in news, scaling the business. Is it scalable? Finding the secret sauce.

Toth: we’ve been creating custom content for some time, we’ve seen success in retention but quality is focus. Retention based on KPIs is high. 

Moulton: If you go to Outside.com, 10 native pieces on it. Promoting our FB feed once or twice a day. It does come back to quality. We have a literary heritage. Salesy native content doesn’t do well but sometimes clients convince us otherwise.

Madhok: It’s hard because they want something super creative. Shoe brand wanted us to do a long quiz. It doesn’t really sell shoes. It’s a touchy dance.

Toth: Even The NY Times, we’ll walk away from deal, if content is not going in the direction to help anybody.

Moulton: When goalpost changes after you sign the deal. Now, we want more beer in it. Tap on a pre-roll on top of it, crushing its performance. We’re on the hook. Profit margins went south.

Keller: We can’t be everything to everyone. Our bread and butter is in the evergreen content. Find a mortgage, best router, etc. How to pack content we have to make it scaleable. Growing out our ad CMS. 

Meyer:What are the best KPIs for branded content? May not convert.

Madhok: We’ve dropped prices sometimes to get positive KPIs. 

Keller: branded content helps with brand awareness but not conversion. Lots of education. Showing case studies of past success helps us prove our point.

Moulton: They want custom content but KPIs don’t align. We have to ask what exactly they want. Selling shoes, brand story? 

Toth: the categories that we play in play more as a brand story telling than a new product. One of the challenges is that agencies want to transact on custom content. 12 part video series. 

Meyer:Are publishers agencies? Are we leaving agencies out?

Madhok: Almost everything is direct to clients. My preference is to work with the plan. Agencies can sit on money for a long time.

Moulton: We’re 50-50, prefer to work with brands.

Toth: 75% or more involve client interaction, involvement. 

Meyer:Has your branded content studio helped drive innovation?

Madhok: Treat yourself Tuesdays, trying to do more of those.

Moulton: Have to do a lot of different stuff because clients kept returning. For Michigan, wrote about their trails. They came back to do trails again, shot videos, interactive map, charged them a lot more money, now rolling out template to the editors.

Meyer:Biggest challenges, opportunities?

Madhok: Attracting the audience that wants to buy. People want conversion. What do we have to offer for a sexier conversion.

Moulton: New products, new ways to tell stories. Take native off the site. 

Toth: Getting in front of the right clients.

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