Foundry, the B2B publishing giant once known as IDG, takes a contrarian approach: It has moved to direct-sold advertising, away from programmatic.
Programmatic dominated until about three years ago. Then the firm, which was acquired last year by Blackstone for $1.3 billion, “made a judgment call that the value of that PMP revenue does not equate to the lost opportunity in the loss of third-party data,” says Matt Yorke, Foundry CRO.
Display ad sales now account for 8% of revenue, down from 10% last year, even as technology sales dominate.
“We do have a handful of PMP sales with preferred partners on a monthly basis,” Yorke says.
Meanwhile, the overall corporate growth rate, which boomed last year, is now in the low single digits after that surge.
Does the shift to direct-sold ads mean the company has ramped up its sales staff? Not really: That group was already in place.
“We invested heavily in the sales team,” Yorke says.
But the salespeople aren’t there just to make an ad number. “It’s more about media markets and software as opposed to traditional sales,” Yorke explains. “It’s a different sale and cadence.”
The company realized it had to retrench. For one thing, it had to centralize. “We were a highly decentralized company, a 60-year legacy,” Yorke recalls. “Germany had different systems from the U.K., and the U.K. from Korea.”
Yorke adds, “decentralized is out. It is about platforms, about consistency of data and philosophy of data. You have to have common systems in place.”
Among the big products is KickFire, buyer intent data. And Selling Simplified is a MaaS (marketing as a service) platform. The big software product is Neon, which helps ID intent. In four to six weeks, there will be a new version that Yorke says will disrupt the market.
This tech side of the business has been fueled by four acquisitions the firm made in the past two years: Triblio, KickFire, LeadSift and Selling Simplified. And it is supported by the content supplied by its iconic B2B brands, including Computerworld, InfoWorld, MacWorld, Network World, and PCWorld.
The company now has an estimated 300 million profiles in its global database.
What are the challenges?
“There was a tremendous shift driven by what was going on with Google and Apple and privacy. Clients want more answers, and they’re more concerned about the partners they’re working with. Then there’s COVID-19 and the war in Ukraine.”
Yorke concludes, “For us, the challenge is more about meeting client demand in an effective way that doesn’t affect the user experience.”