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Category: Commentary

Commentary; our thought leadership, newsletter notes and long form pieces.

Anonymous trust

Edition #375Anonymous trust, more creator solutions and the autostrada of partnerships.I’m traveling a bit this summer, so the newsletter won’t be every week :) But as much as I can.One big thingI’ve been using a car share app whilst travelling. The first I booked looked up someone had ingested polystyrene and spread it throughout the car. Who would leave a car in such a state. The next however was clean, so away I went. Having swapped sides of the roads three times in the last month.All these sharing platforms are akin to brand partnerships. We find something listed and think we can use that to achieve what we want. Hopefully there are some reviews/testimonials, the specs are correct. And we can get where we are going.But brand partnerships are hard. Finding and capitalizing on the points of intersection to a high degree of quality. Do that week in week out. And just one other thing, all your work is in the public domain. So when something goes wrong, it goes wrong.You might be surprised anyone works in media. But the work is good, it’s challenging, always changing and competitive. These redeeming feature are what bring people back for more.And occasionally you get the right partnership where everything just clicks, and you’re cruising down the autostrada at 130 kmph. This week we feature a couple of partnerships which just work.Illimitly partnered with the FT to raise awareness of their offerings. Now it’s not rocket science but it 1) teaches you about the brand. 2) Gets it on your radar as an FT reader. The other is Circular Cities from Bloomberg Media Studios for Holcim, the cement company. Highlighting cities in the race to net zero. Great positioning for the company but also subtle sales, if you’re a city featured and its your mandate, maybe you’ll see what Holcim can offer.Notable stories this weekDisney inks major deal with The Trade Desk. And Netflix partners with Microsoft for advertising. The Information launching social network for subscribers. SwapStack crosses more than $1m paid out to newsletter creators. Congrats! ^ Related, Spark Loop launches the partner network. ANA releases first-ever guidelines for measuring influencer marketing. Distributed Trust: The Future of Crowds & Honesty. Via Ben Dietz. PR Newswire expands sponsored placement network to Europe and Canada.Deals/M&ASpotify to acquire music trivia game Heardle. Podcast platform Acast to acquire Podchaser. StoryChief raises $3.4mCampaign of the Weekillimity with the FT. The Circular Cities Barometer, Bloomberg Media Studios with Holcim. Continue reading

Ben Young
Ben Young
July 22, 2022

Real estate

Edition #373On those real estate newspapers, retention and new creator tools from Facebook.I’m traveling a bit this summer, so the newsletter won’t be every week :) But as much as I can. This weeks note is from Italy where the sun is scorching the Campari is cold.One big thingAs you do when you’re traveling, I picked up a local real estate newspaper. To skim, to learn, to dream about what I could buy. Oh, two bedrooms, that big, good luck finding that in New York. And I’m sure I’m not the only one. I hunted and pecked my way through, and have picked it up several times during the day. Now as a piece of content, you might go, well he did finish it, or he got what he was looking for. So that’s success. It has educated me, it did bring me in, and maybe I won’t buy. But someone else will. And that’s the thing, that piece of content did its job.MrBeast highlights with YouTube, you want to focus on retention, picking up the print and working your way through it. Are readers fully consuming? If not, why not? How can you change the format? Should it be shorter? Longer? Better use of images? Maybe sorted differently. At this point in time you would expect most real estate prints know how to do that.But that’s not always the case when it comes to online comms. We change things because we can, because someone didn’t like something. But the whole goal, the only goal, is to get someone to read the thing. From start to finish. And as many people as possible. Maybe all those things that seem nice are getting in the way of doing the job you were trying to achieve. Which is why we all love newsletters right now, because they’re simple and to the point. If they’re not, we don’t open them and read them. We only remember those that actually deliver on that. Ironic huh.But so, if there’s one thing to focus on, it is retention. Retention even down to each piece of content. Because if you can have a library of content with high retention. You have a top performing portfolio and obtaining results are be a lot easier. Alas, even with all that retention, my wife reassures me, that no we won’t be buying a property here. Cut off at the pass! Content can’t solve all conversion problems hey.Notable stories this weekOn why retention rate within a video is so vital on YouTube. House of Highlight’s creator-led content triples revenue. Mark Zuckerberg announces new creator monetization tools for Facebook and Instagram. ConvertKit launches their sponsor network, creators can join to get partner deals from them. Your content business model. The Webpage, can it survive the relentless attack? Substack will let you add voiceovers to posts. Congrats to JMJ and WaPo! Interesting tid-bit on Twitter ads starting to work. On why this DTC brand stopped spending on Amazon ads. Malcolm Gladwell's audio company signs a film and TV deal with A24. Can media companies weather a recession? Executives say they’re in stronger shape this time.Deals/M&AGroup Black is in talks to buy stake in Bustle parent and has been eyeing a deal for Vice Media.Campaign of the WeekeToro with Market Watch, How do we invest in an unknown future? Continue reading

Ben Young
Ben Young
July 8, 2022
Xero + TheGuardian
Xero + TheGuardian

Always on

Edition #372Why tv’s are always on, TheAthletic gets bundled and Twitter product drops.One big thingFor many set top boxes, they’re on all the time. And if they’re tuned into a channel, even though the tv is off, chances are that viewership is being counted. Which leads to over counting. Even OTT apps can continue to play after you turn the tv off. This means at least $1b worth of ads are being played to no one each year.This is why viewability for the web was invented, to ensure that ads were shown in view of the customer. Makes sense. However for tv, the existing roll out of set room boxes and lack of universal standards make the implementation of a similar type solution challenging.We saw a few weeks back that NBCU is experimenting with multi ad and content on screen. Initially this may seem a bit grim, but is it an improvement over the ad break? And everyone’s tv is a lot larger than they used to be. Maybe that yields enough to drop one or two ad breaks per hour. I’ll be curious to see how it goes.With all this, the backbone or thread is that measurement enables product innovation. Getting those right things captured in your metrics, helps push things forward.Notable stories this weekTwitter tests product drop alerts with Home Depot. Is your TV still playing ads when it’s turned off? WaPo to keep software business. Google offers to let ad rivals place YouTube ads in EU antitrust probe. CheckMyAds starts a campaign to get Fox News removed from exchanges. TheAthletic to be added to the NYT subscription bundle. Publishers like Gannett are using micro-surveys to amass audience data. IAB updates guidelines for measuring 3D ads for the metaverse. Includes things like, what’s the minimum viewing angle for an ad. Bidtellect partners with D&B to deliver ads to key decision makers. A revisit of Kevin Kelly’s 1000 True Fans, The Rise of the Internets Creative Middle Class.Deals/M&AAd agency Mekanism acquired.Campaign of the Week10 questions you should ask your advisor this end of financial year. Xero with TheGuardian. Like the format, simple and high utility for the reader.  Continue reading

Ben Young
Ben Young
June 17, 2022

Out and about

Edition #371 Green media, BBC to launch marketplace for content and Tom Brady raises $50m.One big thingGetting out and about is fun. Those first few reconnects after covid. What I’m seeing is that more senior people are off to conferences, juniors are off to meetups and everyone else is somewhere in-between. Now it used to be the juniors would go to the conferences to hang and learn and really absorb the industry. So it feels like a bit of a disconnect, that the remote working when everyone comes back, only seems to agitate.This then feels like opportunity, to bring both groups back together. Which is where marketing teams can help, creating events that whole teams can come to, whether that’s affordability, style or event, or just subtle positioning. The old StartupWeekends, the UnConferences, the hackathons.What does this have to do with content & media? Well, it’s where we’re all going to meet the next new partner for that project. Or that new collaborator. Whether someone will challenge our thinking. Which I think is a good thing.Notable stories this weekSharethrough launches its first green media products. How this TikTok creator makes $20k/month. BBC to launch BSP in partnership with Vuulr, a marketplace for licensing their shows. European Baby Brand Bugaboo makes its first US-focused social media and content play. Hubspot is pushing into video. Spotify CEO teases major push into audiobooks. 12-Step Brand and Content Framework. Google Slides link. Another Google Slide deck, Brand Building on Social Media.Deals/M&ATom Brady & Michael Strahans, Religion of Sports raises $50m. CreativeX raises $25m Series B. PepperContent raises $14.3m to enter US. Contentoo acquires Contentbox.Campaign of the WeekDinoTracker from Department of Prehistoric Wildlife, as part of Jurassic World launch. @DinoTracker on Twitter.^ Extending this to native placements across publishers would be the kicker in the execution of this strategy.  Continue reading

Ben Young
Ben Young
June 10, 2022

Good Wine

Edition #370 On what we can learn from what makes a good wine. Educational branded content and Stranger Things.One big thingOne sip leads to another. Whilst away I read Cork Dork and in answering the question of what makes a good wine. Paul Grieco of Terroir fame would answer that one sip leads to another. The first leads to the second and the second leads to the third. As I lay there in the Mexican sun, I thought that’s a brilliant little analogy. If someone enjoys it they reach for more.Such an idea could bring a lot of simplicity to marketing teams. Instead we dive for more. What else should we be looking at. Over intellectualizing it. Rather than simply going, is the consumer coming back for more. I liked it and thought it was worth sharing.Notable stories this weekHow Front Office Sports is leveling up its branded content business through educational courses. Lessons on readability for marketing content. Ed Norton talks media measurement.Deals/M&ASubstack drops fund-raising efforts as market sours. The charts showing Creator Economy investments this year.Campaign of the WeekLeaving a legacy: how to give a gift that lasts beyond your lifetime. Guardian with Cancer Council. Continue reading

Ben Young
Ben Young
June 3, 2022

Advertising claims

Edition #369 Regulators are not giving any leeway when it comes to the third dimension. And content marketing not just a pandemic trend.One big thingLaw firm Fenwick dug into the implications of advertising in the metaverse, “regulators emphasized that ads in the Metaverse must be truthful and not misleading even if the technological medium for delivery of those ads is nascent.”And it turns out, the metaverse literally adds dimensions to potential legal claims. “One unique issue about advertising in the Metaverse is the potential to make three-dimensional claims. A Metaverse application that purports to reflect how a real-life article of clothing would look could be found to make the claim that the article of clothing would fit as shown digitally if worn by the consumer in reality. This is a natural extension of the law as it has currently been applied to claims made in product images.”They also pointed to that disclosures must be made, even if ‘text disclosures’ are not available in that platform. It seems that there is no longer a this is a new place so you’re off the hook. As regulators are getting savvier and faster to deal with these same issues that pop up repeatedly on new platforms.Notable stories this weekContent marketing maintains momentum as pandemic restrictions ease. Why Manscaped is leaning into ads on Tumblr. NBCU leaning into new ad formats to engage viewers. Twitter announces Premium Content Partnerships at 2022 Digital Content NewFronts. And other NewFronts releases from LinkedIn, Meta, Pinterest & YouTube. What are the legal implications of advertising in the metaverse? Is a digital representation held to the same legal standard? Eddy Cue reportedly has bigger plans for Apple’s billion-dollar streaming and ads business. With no third-party accredited measurement, this year’s upfront season is a testing bonanza. Ads may come to Netflix by the end of 2022.Campaign of the WeekAnker with BuzzFeed. You should have a home energy kit - and this is the very first thing you should buy for it.  Continue reading

Ben Young
Ben Young
May 13, 2022

Headless chickens

Edition #368 Fortune partners with SalesForce+ in this weeks edition, headless chickens & Roku ARPU.One big thingFor many in sales it feels obvious that when you’re having multiple conversations and the potential partner is really engaged, that you’re more likely to make a sale. Yet when it comes to this sort of engagement or touch points online it doesn’t feel the same. Conceptually people get it but it hasn’t quite clicked for many.RealEyes released a study this week and have identified where the tide is beginning to shift. 65% of participants in their study report that attention is a conversion stage in the sales and customer journey. That is a good sign. Rather than running around like headless chickens, using the signals consumers give us from their behavior is vital to understanding progress.Notable stories this weekTripleLift aims to insert itself into the CTV conversation using native ads. Brand Creator partnerships are prioritizing expertise and diversity over fame. Adland bullish on attention metrics, expects brands to pay. Attention increasingly is recognized as a business outcome in advertising. Twitter says it overcounted its users over the past 3 years. NBCU unveils self-serve programmatic ad manager.Deals/M&AMavrck raises $135m and acquires link in bio company Later. Vice is looking to sell its studio business. Roku & Apollo team up on Starz bid.Campaign of the WeekFortune & SalesForce, the Ecopreneurs. A video series on entrepreneurs focused on saving the planet. Also a lead in for SalesForce+. Continue reading

Ben Young
Ben Young
May 6, 2022

Advertising Vibes

Edition #367 Goldman invests in tv measurement, Kevin Hart merges his companies and Spotify allows video anywhere.One big thingThe vibe around advertising right now is a bit weird huh. Elon Musk hating on it. Outcry about Netflix adding advertising. But advertising supports a healthy economy, aiding in product discovery. In a digital attention world, subscriptions have a stronger role to play. And with Netflix’s focus, it seems like most platforms are heading towards a hybrid future. Part subscription, part advertising. You choose. And that’s smart, because advertising makes content more accessible to all. And subscription provides reliable revenue. Spotify is maybe a good example of this with their subscription focused, advertising supported model. But you look at WPP, who is growing YOY, there’s a sign of creativity leading growth in advertising. And that’s exactly what’s needed.Notable stories this weekYouTube is testing ads on its short-form answer to TikTok, Shorts. Sharethrough hires a CMO. And founder Dan Greenberg and native advertising pioneer steps down after 14 years to work on something new. 👏 BuzzFeed arrives at upfronts with a vertical ad format, a creator network, and plenty of new programming. Spotify now allows all creators in select markets to publish video podcasts. Video can now be embedded off platform too. Study website Quizlet launches ad platform using native. The Ad Tech vendors helping programmatic go green. CNN+ shut down and subscription cost is driving cancellations. [Long read] How retail media ad platforms are rewriting the wallets garden playbook.Deals/M&AGoldman Sachs to invest $325m into tv measurement company iSpot.tv. Kevin Hart’s LOL Network and HartBeat productions merged and the combined entity raised $100m in investment. G/O Media buys Quartz.Campaign of the WeekMetlife with WSJ. Tailwinds for Emerging Markets. Continue reading

Ben Young
Ben Young
April 29, 2022

Mailcrimp of Netflix

Edition #366 Netflix has executed flawlessly, Rolling Stone pivots to creators and Quartz takes down the paywall.One big thingNetflix announced they will explore ad-supported tiers. And to the contrary of headlines I think they have executed flawlessly in this regard. They have pushed the model as far as they can and now its time to adapt, to capture more market share. That’s probably not what you’ve read this week but that is objectively what they’ve done.That being said, it comes amidst chat and analysis that suggests their content isn’t cutting the mustard. Despite a spend in excess of $17b, they have content. But is it the best content? Are they squeezing as much as they can? As I tweeted, when the brief is to make the content spend work harder and smarter, that leads to an investment in data & analytics. We’ve found top performers spend as much as 20% of their budgets on this area, Netflix's total technology spend is 10%. Thus they are underinvesting as much as 4x below what they should.I wrote back in 2015 that ads were inevitable. Many did. But so this development many in the industry excited. The opportunity for brands, will be to attach to culture. Who will be the Mailcrimp of Netflix? What shows should brands support? Should they be brought to you by, or advertorials during the shows. Or regular ad breaks. Maybe you use it to highlight your own brand journalism.Time and time again, we’ve seen digitally integrated campaigns work better together. This could be an exciting new tool to add to the toolkit.Who loses out when Netflix does this? Well it’s likely they’ll test it in other markets. As they are doing with password sharing plans in LATAM. And in those territories there is less depth to the CTV markets, meaning local broadcasters will lose out, from their typically local OTT channels. It will also put pressure on the open CTV ad system, as people basically play musical chairs and move up the stack. Netflix will need to step carefully, having faced hurdles in the past with pressure from local broadcasters and state funding for local content.One thing that Netflix CEO emphasized is consumer choice. There will be subscription based tiers, and ad-supported. And I suspect that will filter through to whatever path they make. You choose.Notable stories this weekRolling Stone pivots to creators. Convo Ink launches attention measure for content marketing campaign optimization. Roku touts original content, brand studio ahead of NewFronts. An interview with European Branded Content marketplace, Getfluence. How native ad company MGID kept operating in Kyiv. Quartz is taking down its paywall. With more publishers expected to follow suit or some hybrid models this year. The different content personalities. How Tumblr became popular for being obsolete. CNN+ off to a tough start. Facebook is pulling back from its foray into podcasting. Web scraping is legal. And web browser Brave is rolling out De-AMP to help users circumvent AMP.Deals/M&AMusk unveils his Twitter financing.Campaign of the WeekNativeception. Sponsored newsletter company Paved with MarketingWeek.  Continue reading

Ben Young
Ben Young
April 22, 2022

Snap Spotlight

Edition #365 Did paying creators directly pay off? A new native ad network and FOS.One big thingLast year Snap spent $250m on its Spotlight Creator Programme. You may recall, they would feature content on their Spotlight channel and make cash rewards to the creators. It appeared to be a defensive position against TikTok. But how did it fare?‘One year ago we launched Spotlight to lower the barrier to content creation and shine a light on the most entertaining Snaps created by the Snapchat community, no matter who created them,' -SnapThrough 2021, 12,000 creators have collectively been paid over $250m!. That would be an average of $21k each. Creators have quit their jobs, to pursue this. Which didn’t always work out when they couldn’t reliably recreate their initial success.Melles started posting videos in March and Snap, the company that makes Snapchat, sent him a message in April offering him thousands of dollars after one of his videos racked up 300,000 views in 24 hours. Melles got a $19,600 payment from Snap for the video, and he quit his Wendy’s job a few days later.But bumpiness aside, that is 12,000 content creators who have received tangible motivation to keep creating.So how should we think about success of this programme? Strategically it was aimed to protect against TikTok and keeping the best creators onboard. On a user basis, Snap ended the year with 319m DAUs, 20% year over year growth. An increase of 54m.Against a climate where TikTok grew 500m users. Did Snap win out? Not on the growth side. But maybe if they didn’t do this execution, they could have lost more?Their average ARPU over the past 12 months was $13.64 globally, so those 54m users could have contributed about $736m In revenues. Their stock priced closed 2021 at $47.03, against a price of $50.07 at the end of 2020. However the end of 2021 marked a decline in tech stocks.I think the real asset is the relationship they’ve built with the 12,000 creators. What can they do there, to help them grow? And to continue to push the boundaries on Snap. How can they help be the best Snap it can be? Those are the questions I think Snap should be diving into.A concerted effort to promote the best of Snap spotlight outside Snap would help remind users and get them to come back too. That would be helpful. I can't recall any creators off the top of my head.What can others learn from this? I do think this is a good model to learn from. You are not just paying the best advocates of your platform directly. But you are paying for new content assets. And also all the other content that is produced.Notable stories this weekPaved introduces the Paved Ad Network and Native Ad Editor, enabling newsletter publishers to monetize with premium native advertising. New creators should start with a newsletter in a Web3 world. How gated content and native advertising can work together. Radisson’s new hotel brand has a dedicated space for content creators. Google says it classifies AI-generated content as ‘spam’. Lightbeam.tv is coining branded video on demand as CTV ad spending grows. iHeartMedia is tripling its branded podcast content. All advertising looks the same these days. Blame the moodboard. Substack’s growth spurt brings growing pains. CNN+ launch may be off to a bumpy start. Google Search is falling behind. Is streaming just becoming cable again?Deals/M&AValidity acquires email campaign platform MailCharts. Congrats Tom! OpenWeb acquires AdYouLike for $100m. Congrats to both teams! Glip, a creator tool suite for gamers to create and monetize has raised $3m.Campaign of the WeekFront Office Sports with Fidelity. Rex Champman interviews athletes about their second acts. Continue reading

Ben Young
Ben Young
April 15, 2022