I recently had the opportunity to attend the ClickZ conference in New York. The conference was held in the Marriott Marquis in the heart of Times Square. It was a great opportunity to hear what fellow digital marketers were working on; network and better understand how these marketers were pushing the digital economy forward. In total, there were probably close to 1,000 attendees across all walks of marketing, as the conference focused on these four broad tracks: Search & Acquire, Engage & Convert, Retain & Grow, and Digital Transformation.

During my two days, I had a chance to listen to a number of speakers – here are two of my favorites.

John Roberts, SVP at About.com

An astro-physicist by trade, John heads up About.com’s data science and audience development teams.   His team focuses on providing insights and revealing interesting information about About.com visitors, their usage and their interactions with the site. Not only do they track day-to-day performance, but they also look at trends across months and years. They have a systematic approach of using (visual) data and information to help guide decision making. They have reduced the cost of asking questions. This sounds weird – but now that things are more open – it’s easier to ask questions, get answers to help chart decision making. Additionally, there are a lot more people asking thoughtful questions and really digging into the metrics.

Here at Intermarkets, we’ve been working on creating different visual dashboards to look at trends across our publishers and properties. We’ve also allowed our employees greater access to data and data analytics. People are genuinely interested in tracking metrics and want to know how certain decisions impact pageviews, uniques, or revenues.

Peter McGuinnnes, CMO of Chobani

Greek yogurt maker Chobani, was founded 10 years ago and has had a meteoric rise since first launching in 2007. Back in 2007, Greek Yogurt accounted for less than 1% of all yogurt sales, today Greek yogurt accounts for more than 50% of all yogurt consumption in the US. Much of the category growth can be attributed to Chobani.

The focus of the speech wasn’t about Greek Yogurt – but how Chobani continues to be genuine, but bold in everything they do. The company challenged conventional wisdom when it was formed – investing and believing in a product that was different, but authentic in its DNA.

Much like the CEO’s initial approach in starting the business, Peter McGuiness went on to say this about Chobani’s marketing strategy. “If you have something to say, say it. Don’t mince words. Don’t market in the middle; the middle is lame. Consumers don’t appreciate it. It’s not going to cut through, it’s not going to be relevant and it’s not going to resonant.”

For us here at Intermarkets, the company continues to be authentic in our approach in dealing with advertisers, key partners, and vendors. Back in 2012, Intermarkets made a bold bet on programmatic advertising and haven’t looked back. The company had to make a number of tough strategic decisions, looking at personnel, investments and which partners to work with. Just in a few years, the marketplace has completely flipped on its head and now Intermarkets is seen as one of the leaders in the programmatic space. This strategic bet has enabled Intermarkets to have some of its most successful quarters as advertisers and buyers are getting better access to our premium audiences.

Overall, the conference was a success – a chance to hear from a number of great speakers, network with industry peers, and finally get a chance to test out a pair of virtual reality headsets!

Instant Articles present new opportunities and challenges for publishers

Facebook Instant Articles
Instant Articles are a fast and beautiful way for readers to access content directly from their Facebook Newsfeed.

Debuting in May of 2015, Facebook Instant Articles are nearing their first birthday, and in that time marketers and large publishers have had a chance to experiment with publishing full articles directly to the newsfeed without redirecting users to an external site.

When the project was first proposed to publishers, one of the major advantages was that hosting the content on Facebook’s servers dramatically reduced load times. As the name implies, Instant Articles found articles loading nearly instantly within the app.  External links took 5-10 seconds by the time the browser would launch and the page could load. The purported benefit was that users would click on an article more readily as they could more immediately determine if the content was of interest. The goal for many publishers is for pages to launch in under two seconds.

In a move that surprised many, the terms of these partnerships were surprisingly favorable for publishers, allowing them to sell and embed their own ads and receive 100% of the revenue, or use Facebook’s in-house advertising services, surrendering 30% of the profits in the revenue sharing deal. Facebook also provides advanced reporting metric courtesy of Google Analytics and Adobe Omniture to ensure publishers could continue to monitor performance.

But while the initial impressions seemed mutually beneficial, there are areas where publishers have cause for concern both in the near-term and in the big picture when considering the service’s viability.

Allowing Facebook to become the new “gate keeper”

With great power comes great responsibility and Facebook is increasingly becoming the primary traffic source for many publishers. As this dynamic and the percentage of readers continues to increase, it’s possible that publishers will stand to lose leverage in the relationship if they’re beholden to a channel providing such a large percentage of viewers.

Advertising Limitations

At present, Facebook limits the number of advertisements (two) that publishers can run within an Instant Article, and currently doesn’t allow native ads to run. While the rationale is to boost of the value of the content in the eyes of the reader by preventing content from being over-stuffed with promotional material, it’s an element of control that many publishers and advertisers are finding themselves reluctant to give up.

Traffic Inconsistencies

Since Instant Article content is hosted on Facebook’s servers rather than the publisher’s, it stands to reason that traffic volume may shift from one source to the next when implementing the strategy. But while a reader going from column A to column B is fine, publishers are concerned with the ability for the reader to continue their journey. Since the reader never leaves the app they’re unable to fully explore the publisher’s site without a navigation bar or quality calls to action, no matter how helpful your hyperlinks, effectively limiting the time spent consuming conduct or finding other material.

Many publishers view the service with cautious optimism, but Facebook’s terms of service will be the pivotal point in the success of the program and its publishers. As we’ve seen with video, and then again with live video, Facebook’s newsfeed algorithms are subject to constant changes, so while the current environment is favorable, the company’s history of rapid change is worries some as the next algorithmic iteration may devalue a publisher’s heavy investment in instant articles.

Retaliation from Google or Twitter

To ignore the other titans of the internet is to turn a blind eye to competition. Facebook’s Instant Articles have seen momentum in partner acquisition, but the rollout to users was relatively slow, giving competitors ample time to respond. Google’s own “Accelerated Mobile Pages” (AMP) also dramatically reduces load times on mobile by leveraging simplified HTML code and the search engine’s page caching technique. Twitter seems to be aligning with the search giant and collaborated in the development of AMP, making an attractive alternative for publishers who want viewers to remain within their site’s ecosystem while maintaining total control over advertising.

Instant Articles: Still a fledgling offering

The potential red flags were evident this past March, when some publishers saw traffic decrease 20-25%, with no obvious explanations offered by either party. Like all innovation, Instant Articles are a work in progress. Facebook will continue to refine the offering, but emerging technology is often rough around the edges or even prone to unforeseen threats in the form of bugs, or shifting behavioral changes. The abnormality in March’s traffic might just be a blip on the radar, but some are concerned that it may be indicative of potential broader instability that needs attention.

Ultimately, this battle for viewer attention is far from over, and publishers would always be wise to continue monitoring their individual performance but keep tabs on the industry as a whole to take the market’s pulse and identify trends signaling an opportunity to employ new techniques rather than go with the flow.

Here at Intermarkets, we will be testing out Facebook Instant Articles in the upcoming weeks.  We will be monitoring performance results closely to ensure that our users are getting the best user experience, distribution is consistent, and monetization remains strong.


AdvProg_1of3Wednesday, a number of Intermarketers attended the Advanced Programmatic Buyers & Sellers training in Washington DC.  The all-day event was hosted by the IAB, the Interactive Advertising Bureau, who along with its 650+ member companies develops technical standards and best practices for the digital advertising industry.

The class, led by Matt Prohaska of Prohaska Consulting, provided participants with a better understanding of the programmatic media ecosystem, working knowledge of the key technologies and programmatic ad stack across platforms.  It also touched upon “Programmatic Guaranteed” and provided live demonstrations from vendors from both the ad tech side as well as from the buyer perspective.

For Intermarkets it was a chance to really hone in on intricacies of Programmatic and learn the nuances of this ever growing digital buying mechanism.  Recently eMarketer stated that programmatic digital display ad spending will reach over $22Bn in 2016, a jump of 39.7% over last year, which represents 67% of total digital display ad spending in the US.   With such a large percentage, Intermarkets is committed to offering products and services in the way that people want to buy.

DC Programmatic Happy Hour sponsored by OpenX at The Washington Post

The night cap was a chance to unwind, network and talk shop with our colleagues in the industry. The venue was the new and beautiful Washington Post Headquarters building.  There was a wide mix of companies in attendance – publishers included – WashingtonPost, Philly.com, WebFinance, DailyCaller, IJReview to name a few; technology companies included OpenX, Rubicon Project; Agency representatives included such firms as Ogilvy and Mullen Lowe.



The highlight of the night was a panel hosted by OpenX with Martin Calhoun, Director, Digital Advertising Operations and Yield Management at Philly.com and Jason Tollestrup – Director, Programmatic Advertising and Business Intelligence at the Washington Post. The discussion focused on programmatic and more specifically how each of the companies has spent the last year or two implementing header bidding solutions. Philly.com took a very cautious approach, making sure that they focused on the right partners and right solutions – as well as making sure they made changes that were in line with the entire sales strategy.  Similarly at the Post, much of their time is evaluating the right partners and making sure that each new partner provides a unique quality about their demand.

Our own Erik Requidan, VP of Sales and Programmatic, asked an interesting question about how buyers keep to date with everything that publishers and technology vendors are working on behind the scenes. Since each ad stack and publisher implementation is different, both panelists agreed that publishers need to spend more time with media buyers, to explain, uncover, and inform the best ways to interact with publishers.