5000_color-stackedInc. has again, named Intermarkets, Inc. to its Inc. 5000 List, recognizing America’s fastest growing private companies. We’re honored to be named to the list for the 7th time in the last 9 years!

“The advertising and digital publishing space has undergone some dramatic changes over the past few years, fueled by changes in ad tech that have altered a consumer’s engagement with digital advertising and content,” said Michael Loy, COO.  “Intermarkets has succeeded in this ever-changing landscape by investing heavily in our technology stack, strategic partnerships, and skilled staffing. Through this strategy, Intermarkets has pioneered several tools and tactics that have expanded our capabilities in order to ensure success for our publishing clients, advertising partners, and the business,” he continued.

We’re a digital media company that connects marketers and audiences through quality content and premium inventory. We’re proud to have thrived in the advertising and digital publishing space for nearly 20 years. We attribute our success to a fast-moving, responsive team dynamic.

Joy Gately, HR Manager at Intermarkets, Inc. noted, “Internally, we foster a culture that encourages employee engagement and team collaboration which has helped to fuel our revenue increases over the last few years. A cultural focus on innovation is a huge part of what makes Intermarkets unique. Our team takes pride in our ability to effectively match industry trends and deliver products and services that people want to buy in ways they want to buy them.”

Thanks to our incredible team, amazing partners, outstanding publishers, and stellar clients who have contributed to our success over the years.

Inc. 5000 lists Intermarkets No. 4891 based on 44% growth in revenue over the past three years.

inc5000

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.

 

AdvProg_feature

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.

 

Digital ads have evolved but the formula for a successful ad creative still stems from 5 core principles

  1. Know your audience
  2. Craft a simple message
  3. Get right to the point
  4. Be relevant
  5. Come clean (transparent messaging)

Banner ads have gone from simple images to a variety of advanced audio-visual formats delivered across channels to reach consumers wherever they are. Considering how to create an effective ad that will draw attention and generate clicks can be boiled down to these five points. Applying them to your ad concept will ensure that your creative speaks directly to your intended audience, driving conversions and making you money.

Know your audience

This is the universal KEYSTONE. While I was writing this post, I thought to myself, “How do I craft my message?” Digging down I realized that I was outlining my thoughts based on who I was writing to—you!

Make sure you have a clearly defined audience, that you understand who they are, what they’re looking for, and how they want to find it. Without this piece, you’re going to find the other four difficult to execute. Without knowing whom you’re trying to reach, you’re casting a wide net, which brings down the quality of your clicks.

Craft a simple message

Are you selling a product, idea, or a cause? Make sure the audience knows what it is at first glance. With banner ads, you usually have a very slim window to earn attention from consumers online. Make sure that when they do spot your ad in the side bar of their favorite web page, it’s absolutely clear what you’re showing them.

Get right to the point

Sprint has a strong offer to draw families away from competitors with a hefty data package serving 4 lines for only $100/month. They do a great job here of giving a detailed yet brief description of the offer, which is enough to get curious buyers to click through and get more of the nitty-gritty from the landing page.

Use clear, concise messaging. If consumers have to interpret your offer, chances are they’ll skip right by it. Short and sweet takes the cake.

Be relevant

Turbotax knows that people are looking for easy, low-cost solutions to get their taxes done. It’s no coincidence that you probably received your w-2 recently and have also started seeing ads like this on almost every website. A well-timed campaign.

Pay attention to what’s going on in the world your audience lives in and what they’re interested in. Leverage relevant trends to supercharge your campaign without lifting any additional fingers or having to shell out more dollars. Again, it all ties back to truly knowing your audience.

Come clean

Ads like this are easy to understand, but I think 99% of us have learned one way or another that Mom was right, there is no such thing as absolutely “free”. In my opinion banner ads like this one come across as bait, and I tend to leave them be. If I knew from the ad what I would have to provide in order to receive the free product, then I’d be more likely to click and explore the offer. Maybe it’s just a quick survey—harmless! But if you’re not telling me up front then I’m going to assume it’s something much, much worse.

Be honest and transparent with your messaging. It builds trust and makes people want to do business with you. Let your customers know exactly what you’ve got to offer without beating around the bush with vaguely worded, fluffy catch phrases. If you have an innovative product or a meaningful cause you want to share, show them! This will increase the quality of your conversions by only bringing folks who are actually ready to be your customer.

To summarize, or “TLDR” as they say nowadays, if you get to know your audience ahead of time, you can put together a simple yet effective ad that will get their attention. It shows that you take time to understand who they are and what they’re looking for, and you are ready to cater to their individual needs. It will build a relationship between you and your audience that fosters loyalty and a strong brand reputation.

Written by Vipul Mistry | @mrmistry

crystal ball
2015 was a busy year for us digital media folks.  Expect 2016 to be more of the same—with new opportunities and challenges discovered across technologies, platforms, and experiences.  I’ve highlighted a few things I’m sure that we’ll be watching in 2016.

HEADER BIDDING

Along with programmatic and private marketplace, header bidding was one of the top buzzwords in digital in 2015. For those that don’t know, header bidding is an advanced programmatic technique where publishers offer inventory to multiple ad exchanges simultaneously prior to making calls to their ad server.  This implementation allows quality advertisers to better compete for valuable impressions, thus driving up the bid. Expect the discussion around header bidding to continue to be at the forefront for publishers, not solely for its potential impacts to yield, but for the quality advertisers it brings to market.  For many pubs, 2015 was spent understanding the dynamics of header bidding, and initial testing.  Header bidding is still a work in progress for many publishers. At the Appnexus Summit in November, it was mentioned that only about a quarter of the largest publishers have implemented a header bidding solution. For 2016, expect more testing, implementing solutions with the hopes of opening the door to more programmatic opportunities.  With so much to be gained by implementing programmatic solutions, you can count on publishers considering header bidding their top priority for the year.

MOBILE

Mobile phone usage will decline in 2016—Kidding! Over 92% of Americans currently own a cell phone, with 68% of the population owning a smartphone, and they are keeping that device within arms-reach at all times. That in mind, it’s no surprise that mobile traffic continues to outpace desktop traffic.  It’s not just millennials who are using mobile devices more, it’s older consumers with buying power and it’s also folks like my 70+ year old dad who don’t leave home without their iPhone and iPad.  Smartphone users are consuming and creating content at an unprecedented pace; mobile has revolutionized how people follow breaking news, make purchases, research health information, and navigate. Given the importance of the mobile platform, it is imperative that publishers optimize experiences to best suit the mobile format, tailoring content to a smaller screen and for the on-the-go consumer.  Given the quick hit visits and inherent bounce rate of social media links, optimizing content and advertising on this small screen format is crucial to maximizing revenue.  There will be additional focus on optimizing experiences for speed.  Facebook introduced Instant Articles and Google announced Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP)—all in an effort to reduce slow load times and getting these hyper-connected consumers information faster.

ad block

AD BLOCKING

The $10.7B that ad blocking cost publishers in 2015 could double in 2016, as the 18% of U.S. Internet users using ad blocking services grow. Users are pushing back against poor experiences.  To combat the clutter, the industry is shifting towards better experiences such as native advertising. Consumers are demanding content, experiences, and ads that are timely, relevant, useful, contextual, minimally invasive, and clearly identified; otherwise they are completely dismissing it.  No longer are ads just ineffective if done incorrectly, but now they can also be damaging. However, don’t expect the banner ad to die; just evolve.  So many brands, agencies and publishers live in the environment. In the upcoming year, expect more messaging to be embedded into content, interactive experiences and paid sponsorship to combat ad blocking.

personalization

PERSONALIZATION

The days of “Dear [first name], we have an exclusive deal just for you!” are fading as the concept of mass personalization evolves in sophistication. Advertisers are continuing to experiment with how to scale customized ads with big data to deliver the right message at the right time to the right person. Like advertisers, publishers must take a renewed interest in predictive and deterministic analytics that allow them to push out content that is more custom by nature. Publishers will lean more heavily on real-time data to help create the right content experiences at the right time.  2016 will be a year of discovering how to simplify analytics and use the resulting data to effectively engage the reader to read more and stay on page longer.

POLITICAL SPENDING

One Presidential race, 34 Senate races, 12 governorships, 435 U.S. House seats, and up to 29,000 local elections. That’s a whole lot of politics for a year (too much, some may argue). Experts predict unprecedented political spending in the range of $6-$10B. A whopping 80% of that spend will go straight to advertising. While the bulk will remain allocated to traditional television spots, 2016 will bring an uptick in digital ad spend.  Campaigns no longer limited to a few platforms (i.e. Google, Facebook), can reach voters at the most opportune times using mobile, tablet, or laptop. Everyone will be especially interested in seeing new innovations in reaching the voter, particularly via mobile for this election cycle. This trend ties in closely with personalization trends, as campaigns know they must break through the clutter to reach the voters most likely to engage with them and advocate on their behalf.   Publishers with the right demographics of audiences will benefit from the onslaught of additional advertising.

Vipul Mistry is the Business Development Manager at Intermarkets, a digital marketing firm that connects advertisers and publishers with the most powerful tools in the media space.

Reach me on Twitter @mrmistry

A Referral Traffic Leader*

The Drudge Report is unstoppable

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: when it comes to web traffic, the Drudge Report is unstoppable. With 58 million visits a month*, and 406 million visits* from January to July 2015*, the Drudge Report is an in-demand source of breaking internet news. The referral traffic* alone, delivers 791 million visits* to 3,362 other websites*, which debuts the Drudge Report, as a referral traffic leader*.

Most recently, SimilarWeb reported that out of the top U.S. news sites, the Drudge Report is the number one source for news referral traffic, to GOP candidates’ websites. Consequently, the Drudge Report continues to be a trusted source of GOP news and valued information. With political campaigning afoot, it’s more critical now than ever, to have a targeted advertisement, in front of the targeted audience. And with these results, you can bet the Drudge Report will deliver more votes to the polls next year.

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*SimilarWeb,10/19/15

Cell phone

Programmatic spending is expected to double through next year, with the majority of growth from mobile technology. Studies suggest that there are more cell phones on earth than people. With these statistics, advertisers are exploring the best possible solutions to provide quality video content to premium audiences. According to Emarketer, an estimate of 63.5% of the U.S. population will watch digital video content regularly this year and there will be approximately 20 million new digital video viewers between 2015 and 2019.1

To that end, Intermarkets teamed up with Virool and Rubicon Project, to adopt their new Inline video advertising format for mobile web and desktop. According to a press release published by Rubicon Project they state; “The Inline video solves the riddle of monetizing mobile inventory by dynamically embedding viewable and user activated video advertising…” That means custom content with increased viewability.

Inline Video has harmonized well for Intermarkets clients who want quality video ads for their premium audiences;

“The vast majority of publishers are nowhere near capable of providing advertisers with the volume of high-quality, pre-roll video inventory they seek. That’s why so many sellers find themselves literally turning away buyers. What’s worse, they are missing out on the most engaging, in-demand and profitable advertising format of all” says Erik Requidan, VP Sales and Programmatic Strategy.

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1 eMarketer’s US Digital Users, Q1, 2015 Complete Forecast, February, 2015

2016 Presidential Election

The United States 2016 presidential election is scheduled for Tuesday, November 8, 2016. With only a little over a year to go, you can bet that politicians are strategizing the best tactics to communicate to you. While television advertising is still the preferred channel for political campaigns, social media has proven largely successful for some political candidates, even the president.

The President

In the 2008 and 2012 elections, Obama’s campaign leveraged social media to communicate to targeted audiences. These channels deemed fruitful, as he was able to bring out a larger pool of minorities to the voting polls, winning him the presidency—twice. Most recently, the president took over the white house’s Instagram account, and snapped a picture from Air Force One, flying over a mountain range. In other words, we can now officially refer to him as #Obamagram or #Presidentgram. With that said, it’s clear president Obama knows the importance of social media, and uses it regularly to keep up with the ever-changing digital climate.

Trump

Then there’s Donald Trump, currently the most followed political candidate running in the 2016 election. He’s known to provoke the masses, and the masses follow him along, at more than 8 million strong, across three major social media channels.

Social Engagement

Other candidates in the 2016 presidential election are not engaging with their audience on the same levels. Their lack of followers is indicative of that. Let’s view them.

2016 Presidential Candidates Social Standing

2016 Presidential Predictions

It’s evident Trump and Clinton have the largest following, succeeded by Ben Carson. And according to realclearpolitics.com, they’re leading the polls as well. Perhaps, there’s a correlation between who has the most social media followers, and as a result, wins the 2016 presidential election? If this assessment is correct, it’s between Trump or Carson, verses Clinton, at this point in the race. We’ll soon see though…

Most Followed Presidential Candidates

But one thing is for certain; if you’re not actively engaging on social media, amidst a digital world, you’re losing valuable impressions and voter attention.

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Digiday Publishing Summit - 5 Take AwaysDigiday Publishing Summit

Intermarkets attended this year’s Digiday Publishing Summit which was held in Miami, Florida, with other premier worldwide publishers. For years, Intermarkets has had a strong presence at these conferences.

Discussions began surrounding the platform era and provided insight on how some publishers are fearful of which platforms to distribute their advertising content on.

Ad blocking frustration is growing with many paid apps that have ad blocking capabilities. Solutions may exist with how quality, branded, advertising content, can potentially close future ad blocking capabilities.

Monetizing mobile is also another challenge for publishers because the rates are very different from desktop. As in desktop, viewability is a concern on mobile and advertisers want to ensure quality environments.

Pre-roll video ads pose another headache for publishers and viewers. Ads are sometimes longer than the content the viewer is trying to access. The first few seconds of a video advertisement will determine if the user will watch or move on, otherwise the viewer is lost.

With programmatic advertising firmly established, “Mo programmatic Mo Problems” rings true. With so many intermediaries buying and selling into programmatic, understanding is difficult. While this advertising is efficient, it makes viewability standards difficult, which could also impact the user’s experience.

The meteoric rise of digital advertising and the ubiquitous Internet has often caused people to “silo” the digital and “real” world. But more often the case than not, these realms are beginning to merge into a seamless experience. Think about “The Internet of Things.”


InReality just released a new study
 that shows 75% of in-store shoppers use their mobile device while shopping. That number was approximately 1% a mere 10 or 15 years ago. That’s a huge change. Our instant, constant access to the information superhighway has changed nearly everything.

But we wanted to share this for a different reason. Advertisers can’t silo the digital and real worlds. They are quickly becoming one of the same. So that digital advertising campaign’s ROI can’t be judged solely on online purchases or engagement, or whatever KPI’s are used.

While it’s still pretty difficult to quantify, this study shows that digital advertising can and will have real world, in-store impact as well. This isn’t news, necessarily.

But it’s a totally different way to view the sales funnel.