Business Insider

Local Food.

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Leave it to Mike Shields of Business Insider for taking a position and calling out marketers and agencies for the faux shock they are expressing on issues of fraud and supply chain corruption.  Not since Tom Phillips of Dstillery famously evoked HBO’s “The Wire” has culpability been served in such substantial portions.

I’m sure that many in our industry will have nits to pick with Mike – honest people can disagree.  But come on people!  At very least, the optics are terrible.  Marketers publicly crying foul, agencies and tech companies pointing fingers at one another… it’s enough to give one the vapors!

As my small contribution to the debate, I’m offering a new way to look at the issues of quality, transparency, viewabilty, etc.  Set aside all the tech speak and financial-bubble metaphors:  the discussion is really about the quality of the internet food supply.  Welcome to the concept of local food!

The Drift is proudly underwritten this week by Digital Remedy, a digital marketing and technology solutions partner to publishers, advertisers, and influencers. Digital Remedy delivers performance-based and cross-channel solutions to increase monetization and operations potential of any organization while exceeding standard KPIs. Visit Digital Remedy to learn more.

Rather than continually backpedaling on issues like the percentage of viewable impressions and acceptable fraud levels, might we instead start to compete on the basis of quality – on how much we do know about the inventory we serve?  Might we now start talking about the exact source of inventory – where it was born – and exactly what hands its passed through on its way to market?  No shady rail depots or slaughterhouses.  No grain silos tainted by GMOs or banned pesticides.  I know the where all of my impressions came from and you are getting the cleanest shipment imaginable – USDA prime!

Think this is all a bit much?  Or perhaps that I’ve gotten soft in the head from living in a farm state – Vermont – all these years?  Maybe you’re right.  But consider for a minute the plight of the small publisher who’s struggling to get fair compensation for high quality inventory?  Is she really all that different from the organic farmer who’s now able to charge a premium for a purer, cleaner product?  Or think about the volume publisher or platform operating in a bottomless pool of inventory:  Isn’t he a bit like the big packaged goods company trying to drive up the price of commodity staples by appending organic, gluten-free or non-GMO to every possible product?

Maybe it’s not as simple as asking the advertiser do you know exactly how that got on your plate?  But maybe it’s not such a bad way to start the conversation.

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Fool’s Gold.

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Fools GoldApril Fools day had always been such a kick.  A little fun and whimsy to break up the late winter gloom.  But now, today, it’s just another day.  No fun and brightness, just more gloom.  You see, today, April 1st, 2014 is the first day of the rest of our lives without Eat24 on Facebook.

Please.  Just give me a minute.

Yes, you heard correctly.  The favorite startup of spoiled urban foodies with too much discretionary income and not enough energy to get off the couch (think of Uber for gourmet chicken and waffles )– the one most of us never heard of until yesterday – has very publicly broken up with Facebook.  In 1,312 snarky, self-referential words, Eat24 complained extensively about everything from Facebook’s changing algorithms to – horror of horrors! – its naked desire to make money.  (What the letter lacks in brevity and precision it makes up for with inclusiveness and incomprehensibility:  it includes a freakish LOL cat, a star wars reference and advice that Facebook needs to be more like the dormant 1996 website for the movie Spacejam.)  Bottom line: as of midnight, Eat24 was shutting down its Facebook presence.

This week’s Drift is proudly underwritten by Bionic Advertising Systems, an advertising technology company focused on delivering innovative software that streamlines and automates media workflow for marketers, their advertising agencies, and publishers.

Folks, this is the marketing story of the year!  But not for the reasons you might think.  The actual “dispute” about Facebook’s algorithms is a red herring.  Yet news organizations from The New York Times to CNN to Business Insider rushed to report on this “event” as a harbinger and flashpoint for the coming marketer rebellion against Facebook.  (Full disclosure:  in 2012 Facebook was a client of mine, and I have both a personal account and a company Facebook presence.  Further disclosure:  I have my own issues with Facebook, but who doesn’t?)

Here’s the real story.  Eat24 and many more “marketers” have simply been jobbing the Facebook system for years.  They may fancy themselves some kind of content producer, but they are really just another parasitic startup nesting in the social environment Facebook has created from nothing.  They claim that the ROI with Facebook just isn’t there anymore, which begs an interesting question:  how can you complain about ROI when there was no “I” in the first place?   So Facebook flipped the switch and Eat24 pulled the plug.  End of story, right?

Oh no.  Here’s why it’s the marketing story of the year.  Eat24 found another system to job:  the press.  The business press just can’t resist a juicy “story” like this, especially when it feeds a pre-existing narrative (in this case, the twin narratives of “Facebook is arrogant and clueless” and “Facebook is the new Yahoo!”)   As much as I want to hate Eat24 for its smug tone and superficiality (no one over age 12 should ever use the term “besties”) I must give them a tip of the hipster fedora.  They played their hand beautifully.  Their strategy ended up being native, viral and – based on the lockstep, uncritical response of the “business press” – virtually programmatic.

Happy April Fools Day.  We’ve all been punked.

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Good Morning Vietnam!

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Coffee in VietnamRecently I heard an NPR clip about the coffee business in Vietnam.  Naturally, my thoughts turned immediately to the state of the publisher in the online media and advertising world.

Vietnam, it turns out, grows really awesome coffee beans.  But like other small, economically vulnerable coffee-growing countries, Vietnam is worried about what will happen if it just keeps dumping those precious beans onto the world coffee market and hoping demand earns them a high price.  So Vietnam is moving up the value chain.  Instead of just being a grower, the country is also now a major processor, a key distribution point for regional coffee shipping and even a direct seller of gourmet blends.  In short, Vietnam is taking control of its economic future by making smart decisions about its most precious commodity.

This week’s Drift is proudly underwritten by Evidon. Evidon produces new, accurate intelligence on how the digital marketplace really works, so companies can make more informed decisions for their businesses. Powered by Ghostery® data, Evidon solutions include unparalleled insight into the marketing technologies that underpin the commercial internet and the power to control their impact on business.  

This is the story I led with at yesterday’s AdExchanger Programmatic I/O conference.  I moderated the “Publishing Now” discussion, featuring top executives from BuzzFeed, LinkedIn and Business Insider, three specialty publishers who — like little Vietnam — are moving up the value chain.  As you would imagine, the vast majority of conference attendees were deeply committed to all things programmatic, so our panel ended up being a bit of counter-programming.  Don’t get me wrong:  programmatic technology and channels may still be a significant part of the picture. They’re just not the whole picture.  A few thoughts and highlights:

  • BuzzFeed bases its economic value on creating “share-able” impressions and have introduced advertisers to a new scorecard.
  • For LinkedIn, highly detailed data and context are the keys to premium status and ad rates, and alternative revenue streams  give them the cover to be selective in their ad strategies.
  • Business Insider efficiently builds integrated ad/editorial programs (through re-usable components and models) and then scales the distribution of those programs across its network and the larger web.
  • Each company has executed its formula quite well, but these strategies and tools are available to a great many other publishers.  I think much of it comes down to will, commitment and leadership.
  • None of these pubs are saying that programmatic doesn’t matter.  Both BuzzFeed and Business Insider have robust connections to the ad tech landscape.  LinkedIn is, at this point, more “pro-curious” as might be expected.  And BI has been extremely aggressive in driving programmatic “private exchanges” through its SSP partner PubMatic.

Taking control of your economic future doesn’t mean turning your back on automated marketplaces.  It means approaching them from a position of strength.  Vietnam doesn’t just dump its beans on the world market and hope for the best.  And the smart publisher shouldn’t simply dump its impressions into programmatic channels either.  The decisions are far more nuanced than they seem, and you have more options than you probably even realize.

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Being Grateful.

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It’s a short week at the close of a busy, hectic year.  It’s also the time when many of us take our last breath before the sprint to make Q4 numbers while simultaneously shopping for the holidays.  So during this all too short breather, a quick note about the people, ideas and values for which I’m really grateful. Thanks go out to…

The 3-4 sales people in every workshop I teach who are truly dedicated to the profession of media sales.  I recognize your ambition and commitment, and they inspire me to keep doing what I do.

Those who read, comment on and forward The Drift to others in their companies.  Because of you, meeting this weekly deadline has become something I look forward to.

Ad:tech and the past recipients of the Industry Achievement Award.  To be recognized by such an amazing group last spring was humbling and inspiring.  I feel like it’s something I have to continue to live up to in the years ahead.

My wife Sharon and my daughters, Lucy and Madeline.  I’m grateful that such amazing women choose to keep me around so that I can see  the great things you each do for the world.

The people at iMedia, ad:tech, the IAB, AdMonsters, Evidon and Business Insider who’ve all given me the chance to speak or moderate at their events this year.  I hope everyone who ascends your stages feels the same gratitude and commitment that I do.

Enduring, enriching friendships with people like Wenda Harris Millard, Scot McLernon, John Durham, Dave Morgan, Larry Kramer, Rick Parkhill, Tom Deierlein, Charlie Thomas and Mark McLaughlin.  Through inspiration, support  and advice, you’ve all contributed so much to what I do.

The advisors who continue to guide The Seller Forum into its tenth year, and the sponsors — Collective/Amp, PubMatic and Mojiva — who continue their commitment to this unique and valuable environment.

Tamara Clarke and Christina Ross who work hard every day making sure the experience of working with Upstream Group continues to be a great one.  None of this would work without you.

All the companies who’ve been our customers this year  — for training workshops, Seller Forum events, Drift sponsorships, consulting and more.  33 Across, A&E, About.com, AccuWeather, Adap.tv, Adara Media, Adconion, Adobe, AdoTube, ad:tech, Amazon, AOL, AT&T AdWorks, BabyCenter, bizjournals, Bizo, Blue Kai, Bonnier Corp., Brand.net, Burda, Burst Media, Business Insider, Buysight, BuzzLogic, Cars.com, CBS, Centro, Collective, Comcast Interactive, comScore, Condé Nast, ContextWeb (PulsePoint), D&B Digital, deviantART, Discovery Communications, Disney, DMG WorldMedia, eHarmony, ESPN, Everyday Health, eXelate, Facebook, Fairchild, FOX News, FOX Sports, Gawker, Google, Grab Networks, Halogen, Healthline, Hearst Digital Media, IAB, IGN Entertainment, iMedia, InflectionPointMedia, Interclick, ITN Digital, Jingle Networks, Jumpstart Automotive, Kontera, Krux Digital, Lotame, LucidMedia, Martini Media, Meebo, Meredith, Microsoft, Mojiva, Monster Media Networks, Move, Inc., MTV, MyWebGrocer, Nature Publishing Group, Navteq, NBC Universal, NCC Media, The New York Times, Newspaper National Network, Orbitz, PubMatic, quadrantONE, Quantcast, Reader’s Digest, Remedy Health Media, Resonate, RMM Online, RTL Netherlands, Seeking Alpha, Sojern, Sugar Inc., TechMediaNetwork, The Daily, Hollywood Reporter, Weather Channel, TheStreet.com, Thomson Reuters, Travel Ad Network (Travora), Tremor Video, Triad Digital, Turner, TVGuide, Us Magazine, Undertone, Upromise Inc., Vertical Acuity, Washington Post, Weatherbug, WebMD, WhitePages.com, Yahoo! and YuMe.

And last but not least, I’m grateful that none of this is even close to being finished.  That there are so many ideas yet to be conceived, so many mysteries yet to be framed, so much of the future left to be invented.  Here’s to being grateful for what this year has brought us, and to remaining excited about what the years ahead will offer.  Happy Thanksgiving.

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