Lorne Brown is the President, CEO and Founder of Operative, a company that helps news publishers manage their advertising business. The News Media Alliance asked Brown for an update on Operative’s new projects, the media technology he is excited about and his take on the future of the news industry.
What drew you to working in news media?
I started in the industry working for CMP media, at the nexus of news and technology, and I’ve been hooked on this mix ever since. I started my company to support publishers as digital made their world more complex. I have always been a champion of the publishers, who need to embrace this change to digital in order to survive and thrive. Now we see news media companies that look nothing like the companies of 15 years ago, mobile wasn’t even a factor back then, yet they still need the same technical support to be able to put content in front of people wherever they might be.
What is the most exciting thing going on at Operative?
Operative has the good fortune to work with a large percentage of the major publishers in the U.S., all of which are seeing life get more complex across direct and indirect revenue channels. This year, we’ve really made the turn from providing our clients operational technology to providing strategic revenue-generating technology across their revenue channels. There’s definitely a buzz going on this year. Our legacy is to empower direct sellers and operations teams. We now help publishers maximize programmatic revenue as well. We’re about to launch a publisher marketplace to encourage premium publishers to work with each other to create scale without sacrificing quality. The goal of the marketplace is to have our customers work with each other to create scale vs. vendors aggregating their inventory and charging them a tax. Our biggest publishers have large demand and data. Our mid-sized publishers have great unsold inventory that gets sold via programmatic for low CPMs. By working together, everyone’s yield goes up and buyers get more quality inventory in a single buy.
Tell me about Operative’s work with news publishers.
Operative was built specifically for publishers to manage their advertising business, so we understand completely how complicated that can be with the rise of so many digital screens, data offerings and with programmatic, too.
With news publishers, there are so many ways to slice and dice inventory and audiences, from the local level to the national level, in many cases news media publishers lag behind in terms of digital advertising. Some of our news media clients have thousands of local sellers who sell door to door. We’re set up to give everyone from Comcast Spotlight toThe Wall Street Journal to Business Insider, the tools they need to customize their offerings on the spot so that digital can be included in the sale and can be delivered easily and effectively. We want to make sure that news publishers adopt digital and profit from it. Something else we’re excited about is simplifying selling for traditional news account executives to sell digital, which is why we have created Express.
What technology in the media are you most excited about?
I’m excited about technology that empowers the publisher. For so long, publishers have been subject to the technology that agencies and advertisers requested, and have adopted a ton of point solutions that created these Frankenstein offerings.
Native advertising, audience targeting, programmatic optimization, these are technologies that give publishers a leg up in the market, technologies that they can control and manage.
We’re about to release a marketplace which enables publishers to band together to increase audience scale but maintain a premium offering, which furthers this rise of publisher control.
How do you see the future of the news industry?
I’m really excited now by how quickly consumers have adopted things like mobile and streaming video, and how this has accelerated channel convergence. You see companies like Vice or Vox profiting from this because they’re always at the front of the line to adopt new channels, new data, new ad formats. They’re built to profit from a multiscreen audience.
From addressable TV to programmatic native advertising, things are getting mashed up much more quickly than people had predicted several years ago. I think that this convergence of channels will give traditional publishers big opportunities, but they have to act quickly. Companies that don’t embrace channel convergence, who don’t have multi-screen audiences are going to feel the pain. We’ve actually released a whitepaper on the future of publishing, which you can read here – The Future of Publishing is Digital.