One of the challenges for publishers on the digital advertising front is adopting and deploying emerging premium formats, while keeping a close eye on how the more traditional units are performing.

This is exactly what Joe Purzycki (pictured), vice president of advertising at Vox Media, will be discussing at FOLIO: and min’s MediaMashup summit on April 16 at the Grand Hyatt in New York. Here he shares some of his insights on mobile and social advertising, and how publishers should be approaching the market.

FOLIO: What are some of the market forces that are changing the digital advertising marketplace? And how are you aligning your business development accordingly?

Joe Purzycki: I think the hot button topic with publishers and advertisers is a switch to native advertising, the reliance on standard IAB advertising units and the question of how effective they are. Publishers, over the last year, have made a strong move into offering advertising that is native to their site, and lot of it seems to be content offerings.

What we’re trying to assess is what is the impact of the standard IAB units and what is actually the impact, before we jump in, of native advertising? That’s one of the larger trends from the publishing side, and I think it’s something that everyone is trying to figure out.

For publishers, the reliance on programmatic buying as a way to sustain a business is something that’s not really possible to produce the kind of quality content that we would like to produce. We’re really looking at a number of options in terms of what our advertising looks like in the next year or two years and I think it will look a lot different than it does now. We just introduced Vox Advertising, which is a group I head up that is really focused on building and looking at new advertising products. We’ve introduced newer display units that are actually native to our platform.

We are built on a really rich and robust CMS platform that we’ve traditionally used to publish great content and connect our talent with our audiences. We want to repurpose that same platform and use it to connect brands to our audience in a really meaningful way. Sometimes that will look as simple as alignment with our great content and sometimes it will look different through a really rich and engaging advertising unit.

FOLIO: Measuring success can be a tricky game. How is Vox Media quantifying success for its advertising partners and what metrics are marketers looking for post-campaign?

Purzycki: We think we’re in a leadership position from the point of being able to connect brand advertisers with our valuable audiences. We are looking at the traditional brand advertising metrics—awareness, brand perception change and brand uplift. Those are what we look at first, and the secondary metrics are really the metrics that advertisers and marketers are bringing to us. I also think engagement is one we’re very interested in.

We’re looking at analytics tools, which include heat mapping and some A/B testing. We really want to know exactly how our advertising, especially the ones we’re introducing through our platform, is performing on behalf of our clients.

FOLIO: Many more advertisers are using social in combination with other online efforts. How are you introducing this into the fold?

Purzycki: We look at social via our talent. We have Joshua Topolsky, who is the editor-in-chief of The Verge. I think he now has about 100,000-plus Twitter followers. These guys are born and bred on the Internet—they cut their teeth on digital. What they’ve become very good at is creating a community around their content and personality. Our users are very much the same, so what we’re providing to brands is this rich set of data. Typically they’ll get a sponsorship with us that is sharable and we’ll let them know how it’s shared across the Web.

Outside of search, the majority of our traffic comes from social sites like Twitter, Facebook and Reddit. That’s because our audience is highly social and highly engaged and they’re influencers.

What we’re providing advertisers is a look into how impactful our advertising is off of our platform, which is our social metrics.

FOLIO: In your annual report, you note that 90 percent of all sales are direct. Why is this an important metric to point out and how does it reflect how your ad operation runs?

Purzycki: It goes back to the idea that programmatic buying doesn’t always assign the best value to our content. We’re proud to point it out because it means we have a great direct sales force and our position to connect brands with a very valuable audience is resonating. It means that we’ve sold through 90 and at times 100 percent of our inventory directly through our sales force.

I think that is telling in another way—we’re not just selling the standard IAB or high impact units that appear on our site. We’re also selling engagement—whether it be content or a sponsorships of an event like CES—we’re selling larger packages and not just relying on standard banner buys, which can be done through programmatic. I think it’s telling of who we are in the market and what we’re trying to achieve at a larger level.

FOLIO: How is Vox Media capitalizing on mobile marketing?

Purzycki: Mobile is an interesting thing for us and we’re trying to be forward thinking about mobile. We relaunched SB Nation in October 2012 and we launched Polygon about a month later. When we relaunched and launched both of those sites, we did so in responsive Web design, so the experience of both is universal across any screen. We’ve really moved away, in a sense, from an app. It doesn’t mean we won’t have apps as a distribution point in the future, but we’re seeing, for example, about 30 percent of traffic to SB Nation alone coming from mobile.

We’re preparing for a future where that will be 40, 50 or 60 percent. For an advertiser, we’re positioning it this way: About 30 percent of traffic is coming from mobile, you shouldn’t miss out on how our users interact with our site or their behavioral patterns. If you are sponsoring a piece of content that’s showing up on the desktop, you should have it across all platforms. That is really our approach right now and it’s not necessarily a buy one, buy all environment but we’re quickly moving to that.

Have a question you’d like to ask Purzycki? Tweet @FOLIOMag with the #MediaMashup hash tag and we’ll ask your question live on April 16. If you’re looking to better understand how your brands can thrive in a converged media landscape, register now for FOLIO: and min‘s MediaMashup event on April 16.


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