Building a successful publishing brand requires careful management of a lot of moving parts. That’s more true today than ever before thanks to a growing number of platforms, evolving tech and countless other factors, from data management to marketing automation.
But thankfully for publishers, there are service providers like Omeda who can help publishers optimize their businesses. And Omeda, in particular, has plenty to offer these days since it has drastically expanded its business and refocused its mission.
Given the scope and range of products that Omeda now offers, we wanted sit down with CEO, Aaron Oberman, to get his take on where his business is now positioned within the publishing industry, and where he sees opportunities and challenges for publishers and Omeda.
Folio: So, it’s been a couple years now since you acquired one of your biggest competitors in Hallmark, not to mention the acquisition of Sunbelt shortly before that. How have the pieces fallen into place since those acquisitions and how have they transformed your business?
Aaron Oberman: Anytime you double the size of your business you are sure to run into some complexity, but we are excited about the economies of scale this provides. We are also excited about the clients we have added and the exceptional talent that was part of the acquisition.
The Hallmark acquisition brought along two great products—an integrated form builder and a digital magazine viewer—which have both been really popular with our existing clients.
We now manage over 85 million unique names for over 140 different media companies. That scale is allowing us to invest in technology development.
Folio: Your focus now seems to be on something you refer to as ‘audience relationship management.’ Can you explain exactly what that means, and how your product offerings support this?
Oberman: Audience Relationship Management, or ARM (not that our industry needed another acronym) represents the overall strategy behind what publishers and media companies do with their audiences. With so much valuable first-party data, our clients are well positioned to monetize valuable industry insights that other programmatic solutions simply can’t offer.
We are all battling Facebook and Google who currently dominate 80 percent of all digital advertising dollars, so publishers can’t try to fight the battle of scale. They instead have to focus on quality over quantity, especially in B2B, and offer creative and successful solutions targeting qualified buyers that show positive ROI for their advertising partners.
Furthermore, with GDPR and other consent management issues, publishers need a partner that can handle the complexity of audience data, entitlements and consent. All things we have been doing for years.
We split ARM into four key components: acquire, unify, manage and activate. And it’s important to have built products around each of those four elements to help our clients continue to proactively monetize, manage and access their data.
Folio: Can you give us an example of an ARM success story?
Oberman: We’ve recently launched integrations with Facebook, Double Click, as well as a new personalization tool. These products are helping our clients move beyond single channel marketing by truly developing a complete 360 degree marketing campaign all built off powerful, wholly owned, first party data.
In one case, we had a client push a targeted marketing campaign to Facebook (matching on email addresses) and saw a 90 percent match rate. This allowed our client to build a marketing campaign across email, social and the web. That’s a powerful message that only publishers can provide.
Folio: In your observation, how has your business, and the industry itself, changed over the past couple of years?
Oberman: One change has been that companies are realizing that audience data belongs to the entire organization and needs to be leveraged as such. It is their most valuable and core asset. The whole company from editorial to sales to events to audience development needs to be aligned around it, and the old silos are breaking down. We are also seeing this change being led at the CEO and executive level on down. We are having more conversations with CEOs regarding their audience data and how to best leverage it.
We have changed to be a better partner to our clients by helping them understand and manage that first-party data. Our mission is to work proactively with our clients to help them monetize that data. In the past, we’ve been more focused on the operational aspects of our clients processes but now we are combining that deep, operational expertise with a new focus on helping our clients develop and grow new products and revenue. By doing this we enable our clients to focus on what they do best (producing content and engaging with their audience) rather than focusing on building tech stacks either through many vendors or internally.
Companies tends to chase the shiny object, but B2B tends to be more calculated and disciplined in their approach. There is still a buy versus build paradigm shift going on, but we’ve seen a lot of companies try to cobble together too many services without having a real plan behind what they are trying to do. Gone are the days where media executives relied on the “tech person” to decide what technology is needed. While they offer an important view point we are seeing more companies move away from a “build” approach but instead developing, key, long-term partnerships with trusted technology partners that know their business.
Folio: Where do you see things going in the industry from here and how does your business benefit from that?
Oberman: It is becoming harder for media companies to compete on scale. Frankly, we see the driving force for media companies to have a deeper understanding of their niche audience. And while B2B media has been focused on this for decades, we see B2C media acting more like a B2B media company. The approaches being taken by B2B and B2C are converging. Whether that be events, lead gen, targeted advertising or ABM, we are seeing a deliberate data-driven personalization approach surrounding a media company’s interaction with their audience.
Also, there are more individuals involved in the “data” discussion now and we are speaking to a variety of disciplines—audience, digital, sales, technology, marketing, etc.— and because of this we are (and have) developed products that speak to each of these functions. We are seeing really smart and talented people climb the rungs at media companies. These are people that have both operational experience combined with revenue and digital skill sets which makes for a very exciting time in the industry.
Folio: Flip that, what challenges do you foresee in the industry, and how will they impact Omeda?
Oberman: From a macro standpoint, advertising dollars will continue to be a competitive revenue stream for publishers. But, growth in ABM, events, and new subscription models (advertising-based and as well as data-based) should continue to provide publishers with a diversified revenue mix.
Interestingly enough, we are also seeing some growth in print. With digital being “everywhere” print can be a nice “escape” for your audience.
From a strategic standpoint, we still see some media companies struggling with using the technology they have to better serve their audience. This can be because the sales teams do not understand the capabilities, tech teams that want to build it all themselves, or just an overall vision paralysis around technology from the leadership teams. But we are positioned to help in all three areas.
Folio: Your company can certainly attest to this, but one of the undeniable trends happening within the publishing and media landscape is consolidation. How does a service provider, like yourself, develop a strategy to develop new business or retain customers as companies change ownership and leadership?
Oberman: This sounds cliché, but they aren’t customers, they are partners. We only stay in business if they are profitable and get value from our offerings, so we strive to go beyond just being a cost center or a line item on their budget. In many cases of acquisitions and divestitures, we tend to be the party that understands the assets the best and are frequently relied upon by the buyer to help them understand what they’ve purchased.
We also proactively work with all of our clients to help them understand their data and create opportunities to attach revenue to the data they’ve worked so hard to acquire. Along those lines, we’ve created a new Client Success team dedicated to finding creative solutions to help our partners monetize their data and grow their audiences using technology. We have also just opened our new corporate headquarters in downtown Chicago. Besides this being the culmination of our acquisitions by bringing all of Omeda under one new “roof,” it will also allow us to better attract talent and provide an environment where we can better host our clients for additional training, product development, and strategic meetings. We are really excited about what’s coming next.
Aaron Oberman is CEO of Omeda, a leading audience management platform allowing publishers to acquire, unify, activate & manage data. To find out more contact the Omeda team at 847.564.8900 or firstname.lastname@example.org