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How The New York Times is operationalizing its ad yield business with Domo

Jon Reed Profile picture for user jreed March 26, 2018
In this midst of a difficult/promising digital transition, Jay Glogovsky of The New York Times told the Domopalooza 2018 audience how he was operationalizing their ad yield business with Domo. Afterwards, Glogovsky and I dug into the story.

If you want to see me get a lot less jaded, and quickly, get me an interview with someone from a newspaper like The New York Times.

That's what happened at Domopalooza 2018, where I interviewed Jay Glogovsky of the New York Times, after he finished a customer-moderated media panel on the main stage.

Though The New York Times is still grappling with a disrupted industry (e.g. falling print ad revenues), the timing for our chat is marked by encouraging digital revenues. In a recent earnings call, The Times' chief executive Mark Thompson explained why subscriber revenue matters:

We still regard advertising as an important revenue stream, but believe that our focus on establishing close and enduring relationships with paying, deeply engaged users, and the long-range revenues which flow from those relationships, is the best way of building a successful and sustainable news business.

With the the data privacy tradeoffs of "free" outlets like Facebook coming to ugly light, the merits of reader-supported news make sense. But where does this leave digital advertising? That's a critical issue for Glogovsky, whose job at the Times, Director of Yield, Advertising, puts him firmly on the advertising side of the organization.

A subscriptions-first news business takes hold

But as Glogovsky told the audience during the panel, his job is also tied to subscriber growth:

We are subscriptions-first business. My purview is mostly focused on advertising revenue. And that can be on podcasts, audio, it can be with the newsletter on our site, and so forth. But realistically, our subscriber is what's most important and there's really good math for that as well.

The math is this: subscribers are more loyal readers. Half of The New York Times 1.5 billion monthly page views are from subscribers:

That's a very, very big focus of ours. And from an advertising perspective, I'm all for as many subscribers as possible.

The balance seems to be working pretty well. The Times' digital-only subscription revenue hit $340 million in 2017, an increase of 46 percent. But digital advertising revenues held their own, up 14 percent to $238 million. The latter falls into Glogovsky's domain, which covers everything from managing ad inventory, to ad pricing, to handling "programmatic" advertising.

On Domo - "We're operationalizing the business more effectively"

So, I asked Glogovsky - how does Domo fit into the mix?

Domo is primarily used by our advertising team, and our yield team, which I lead... We are basically utilizing Domo to understand how we're performing in a day-to-day, around revenue, around our sell-through, around how well we're actually monetizing our users, and finding opportunities where we can optimize them on top of that.

Ad sales teams are up and running on Domo also:

We rolled out Domo to our sales team, to be self-sufficient around programmatic, which is a very hard thing to do in programmatic.

Why is programmatic such a beast?

Programmatic can be up, down or flat any given day, and we need to give our teams a tool that allows them to troubleshoot, and go out and talk to their advertisers more intelligently. That's why we employ Domo for that.

But the Times' staff already had access to plenty of analytics and marketing tools. So why was Domo needed? Glogovsky told me that tools proliferation was becoming a problem:

In the media industry, it's pretty common for different teams to have different data visualization tools... What we decided, as an advertising organization is that things are changing at such a rapid pace. It's evolving daily, and we can't rely on teams that have a lot of conflicting priorities. We need to be able to be nimble, and agile, and make changes.

Enter Domo:

We decided to onboard Domo. Before that, we were at the mercy of other teams, that didn't understand necessarily the ins and outs of advertising, nor should they be expected to know that. That's why we onboarded Domo.

Use of Domo spread quickly, sparked by a team of about fifteen super users. When you count the sales team, about 250 folks are live on Domo. So what was the biggest change after going live?

We're operationalizing the business more effectively. That's honestly the biggest change that we've seen.

Less ad hoc?

A lot less ad hoc, a lot less requests coming in from sales asking for a generic one time report. They now have the empowerment to actually log in and see.

It's about shifting accountability to the team level:

How I describe it internally is: it's a diversification of accountability. It can't just be one team that's accountable.

Tracking the numbers that matter

I tread into the sensitive topic of KPIs (companies don't always like to reveal their most important ones). In other words, what are his team's favorite Domo "Cards"? Glogovsky didn't play his full hand, but he shared a few industry staples they also monitor:

  • Daily ad revenues - "Obviously, our daily revenue is coming from the advertising organization, and how that mix is comprised of is very important to us. Because, it helps us drive towards the goals that our board of directors have set for us for the year."
  • Ad inventory utilization - "We are also tracking how we're utilizing our inventory from a media standpoint, because it's very important. Understanding how much is programmatic making of that, how much is direct making of our impression mix"
  • Ad consumption by device - "Where, in terms of devices, is it on desktop, is it on mobile, is on tablet? Those are the types of things that we're looking towards, and then trying to understand how we can bring in our advertiser and agency numbers into Domo, to better perform for them as well."

Domo has proven itself for managing ad prices:

One of the things we didn't have a clear understanding on is: where we are struggling in pricing. We had an idea, but we didn't know exactly where and who. Now, with Domo, it actually influences every single decision we make, for every single contract. We go in, we see how that category, that sales person, that advertiser is performing in price, and it gives us a guard rails around how conservative or aggressive that we may be with that account. It is changing both the behavior of our sales team, and my team. But, we are also making more intelligent business decisions.

It's about customer satisfaction - and not leaving money on the table either.

It's a tight wire act. One minute I'll be working on account where the rates are too high. I'll have another one where it's flat. The next minute, I'm in a position where I see there's an opportunity where I can upsell them in certain areas. Domo is imperative for that.

The wrap - AI, GDPR, and external collaboration

All told, Glogovsky's team is pulling about 15 data sources into Domo. Not all of the data sources are real-time, but the "near real-time" status has proven sufficient. So what's next? Like several customers I spoke with, Glogovsky is eager to expose Domo dashboards to external-facing clients.

Domo has some options in that regard, but based on the feedback Domo received this year, I would expect them to expand their external collaboration options. With so much programmatic automation in play, Glogovsky is also watching the advance of "AI", and Domo's AI platform Mr. Roboto, closely. On the keynote panel, data privacy and GDPR were discussed. Glogovsky acknowledged:

It's definitely going to make us lose a lot of sleep. Just from an advertising perspective.

But he concluded:

Ultimately thinking about privacy and what it means to the user, it should be a right. And that's what Europe is enacting.

As for speaking on a panel with some of The New York Times' direct competitors, Glogovsky doesn't see it that way:

I don't think it should ever be Washington Post versus the New York Times. It should be: we rise together.

I'd sure like to think so. Media literacy for the win, or no one wins.


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