SXSW: Gawker VP Talks About The Next Generation of Publishing

By March 11, 2012

“A lot of the stuff you see a few days later in mainstream media, you got from us first.  That makes it very personal for the readership – there’s a lot of engagement there.”  That’s a quote from Gawker’s VP of ad sales, Andrew Gorenstein, talking about how a new breed of publishers, like Gawker and of course this blog itself, are rapidly differentiating themselves from incumbents.  A former Conde Nast man himself, Andrew came to Gawker because he saw how digital platforms afford publishers the ability to engage audiences and work with marketers in remarkable ways.

Sitting down with Andrew at the legendary Iron Works BBQ restaurant here in Austin (lunch most definitely lived up to the hype), I was hoping to pick his brain on the latter of those two, seeking advice on how publishing startups should approach their advertising strategy.  The conversation went much deeper than that, however, as Andrew shared some important insights on that which should be priority number one for all of these companies: establishing a brand and building an audience.

That may sound obvious, but it’s actually quite difficult.  These days, it’s easy to start a blog, write some posts, and get some traffic.  To become a real player though, you need a consistent voice and a very thorough understanding of your audience.  “If you can’t sit down and diagram a day in the life of your reader, how do you know what they find most valuable and what they need to make themselves smarter, day-in and day-out.”  To become a daily resource that allows your readers to be the first to know, and ultimately compel them to share, you need to look at them as peers and figure out how you can fulfill their needs.

So then how do you incorporate advertising into that relationship?  When I asked Andrew, he stressed the importance of avoiding “bad revenue.”  If you’re not taking the time to find advertising partners that organically fit with your site, it’s going to reflect poorly on you and turn off your users.  “If you’re trying to be a hip site and you’re running some wonky looking ad for Lamisil, that’s not cool.  And considering that’s the first impression made by a potentially loyal reader, that’s a waste, and it’s simple not worth the revenue.”  At the same time, using technology to your advantage is crucial.  Working with marketing partners to build unique and compelling executions through your platform will not only increase the engagement marketers receive, it will ensure that your viewers find true substance in the messaging.  And while that takes a little more heavy lifting from all parties, it’ll provide a value proposition for everyone involved: you, your advertisers, and, most importantly, your readers.

Andrew’s insights are extremely helpful for anyone looking to start, or maintain, a new publishing company these days (of course the irony is not lost on me that Tech.Li falls squarely in this boat).  Props to Andrew and his team over at Gawker, they’ve done a fantastic job of creating a media company that continues to be on the cutting edge and create real value for their readers.  It’s an exciting time to be part of publishing’s next generation!