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A closer look at Time Inc.'s programmatic print buying

Media giant Time Inc. has launched programmatic buying for print audiences – a first for the industry. We asked Andy Blau, Time Inc.’s senior VP and group GM of ad sales, what the business hopes to achieve.

What’s the main objective behind launching a programmatic solution for print?

The primary goal is to give digital buyers who currently go to a programmatic platform – which is growing dramatically – the opportunity to execute a print purchase in the same way, with the same ease. At the same time, the move allows us to expose digital buyers to print rates, which are not as different to digital rates as they might think.

Presumably the main benefit is to drive ad sales across platforms?

Exactly. To begin, we’ve launched six audience segments and for each of those there is a corresponding digital segment – meaning it’s easier than ever to purchase across print and digital. Businesses can target very carefully in digital and, while you can do that in print too, it of course gets more costly the more targeted you get. So we’re saying if you buy cross-platform with us, you get mass scale with the magazines, because they are still extraordinarily broad reaching, and you can get as targeted as you like with the digital. And we’ll help you access the print in a simple, easy way. While that might seem very simple to us, it has not traditionally been very easy to do for digital buyers. In addition, there is this misconception that print is much more expensive that digital. On this basis, it really isn’t at all. The example we are using is that if you go to the People magazine rate card, which is essentially the largest advertising vehicle in the magazine industry, you will see that it’s US$345,000 for a page and it reaches an audience of around 42m. That’s $8.12 per 1,000 for audience reach. $8 is a very common CPM in the world of digital for premium buyers – so the prices are not very far apart. We’re showing that print is easily accessible as well as affordable for buyers.

Why have you not done this before?

Well, programmatic has grown dramatically over the past 18 months, and we have been very aggressive with it. During that time, we have been developing our own market position and working on the technology. Having spent a good deal of time doing that, we felt that, by working with MediaMath, it would be a very simple addition to add print to the platform. MediaMath was also very keen to add print to its platform, so having found a partner who is willing and keen to execute this with us, we have made a move.

What future developments might we see?

We think version 2.0 will involve adding in more audience segments, while versions 2.5 or 3.0 might see us updating it to include custom segments that certain advertisers are looking for. We also hope that in the long term there might be enough volume to make the ‘select and find’ process more economical, which would allow us to do more targeting at a lower cost. There might be some economy of scale there if we can build the volume.

What’s the value of being the first to do this?

It’s always nice to be first and there has been a lot of interest in the fact we are moving in this direction. But we’re using the same technology as the digital buyers and it’s a relatively simple move – so we’re also sharing this information with other publishers, because if there is an opportunity for print to evolve in this way and for others to get on board, there will be much more opportunity for everyone.

How do you measure the success of accessing audiences in this way?

The main measurement we use is MRI AdMeasure, which is the syndicated research organisation for the industry. It measures whether we have delivered the contracted audience, which is obviously critical. There is an issue that, if we run highly targeted print, we don’t currently have a way of measuring whether we have delivered that audience. We know it, based on our printing, but we don’t have a third-party to confirm it – so we are working with MRI to develop a partial-run measurement system, as that will help us as we get into more targeted programmatic print work.

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