Content Needs a Kingdom, Taboola Founder Says

Adam Singolda started Taboola 7 years ago because there was nothing to watch on TV. “I thought people should not be looking for information; information should be looking for people. Most people don’t wake up in the morning and search for that amazing jazz singer they like. They have to discover that person somehow.”Singolda makes those connections with something he calls the Magic 3. Creating experiences/stories that are engaging, reaching an audience at scale, and understanding the data to measure and analyze your ROI. Or, as he likes to say, “Content is no longer king unless there’s a kingdom—audience.”

The young CEO spoke impressively in May during Internet Week NY at MediaPost’s OMMA Native, and he will deliver a keynote titled The New World of Content Marketing at SIIA’s inaugural Business Information & Media Summit, Nov. 10-12 in Miami Beach. (The early-bird registration for this conference expires July 18.)

Taboola has quickly become one of the world’s leading content discovery platforms, reaching 350 million unique visitors. Their tagline is simply, Content You May Like. I watched Singolda speak for the first time this morning (on a video from that May event), and he makes a strong first impression. His ideas are not rocket science—“You have to allow people to participate in the conversation”—but Taboola’s complicated algorithms do perhaps reflect the background of an officer in an elite mathematical unit of the Israeli National Security Agency. After all, as he says, they’re choosing 4 thumbnails out of 5,000 to show you.

“Every 10 years there’s a dramatic and huge behavioral change that affects all of us, and we’re going through one right now—[we call it] the lack of user attention,” he said. “I think it’s gone to playing Candy Crush to games to video to online video to offline apps to syndicated content to native content to distributive content. It’s becoming super complex, and every person in this room can kill 5 minutes on their iPhone very easily.

“What does that all mean? [Audiences] demand engaging experiences to choose to participate in; it’s become very personal. For marketers to be part of my day, they have to create some of those engaging experiences.” Singolda gave examples of companies that have gotten the message.

- Netflix signed up 2 million subscribers by creating original shows like House of Cards. “They’re creating content instead of creating a bigger banner.”
- American Express decided they wanted to help small businesses grow—so they became a publisher. “All Amex wants to do is provide value so you include them in your experiences.”
- Bank of America started producing Better Money Habits, an online TV show. They are now there to help you save money.

“How do people discover content?” he asked. “You used to go to www, look at a homepage and see what the agenda is. Then came searching, then discovering based on our friends. Now it’s how do we discover the best thing we like and never knew existed. It’s the Magic 3.” Singolda filled in more details of this secret elixir:

1. “We have to be able to create engaging experiences and stories so people will choose to engage with [us].”

2. “We have to completely understand the audience. It used to be just about creating the best piece of content. Now we can’t stop there. We have to create the best piece of content that millions of people have the chance to consume—and you have to make this part of your company, part of your workflow. It has to be a recurrent, measurable, tangible, scalable process. It can’t be a one-off—‘I have a budget, I’m spending it.’ Or ‘I heard that we can do it, I’m trying it.’”

3. “Bring [the loop back to] journalism and the people who create the content. What can you tell people who invest so much in content that they must create it in a better way next time? Better title, better thumbnail, better narrative. [Given] audience fragmentation and data, how can you create the Ninja type of editors so that they create now and get better tomorrow in a competitive environment.”

I have never heard the phrase “Ninja type of editors.” But given the things we writers and editors have been called in the past, I’ll take it. It’s kind of exciting actually, in the same way Singolda’s talk in November should be as well.

To subscribe to the SIPAlert Daily, go to the SIIA website.

Ronn LevineRonn Levine began his career as a reporter for The Washington Post and has won numerous writing and publications awards since. Most recently, he spent 12 years at the Newspaper Association of America covering diversity, Newspaper in Education, marketing and leadership before joining SIPA in 2009 , and then SIIA in 2013.

Q&A With IIN Member Nicolas Bombourg, Managing Director, ReportLinker, Lyon, France

IIN: I read on LinkedIn that you moved into business pretty fast.
Yes, I graduated business school in 2001 and started the company later that year at age 25.

That sounds pretty brave.
Not really. People say that’s hard to do, but it seems harder to do when you are married and have kids. I was single and just out of university. There was no risk for anyone but me.

Makes sense. Was that ReportLinker that you started?
ReportLinker is a brand run by Ubiquick. ReportLinker came out and started in 2007. I founded Ubiquick in 2001 with a friend (Ben Carpano, CEO)

What does ReportLinker do?
Basically, it solves one very important problem. The industry information published by big trusted sources, such as Ministry, Embassies or Trade Union, is widespread around the web. Until we launched our service, no one was gathering all this information in one place. So if you’re working on marketing strategy, a business plan, a market forecast, or want to know someone’s market share or what your competitors are doing, you can use our program.

So you’re not a content provider?
We are a technology company. We provide content, through an in-house semantic technology.

How big is your staff?
There are 35 people in the organization—about half are dedicated to the search technology. I co-founded the company and now run the sales and marketing. My business partner, Ben, is in charge of the operations.

Where do you do most of your business?
Half of our business is in the U.S., 30% in Europe and 20% in Asia. Deloitte had us as one of the fastest rising technology companies, number 375. It’s because we’re always giving our clients fresh data from trusted sources.

What’s your pricing model?
Most of our clients are subscribers. We have about 4,000. It’s just much simpler that way. They get full access for as long as they need it and can cancel any time. It’s a self-service system. If you’re publishing on a daily basis, or your CEO needs access to reports, you can subscribe.

It must be valuable in your field to keep up on the latest trends.
Yes. Keeping up on market trends is quite important. Technology moves really fast, so we try to always stay up to date with it. That allows us to offer more data, fresh data from more resources.

How is your information organized?
Everything is easy; we organize our content by context. We offer access to 2 million reports, filtered by industry, country or companies. I have found that people consume industry information exactly the same way they consume music. People used to buy records and CDs the way they used to buy big reports. Then it became iTunes where people could buy 1 or 2 songs, like pieces of information. Now you can get the most precise of information.

What comes next?
The next step is people will only want statistics. A CEO wants to know the numbers. He won’t listen to a market analyst because [he or she] knows the market. So we’ll provide only data, not market research reports. They’ll just want to analyse the data themselves.

Is that already happening?
Not really. Today I don’t know if they are ready for this yet. People enter the information world through info graphics and small pieces of information.

What is the biggest value you see in IIN?
It’s time to organize a Pan-European information industry network. At this time, local ones exist such as the GFII in France. IIN will help its members that want to do business across the borders.

12 Tips for Creating B2B, Content-Driven Video

In a session on Leveraging Your Video Content at last month’s SIPA 2014 Conference, Josh Andersen, production manager for Fred Meyer (Kroger Co.), said that your basic equipment for doing quality video can cost as little as $200. 

This includes “a light that comes with a case that mounts right on your iPhone; a small tripod, just to level your shots because you’re doing interviews. A microphone is like $60 and it plugs into an adapter that will plug into your headphone jack on your iPhone. All these things are super easy to use and very intuitive. For $200 it will look SO much better to have your subjects lit and to hear what they’re saying. It really ups your production value right away.”

We’ve discussed here before the value of using video on your website—that YouTube is the second-largest search engine, how people respond to video, that they almost expect it now, etc. So Andersen and his co-presenter, Susan Kelleher, principal of QuidPro Video, Inc., were able to focus more on the how. Here are 12 important points:

1. Know your overall strategy. “Who are your rock stars, industry leaders, innovators in your space?” Kelleher asked. Who are their followers? Who are they passionate about and who wants to hear from them? And what do you want to shine light on? A live event, key research, industry trend, best practices?

2. There’s nothing better than planning. “Start with the end in mind,” Andersen said. “What are you going to do with it, what’s the message? Who will be watching? Who’s your audience?

3. Keep the content educational and informative, not product driven. Position your higher-ups as thought leaders. Also, video (such as the ones on the SIPA website) give a conference a longer life.

4. Talk to Your “talent” ahead of time. A pre-interview can go a long way. “You’re not the nightly news,” Andersen said, meaning you should have pretty good cooperation and access to them. “It will make them more comfortable. Explain what you want, where they should look.”

5. Pick a location that’s quiet and not distracting. Your audience is savvy—they know what it should look like. A lot of cameras can’t deal with outside light, so don’t interview in front of windows.

6. Use a separate microphone—handheld or lapel (the latter may be best because then they forget they’re wearing it).

7. In framing subjects, don’t cut off heads but don’t leave much room above them either. You want to be at their height. Andersen spoke about the “rule of thirds,” like a tic tac toe board. And that they need nose room, especially if they are talking to someone else. He also likes “hand talkers—they’re animated. You smile a little more if you use your hands. Also, as the person interviewing I’m sitting there with a big smile. Interaction will come out better.

8. A teleprompter is better than cue cards. Andersen uses an iPad with a teleprompter on it—it’s a $5 app. Don’t go less than 25-point type.

9. When editing, try to match what the talent is saying by showing relevant pictures, websites or charts. Tell a story that enhances the voice. “You can only look at someone for so long,” Andersen said. He recommends iMovie or Final Cut Pro.

10. Kelleher is not a big fan of filming people at the podium; she much prefers 1-on-1 interviews. Ask your keynotes for a couple minutes after their talk. “The sweet spot is 2 minutes. It has to be scintillating to be longer.” Attention spans are short.

11. Branding is important, but you don’t have to use a whole screen to show your logo. It can just appear on a part of it. (At the end of the new film Begin Again, the credits roll in just a portion of the screen as the story continues. Kept everyone watching until the end.)

12. They both suggested YouTube and Vimeo to host your videos, though saying that they will look more professional on Vimeo, while YouTube gives you better analytics.

Oh, and include a call to action at the end, such as use video.

To subscribe to the SIPAlert Daily, go to the SIIA website.

Ronn LevineRonn Levine began his career as a reporter for The Washington Post and has won numerous writing and publications awards since. Most recently, he spent 12 years at the Newspaper Association of America covering diversity, Newspaper in Education, marketing and leadership before joining SIPA in 2009 , and then SIIA in 2013.

Successful Publisher Talks Data, Paywalls and Content

It may be the U.K. and it may be a big publisher, but still, what Rob Grimshaw—the successful managing director of and architect of the metered subscription model—says about paywalls, data and content should resonate with smaller American publishers as well. In a telling Q&A interview on the Columbia Journalism Review site by Dean Starkman, Grimshaw talks in language we can all comprehend and take note of.

Paywalls: [On getting more aggressive in the positioning of the barriers} “The gain on subscription side has been enormous, because what we found was, as soon as we pushed hard on this, and we turned the dials on the model to the point where many people were coming up to barriers, a lot of people went through, and more than that, they were happy to come through at price points that were far above what any of us had anticipated.”

Data: “…we try to get hold of every customer who cancels [and] not every cancellation is the same. [It may be] simply because of a payment failure [but for us] it’s a prompt reminder that gets people to go, ‘Oh, I didn’t mean to cancel that. I’ll go and fix that’…Other areas [are] simply people not having full understanding of the product. So it’s not unusual for our customer services to have conversation along the lines of ‘Do you know why you’re canceling?’”

Video: [The cost] is coming down…Some of our video now is shot on smartphones. I cannot tell the difference when I’m watching that on the screen…The other important thing is the dynamic in the advertising market…The rates in display are now dropping to levels where it’s hardly worth anyone doing it [while rates for video remain strong]. It’s very good news, because what it means is that publishers are able to turn traffic into revenue.

The question becomes, can all this be a blueprint for smaller publishers as well? I think so. I’ve spoken with members of varied sizes who have had success with pretty quick barriers: Exchange Monitor, which recently unveiled a beautiful new website; Modern Markets Intelligence; Optimus Education (in London, part of Electric Word); and Modern Distribution Management.

To accomplish the data chores, however, might mean a recalibration of resources. But Grimshaw would probably be on board with this. The phrase, “we try to get hold of every customer who…” takes some doing, as does customer services engaging in multiple conversations. But his point is to keep pricing as high as possible to make such conversations worthwhile. “…people will pay a lot for things they want,” he said. “You know, people buy ring tones.”

He continued: “My bet was that as people took up subscriptions they would spend more time on the site, and we would have tools that would help us to do that, because if someone is a subscriber, you can email them, you can bring them back to the site more often. That’s what happened. As a result, even though we got much more aggressive with the positioning of the barriers, traffic on the site really did not dip.”

The quick paywall may be how Grimshaw wants to sell subscriptions. But he admits that content remains why people buy, and product development the future. “We spend a lot of time looking at the data for how people use the site, and also from generating feedback from focus groups and those sort of things,” he said. “So that as we put new developments through [an internal] product council and things, those all come with a set of documentation that says, ‘Actually, on the basis of our insight into the audience, and what readers have been telling us, we think this is the right next thing to do.’”

Much of this goes along with what Carola York, managing director of Jellyfish Publishing in the U.K., told me last week—with respect to testing. “Testing is fundamental to what we do,” she said. “Our mantra is test, analyze and refine. We test every single kind of thing—different landing pages, color on call to action, copy size. If we got them there [on our site], we want them to stay there.” When I asked her about all the time it takes, she said, “That’s what we get paid for.” In other words, it’s that important.

So do the best content possible, don’t undersell or give it away, test every which way you can, and then engage with as many customers as possible rather than assume anything. No rocket science all that, but still a good blasting off point.

Ronn LevineRonn Levine began his career as a reporter for The Washington Post and has won numerous writing and publications awards since. Most recently, he spent 12 years at the Newspaper Association of America covering diversity, Newspaper in Education, marketing and leadership before joining SIPA in 2009, and then SIIA in 2013 and IIN in 2014.

SIIA at ISTE 2014

Mark, Lindsay, and I were busy during the recent ISTE conference in Atlanta, Georgia! Our time was spent mPearson Exhibit halleeting with members, finding new members, promoting our reports, and learning about new and exciting trends in the Ed Tech Market.

The exhibit hall was packed with all sorts of companies, many of whom received a CODiEs sign to show that they were a finalist or a winner of the 2014 cycle. The exhibit hall was huge and took a team of myself and Lindsay Harman to get all of the signs out to our winners and finalists who represented a sizeable portion of the exhibitors present.

At our press conference on Sunday, the latest Vision K-20 report was released to a great turnout of industry professionals and reporters. The report was presented by Sue Cosuellins of CollinsConsults who help drive the development of the Vision K-20 initiative and Susan Meell of MMS Education who wrote the latest report. The crowd was highly responsive and asked lots of questions about the Vision K-20 report and the sneak peek findings from our upcoming testing and assessment report. John Richards of CS4Ed presented a sneak preview of a new qualitative report on testing and assessment. This report is a follow up to findings in last year’s K-12 Market Survey Report that showed a big increase in testing and assessment dollars in the market.

Most of the interviews we did were on video this year. We highlighted our work at ISTE with the help of C Blohm & Associates and did a summary interview with TouchCast. In between, there were more videos and phone interviews to further explain and clarify all of the results.

We co-sponsored the Ed tech start up pavilion and Pitch Fest competition, (both on the show floor) for the second year, which was very large and noisy. I spent much of Sunday judging the preliminary competition, then the finals early Monday morning. SIIA wants to congratulate the winners K and flexibleof this year’s competition. We were able to speak with all of the Pitch Fest competitors and learn about their companies and how they could leverage SIIA benefits.

Our Member Breakfast and Feedback Forum on Tuesday morning was also a rousing success – even for 7:00 am in the morning. The event was co-hosted with COSN and the Winter Group and drew 50 members who were able to learn from 10 educators who participated in the focus group. The topic at hand was apps in schools and educators from around the country discussed the challenges of using them in the classroom and beyond. We ended the forum by singing Happy Birthday to Charlene Blohm.

ISTE 2014 had both high registration numbers and energetic attendees. We hope to be at ISTE 2015 for another great conference and expect to see even more SIIA member companies there.


Karen BillingsKaren Billings is Vice President for the Education Division at SIIA. Follow the SIIA Education Team on Twitter at @SIIAEducation

Intellectual Property Roundup

IP News

The Right to Resell eBooks- Major Case Looms in the Netherlands (GigaOM)
A startup called Tom Kabinet opened the virtual doors on its secondhand ebook bookstore, pointing to a 2012 ruling by Europe’s top court regarding reselling licenses for downloadable software. A deadline the publishers set for the site to stop operations has passed, and the case looks set to go to court.

Fox Moves to Use Aereo Ruling Against Dish Streaming Service (The Guardian)
A day after the U.S. Supreme Court decision to outlaw streaming TV service Aereo, U.S. broadcaster Fox has moved to use the ruling to clamp down on another Internet TV service offered by Dish.

‘Failed’ Piracy Letters Should Escalate to Fines & Jail, MP Says (TorrentFreak)
The UK Prime Minister’s IP advisor says VCAP- the Voluntary Copyright Alerts Program- needs to be followed by something more enforceable, including disconnections, fines and jail sentences.

Staunch Opponent of Report Tapped to Head US Patent Office (Ars Technica)
The Obama administration intends to nominate Philip Johnson, the head of intellectual property at Johnson & Johnson, to be the next director of the US Patent and Trademark Office. The selection is a setback for the tech sector and a seeming 180-degree turn on the patent issue from the Obama administration.

Aereo Looks to Congress for a Lifeline (The Washington Post)
Days after Aereo suspended its service in response to a Supreme Court ruling against the company, the service is now calling on consumers to protest the disruption and pressure Congress to consider rewriting the Copyright Act.

Keith Kupferschmid is General Counsel and SVP, Intellectual Property Policy & Enforcement at SIIA. Follow Keith on Twitter at @keithkup and sign up for the Intellectual Property Roundup weekly newsletter here.

Publishers Taking New Routes to Find Sales People

Following a mid-June screening here in Washington, D.C., for his new film And So It Goes, director Rob Reiner was asked about working with Diane Keaton. “She improvises, she’ll take the dialogue and twist it around and make it comfortable for herself, and I’ve done the same kind of thing in the work I’ve done.”

It’s no wonder that in another engaging, recent discussion on the SIPA Member Listserv about finding quality sales people, the successful use of actors came up more than once. One publisher said the idea had been recommended to him, but he wasn’t sure where to find them. (Suggestions followed; see below.)

When I mentioned the actor-turned-sales-person idea to an actor friend of mine, she nodded but did not speak about an effusiveness or ability to project. She spoke more about an actor’s ability to read people, and like Reiner intimated, to respond quickly and comfortably to a situation. So maybe we should be knocking on the door of improv classes or sending candidates over. Isn’t the golden rule there always to say yes?

I’ve spoken with Andy Swindler, president of Astek, before about this. He has always had “a rich culture of actors on staff” (just watch any of his staff meeting videos). It dates back to his involvement with theater and the pipeline he still has. But he also wrote that your business needs a certain culture to make it work. Actors “need the flexibility to run to an audition at the last minute or work remotely for a few weeks while at a gig. This [relationship] evolved naturally over time, but is now one of our most reliable recruitment engines since actors are hard-pressed to find this kind of flexibility elsewhere.”

In New York, Naomi Berger of EPM, a division of BVR, recommended Survival Jobs for Artists (formerly, Survival Jobs for Actors), although the site seems to be down at the moment. “I’ve also had some successful prospects through the Actors Fund Work Program,” she said. “You can also post jobs at Playbill, but there is a nominal charge.” Washington, D.C.’s CultureCapital Job Bank charges a nominal fee and draws an artistic audience.

Berger had another suggestion. “I would also recommend setting up a phone line for candidates to reply to for the position. Put an outgoing message on that line and do not pick it up. See what kind of voicemail they leave. It works as a great pre-screen (especially if you’re looking for telesales people) and saves a lot of interview time.”

Along those lines, Brad Shorr, writing for Forbes, recommended looking at waiters and waitresses for sales help. “Restaurant staffers deal with every type of person under the sun, think on their feet literally and figuratively, juggle problems, provide stellar service, and work extremely hard…In addition, people in these jobs are usually money-motivated, which helps enormously in a commission sales environment.”

On that subject, I was reading a profile of Jim Koch this week in The Washington Post—he’s the founder of the Boston Beer Company, the firm behind Samuel Adams—about his amazing hops to success. He said that he “realized early on that everything comes down to people…So I focused a lot on hiring, and I was hiring for talent. Not resumes, not experience, but on who you were as person, how did you behave, what were your values, what was your energy level, what did you enjoy doing.”

Koch said that he once got to know a waitress at a bar he frequented, and then she came to a beer seminar he was giving to educate servers about quality beer. “She was very interested and energetic, and she had great personal presence. I said, ‘Coleen, have you ever thought about selling beer?’ I pretty much hired her on the spot; never saw her resume. She was great, and she was with us for 10 years.”

As for Reiner, he would probably be the first to say that actors bring a different dynamic. Asked about growing up—his father is legendary comedian Carl Reiner and friends included Mel Brooks and Dick Van Dyke—Reiner said at first it seemed normal. “That’s your house. It wasn’t until I went to my friend’s house, I noticed they’re not so funny over there. Nice people, but not many laughs.”

To subscribe to the SIPAlert Daily, go to the SIIA website.

Ronn LevineRonn Levine began his career as a reporter for The Washington Post and has won numerous writing and publications awards since. Most recently, he spent 12 years at the Newspaper Association of America covering diversity, Newspaper in Education, marketing and leadership before joining SIPA in 2009 , and then SIIA in 2013.

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