Founded in 2016 and based in Montreal, Soko was created by media planners and marketers concerned about the state of local media in the digital age. Their technology provides media companies with new ways to monetize their content and helps them benefit from ad spending on social media.
Last month, I spoke by phone to Stu Reider (pictured), publisher partnerships, and Daniel Drouet, COO, in advance of Reider's appearance at this week's Business Information & Media Summit (BIMS) in Fort Lauderdale.
How did you start?
We originally came out of a digital agency in Montreal. A client was trying to reach certain niche markets as part of their Facebook and Google marketing campaigns but couldn't do it using the standard targeting options available on those networks. However, we knew of some specialized publishers that had those audiences. So we decided to build a solution that would both help the advertisers improve their targeting while at the same time provide publishers access to ad budgets they previously had no access to.
Is there a specific strategy?
While media companies have spent years building valuable audiences, advertisers continue to shift their ad spend to Facebook and Google because they need those platforms' sophisticated tools. With no way to tap into advertisers' fast growing Facebook and Google budgets, media companies are missing out on significant revenue opportunities. We are therefore providing publishers the tools to get a piece of those budgets.
How has the reception been?
Really good. We're now working with about 100 publishers.
How does your platform work?
Our Soko For Publishers tool is an easy-to-use, web-based product that you can set up within minutes. In addition to selling access to your audiences via banner ads on your properties, your sales person or team will also be able to sell your audiences to advertisers that wish to target them in social media campaigns. You can monetize a single visitor to your site multiple times: once by showing them an ad impression when they visit and a second (or third and fourth) by tagging that visitor to appear in a campaign an advertiser is running on Instagram, YouTube, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. Because these ads are not being shown on your websites, there is no impact on your ad inventory; this is all net new revenue. Furthermore, we do not collect any personal information about visitors to your site and the advertisers do not get access to any data about those visitors.
Can you give an example?
Sure. An advertiser contacts a publisher's sales reps to discuss sponsoring an article. Once a price has been agreed on, knowing that the advertiser also runs Facebook ad campaigns, the rep informs them that for an additional fee they can retarget on Facebook to everyone who reads the article. This is extremely valuable to advertisers because the people who took the time to read the sponsored article are known to be engaged and sensitized about the issues the advertiser is addressing. Targeting them will vastly improve the performance of the advertiser's Facebook campaign. Furthermore, because you've separated awareness creation (the article) from conversion (the ads shown later on Facebook), the content can be completely objective and never mention the advertiser.
It sounds like a win-win proposition.
Absolutely. It gives publishers the ability to monetize their audience in a new way. After all, there's a limit to how many ads you can put on your site, especially if your brand is trying to portray itself as being objective. And advertisers love it because they can combine publishers' high quality audiences with the sophisticated conversion tools offered by Google, Facebook and other ad platforms.
What else can your platform do?
Say Car and Driver publishes an article on the best 2019 electric car models. GM would love to reach these readers because they are likely considering buying an electric car soon. GM will want to buy some banner ads around the article, but they also know that the decision to buy a car is made over several months, so in order to remain top of mind, they need a retargeting strategy. Soko's tools would allow them to add anyone reading the article to GM's retargeting campaign. Car and Driver can now move beyond simply sellings banner ads and start discussing with GM how it can help across the entire marketing cycle to ultimately close sales.
Does it have to be about single articles?
No. Publishers can slice and dice their audiences many ways. In addition to readers of specific articles, you can build an audience out of visitors to certain sections of a publication (travel or health, for instance), based on keywords related to the content they consume or geographic origin. For instance, Canada has recently legalized marijuana. A publisher using our tool could simply enter the keyword "cannabis" and provide Ontario health authorities an easy way to then send information about the health risks associated with cannabis use to young Ontarians on Instagram. The geo targeting ability is important because a Ford dealership in Dallas isn't interested in Car and Driver readers looking for pickups trucks if they are from Seattle.
What about pricing?
We charge publishers a flat monthly fee per property they want to use Soko with. The publishers can then charge whatever they want to advertisers who wish to purchase their audiences for off-site retargeting.
This could be a good fit for some SIPA members.
We think so. Soko offers an innovative way to generate new revenue streams from your existing content without compromising the authenticity and credibility of your brand.