Digital First Media Properties Poised for More Rumbling

Our chat with Digital First Media CEO John Paton and Rumble co-founder Uyen Tieu.

This morning at the Cxense conference in Oslo, Norway, Digital First Media CEO John Paton spoke to attendees about “A Future Powered by Data.” Meanwhile, today here in the U.S., mobile technology company Rumble has announced the launch of a new product suite, Content Business Insights and Personalization.

In each case, the underlying message is the same. Media companies that gather the most data about their mobile users will be in the strongest position to succeed. Digital First Media has been using Rumble products since March of 2014.

“Our company has a pretty good reputation for understanding how digital is chasing our core business, which is largely print,” Paton tells FishbowlNY via telephone from Oslo, explaining his participation in several conferences like Cxsense each year. “We’re $1.1 billion in revenue, the second largest newspaper company in America, with 76 dailies and hundreds of other kinds of products. And about a couple of hundred million dollars in digital ad revenue.”

“We decided that, like all legacy companies, you have to have a very strong hands-on cost control,” he continues, “because you’re moving from one line of revenue, which is shrinking, to a fast-growing line of revenue, the digital piece. And which in turn is fragmenting, on different platforms.”

“So we decided that from a digital perspective, it would be important for us to have a very lean, startup approach to our digital development. To bring skills in-house and have rapid deployment. And work with really advanced companies in the field, to expand and become their partners. So we did that with Rumble.”

From a June 2015 Rumble Mobile Content Insights Performance brief, here’s an example of the kind of language today’s newspapers executives must be familiar with:

In examining the data of more than 150 mobile properties, Rumble found that a user typically scrolls through a feed with 2.3 stories 3.2x, resulting in 7.3 opportunities for audiences to engage with content. A five-story content density, however, typically generates 2.5 scrolls, resulting in 12.5 opportunities for engagement.

In a separate telephone interview from New York, Rumble co-founder and CRO Uyen Tieu (first name pronounced: “Wen”) outlined the context of today’s product launch, known internally as Project X. “This is the third wave of major innovation that we’re bringing,” she says. “We are going to be providing our customers, who are invited into a beta program, granular levels of data that they haven’t been able to get before.”

“For instance, an editor will know for a single piece of content the full user profile of who has clicked on it. Who’s shared it, who’s read it, down to household income, gender, other interests, political leanings, returning user. Really amazing levels of data that the giants of the mobile world like Facebook, Google and Twitter have in troves. In the age of mobile, where optimization – the ability to maintain your users – is so important, you really need this level in order to be able to compete.”

Paton concurs. “All of this goes to the audience,” he notes. “Understanding what they’re doing, where they came from, what they do in an App or on your site. Learning how to target that audience with appropriate advertising or appropriate products. This next step with Rumble, which is about the collection and analysis of that data, is also a next step in understanding how to better monetize our audience.”

Paton, whot sits on the boards of The Guardian, Prisa and El Pais, says he travels to Europe about once a month. When asked about Scandinavian media companies that are best handling the transition from print to digital, he mentions Schibsted. Prior to speaking with FishbowlNY, Paton had spent part of Wednesday in Oslo catching up with that firm’s former CEO Kjell Aamot.

“There’s only so much real estate on your Samsung 6 and iPhone 6,” he reminds. “You want to make sure that the advertising is relevant. It’s got to be effective for the advertiser and something, an experience, that the user can live with. That type of data analysis, that’s the most important for me that comes out of this new development from Rumble.”

“Mobile is where everyone’s vast amount of audience expansion is coming from,” adds Paton. “In that moment, when you have that big growth in audiences, you have an enormous amount of data that can be monetized in different ways, other than just advertising. But you can’t do any of that unless you have the data itself.”

Tieu makes mention of another strand of this seismic shift. “I’ve spoken to a lot of publishers,” she says. “ Some are even giving up on on the idea building out their own mobile ad sales force, because it’s so complicated to sell mobile at scale. They’re turning to programmatic, and other machines, exchanges to sell their mobile inventory.”

“My take on that is, three years ago, people said there was no money in mobile. And lo and behold, three years later, Facebook is making three billion dollars. Money is always there, but the ability to actually get data at scale and show advertisers – these are the users you’re actually reaching; I know where they’ve been, what articles they’ve read, when and where they read it. That’s the level of insight that publishers have not been able to give on a silver platter to advertisers.”

[Photos of Paton, Tieu via:, @jxpaton]

@hollywoodspin Richard Horgan is co-editor of Fishbowl.
Publish date: June 11, 2015 © 2020 Adweek, LLC. - All Rights Reserved and NOT FOR REPRINT