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Hacking the Publishing Experience 2017

By Sean Kilcullen

What do the world’s top publishers do when they are up against the industry’s most challenging issues?

They call Quantcast.

Fourteen publishers flew to San Francisco for Quantcast’s second annual Publisher Hackathon to brainstorm solutions to the advertising industry’s most painful problems.

The mission? Create workable prototype solutions in three days.


The Brainstorm

Publishers were split into groups with other publishers, Quantcast product managers, and engineers. The groups locked themselves in a room for half a day, brainstorming how to solve problems that publishers face every day.

Three themes surfaced in these conversations:

Proving and leveraging an awesome audience
Publishers wanted tools to more granularly define their property’s audiences, as well as the ability to compare their site against competitors. A more granular understanding would help attract more revenue streams and allow publishers to differentiate their audiences against competitors, helping them win more RFPs.

Content labels are more useful when taxonomy is consistent
Publishers felt they could gain more insights if label names (i.e. meta tags) were consistent across the Internet and were automatically labeled according to content type. Insights gained from this streamlining would enable publishers to tailor content more closely to the interests of their visitors, which in turn would lead to improved KPIs, such as pages explored per session and time on site.

Out of sight should not be out of mind
Publishers asked for the ability to determine audience overlap across content verticals, as well as across platforms. This insight could increase the scale they offer in contextual targeting campaigns. It would give publishers an understanding of where affinities intersect as well as a blueprint for driving visitors to content that interests them.

The Tools

In 24 hours, Quantcast product managers and engineers created five tools, each amazing in their own right. While the teams were hacking away, the publishers were enjoying a private wine tasting and dinner in Sonoma’s wine country. The next day, publishers were tasked with judging which team had the winning hack, or in other words, which tool they would like to see built into a fully-fledged Quantcast product. It was soon discovered that merging solutions together strengthened their capabilities and created more opportunities for publishers.

Runners-Up

Competitor Comparison
Designed to help publishers win more RFPs, this solution would give publishers the ability to showcase the value of their audience against a competitor’s, in an easy-to-read bar graph. It would also allow for app and website comparison, and work with any public quantified property. Publishers would also have the ability to easily compare sites within their networks.

Automatic Labeling
This tool would standardize labeling taxonomy across sites and automatically label pages according to their content. Publishers would gain an understanding of their market share per content category and help them evaluate content performance at a granular level to inform editorial and distribution strategy. And, it would be available in multiple languages.

Audience Comparison
Brands and agencies don’t know what they don’t know — commonly requesting non-ideal personas in their RFPs. This tool would give publishers the ability to compare behavioral insights among personas in a network, helping their brand partners to choose — or even build — personas with the highest potential interest in their products and services.

Explorer
Engineers designed this tool to help publishers assess audience overlap between verticals, and included the ability to track audiences between platforms. The team designed the tool to help users answer questions like “Where can I find more users like my gamers?,” “Do my audiences consume content differently on apps than on websites?” and “How should I best allocate my budget between desktop and mobile?”

The Winner

Persona Suite

The twist: Quantcast employees voted overwhelming for Automatic Labeling, however, the publisher panel voted Persona Suite the winner.

An apt reminder that the customer is always right.

Persona Suite was designed to tell publishers what they don’t know about their audiences. It gives publishers the ability to explore which personas are engaging with different pieces of content. The tool allows publishers to rank sections and individual pieces of content against pre-built personas or custom-built personas. The solution deepens behavioral insights for each persona with a feature called Persona Explorer.

Publishers felt Persona Suite did a great job solving the following concerns:

  • How do I accurately show who my campaigns reached?
  • How can I prove I’m adding value to visitors and advertisers?
  • How can I drill down and get a granular view of where, when, and how personas engage with my content?

When Quantcast engineers presented Persona Suite, they used live data. The Quantcast team began by identifying pre-built personas. These included New Parents, Auto Enthusiasts, Digital-First Millennials, Marketing Professionals, and Big City Moms. In this scenario, the site believed they most successfully spoke to the Digital First persona and prioritized marketing to this audience. But the Persona Suite showed other audiences performed better across the site. The key takeaway: Focus on driving more engaged personas to your site or modify your content to draw in those gotta-have Digital First millennials.

Partners that work together, stay together

Good things come from “locking yourself in a room” with your partners, colleagues, and delicious snacks.

“Important customer pain points are uncovered and solved at the annual Hackathon. It keeps us and our clients on our toes, always thinking about how to move the industry forward,” said Sam Barnett, SVP Publisher, Quantcast. “What makes this event successful for everyone is that we work on the problems together. Advertising is a highly interdependent community. The better we communicate and understand the aspects of each other’s needs, the better we build ads, content, and tools for everyone involved.”

Thank you

We would like to extend a warm thank you to all the publishers who participated in this year’s Hackathon. We couldn’t have done it without you:

VICE
Apartment Therapy
Mic
Slate
FloSports
Uproxx
CNN
The Wall Street Journal
Condé Nast
BuzzFeed
The Atlantic
LiveNation
Reddit
Twitter (MoPub)