Transcript from the Stories from Publishers’ Bedrooms Virtual Event – May 21, 2020
Ben Erdos – Chief Services Officer at Total Media
Ben: Fantastic. So now we’ve got Ziv who’s the CEO of Shinez, which is a content recommendation platform, called distribution platform should I say. Ziv Jonas: Yeah, content distribution platform. Ben: Great stuff. So why don’t you kick off with the same way that Neama did, and share with us your best COVID story. Ziv: Well, I think it’s also kids related. It started the lockdown. So I have three, all boys. And every second day, we try to go to the beach to play Frisbee. And in our first time, police came, and then kicked us back. And then, you know, it became a thing. So he said, “You know, I’m going to talk to them next time, and I’m going to tell them this is not the park.” And so it was fun. So, every now and then, police arrived and he was really nervous in the beginning. But then he said, it looks a little bit like a game, you know. Will we see the police, are they coming, what we do and it’s fun. Ben: Fantastic, sound so yeah. Nobody ever really told us that we need to spend this much time with our kids when we are, when we had them. So yeah. Ziv: And that’s Frisbee, and now he’s good at Frisbee. So that’s like, you know, very proud of it. Ben: So how has Shinez really changed since the start of working from home and the pandemic. Ziv: So, the benefit. In the beginning, we said like everyone can come to the office if they want. So we didn’t have everybody, we’re like 24. So six decided to come every day, so it was fun. And every Thursday, we had like a Zoom time, like we have, every Thursday we have a lunch. Instead of this, we just catch up and see everybody. Numbers, obviously, you know field rate CPMs crashed, like on all our sites, our partner sites. Positive things, lots of you know, signups a week you know, from people who want to distribute the platform. So increase to 50 more signups a week for people who you know, have channels on Facebook, Instagram and want to distribute their content. And also a few publishers, like very big names that you know started to approach us, “Listen, we know you can promote our content, you know, in paid traffic. We’d love to test you know,” so it’s kind of balancing. Ben: That’s good to hear. Were those people that you were already talking to, or how did those kind of that new business find you? What kind of challenges did you use to kind of activate. Ziv: No, maybe like one of them, we had like a connection from the past, but the rest were like, you know, just heard about what we did with other publishers, and you know, wanted to try. Ben: Cool and in terms of, obviously you’ve got a new business, and you’ve got additional publishers and fills being a little bit terrible at the moment. What do you do to adapt to the current climate? Ziv: So you know nothing changed actually, because we are very focused like to the penny. So obviously margin are more tighter. There’s less room for mistakes, less room for you know, less margin to scale in some platforms, so you go to other platforms where CPCs also decreased. Obviously, it’s not the same, you know, session revenue you get like before, but still you have room. So I think we found some more places we can buy traffic, more influencers that we know that you know, at the moment they have lots of followers, they can promote the content. And also we hired like two talents, new two talents that just left competitors. So it was also, you know, lots of people, you know, being laid off you know. We also find a way to bring more good people to join us. So it was like, you know, good to get some more expertise that we didn’t have before. Ben: No, absolutely. It’s nice to know that you’re able to capitalize on the opportunities as they come. In terms of, you mentioned that there’s less room for mistakes. Did the team really step up to the challenges there? Ziv: Yeah, everyone knows it’s like is, you know, it’s, you know, tougher environment, tougher situation. They see what happens in other companies. They see the colleagues, friends. So yeah, everyone knows, you know, this is time to step up. And, you know, we have, you know, great team, and everyone’s you know, on top of things, and you know, yeah, we’re very happy with, you know, the work they’ve been doing also from home, and now from the office. Ben: No, that’s great. So is everyone back in the office now? Ziv: 21 out of 24, I think like three people still, everyone’s different story, but yes, three people hopefully will join us in the next couple of weeks. Ben: Fantastic. What would you say is, what have you learned most out of the industry during this period? Ziv: There’s two sides of things. There’s the demand, obviously, you know, advertiser, and the distribution platform. So advertisers, obviously want still you know, content, great experience, you know, great performance. You know, nothing has changed. We do see more demand partners that more, you know, just reaching out to, you know, a few months ago, it was hard to get them. Now, they try to get us. Listen, we want more inventory, more supply. So it’s nice to see this. And also the platforms, you know, some, you know, I think, a bit looser now, you know, just bring more. Everyone’s seeing their numbers going, and they want to bring the business back. So we also see them more open to new, test new stuff, they give you more attention. So, I think so because people working from home now you know, we feel a bit closer. Now, everyone with a pajamas at home, and with the kids behind. And you know, I think the relationships even got better. You know, it’s not like in conferences and you go to meeting, everyone’s formal. It’s like everyone’s in the same boat, and trying to help each other. So overall, I think it will bring all our partners you know, to better partnerships. Ben: I think that’s a good point. I mean, we’re working in a global industry anyway, but often it was quite stuffy and segmented. And this has helped kind of level that playing field wherever you sit geographically, or whether you’re in a bigger organization or smaller organization, everybody’s in the same situation. That definitely helps. In terms of, it’s interesting you said that the demand partners are reaching out and looking for more inventory, because there’s massive inventory spikes that Neama kind of hit on in terms of traffic in terms of kind of stuff, but you still feel that they’re hungry for more. Ziv: Yeah, yeah, every time they send us email in Index Exchange, OpenX, you know, all the guys they’re, Listen, you know, will send us more site to approve, send us, you know, more inventory. And they’re more, getting more I think more attention now to clients before. That’s my feeling. I don’t know if it’s, you know, all across publishers, but we do see that they look for more revenues from every direction. Ben: That’s good, and how have you kind of evolved as an organization by working remotely and during this period? Ziv: Well, to be honest, I don’t really like the remote environment. You know, we have a big open space you know, in our office, and we prefer to be in the same space, you know, talk with each other, catching up. I think every other alternative is, you know, getting, there’s more friction and getting the communication, you know, not as effective and not as nice. It’s best just to have a conversation face to face. But you know, but that was still the situation. So we had like these two months that we had to do it, and we did it, and everyone was very productive, and you know, in the Slack all the time work, and Zoom and Hangout, so you know, WhatsApp, whatever. But you know, very happy now that everyone in the office, you know, just everyone smiling. I think and at the end of the you know, the two months, everyone was so willing to go back, and you know. As soon as Zoom meetings on Thursday, just said, Listen, we just, can we have another room so we have room for everyone. So I think it changed after you know, in the beginning it’s nice that everyone was working from home, but then everyone seems like we’re social person, you know, people, so species. So yeah, everyone wants to, I think to feel close to each other. Ben: No. Absolutely. To see somebody smile up front here, makes a difference, and while you may not be hugging just yet, but when that comes, I’m sure that’d be a big group Shinez hug. However, you mentioned, when we spoke earlier that you kind of, in terms of your business operation, you’ve moved from kind of combat mode to war mode in terms of how hungry you are for business now, how hungry you are for your operations. Kind of just expand on that a little bit? Ziv: Yeah, so as I said, like, this is like everyone is like in a war mode, and there’s, like, always been this. But I think now, as I see all the partners, and everyone is in the same boat, and they know you know, they need to fight for every piece of quality content, performance, you know. Just try to shop the performance and, you know, getting everything done, you know, in the best way they could. And I think, you know, we are in a numbers, you know, environment. Everyone can measure everything. Maybe not the smile of our audience, but you can see it in the comment. And obviously everything else is, you know, measurable in real time. So yeah, everyone tries to beat the record of, you know, last, you know, week or last month, and obviously, overall, April 2020 is not April 2019. But we do see improvement. Ben: Unfortunately. Ziv: With a new publisher coming in, I’m sure we were going to see this growth. Ben: Uh huh. Yeah, I’m not going to ask you to look at in a crystal ball or anything, but you slowly see that numbers are improving across all of your KPIs? Ziv: Yes, it changes between the sites, but overall, yeah, we see higher feed rates, higher CPMs in the last few weeks. And even obviously, we are a bit different because it’s not only organic, it’s like even the most of it is promoted, either by influencers, by affiliates or paid traffic on Facebook and Twitter, and you know, other platforms. So for us is like very just, you know, trying to find the room where we can explode in different you know, languages, different markets. We don’t do only US. We do lots of other geos now, and you know, all the team is working together to find this spot. Ben: Which, so you mentioned you branched out into new geos, which geo has kind of surprised you most. Ziv: Not surprising, but I think Mexico is now much better than it used to be, you know. South America is also something that we always was good, you know, Brazil. But, you know, now we try to push more Spanish and Portuguese to these geos. And also in the US, Spanish is working great for us. Ben: That’s great. And if I can ask you, what kind of advice would you pass on to publishers to kind of get through this period and to move on? Ziv: I think it was the same as before, you know, just try to focus on unique content or great user experience. Right balance between, you know, ads and content, and tried promotion. You know, don’t try to break this organic ceiling, either yourself or you know, the help of others, but definitely try to also do paid campaigns, and see how you can bring more audience to pages. Ben: Sounds good. And in terms of, put COVID aside, put the pandemic aside, what do you think are the other biggest challenges facing publishers today? Ziv: It’s going to be the same as before, you know. Speaking about, you know, two-click penalty from Google as advertisers, speaking about cookie-less, I see that, you know, coming in a year and a half, speaking about good balance and you know, everything just, you know, try to bring good user experience and keep the advertiser happy. Ben: Cool. Yeah, keep. I think happy users brings happy advertisers at the end of the day. And good content, always has been a good kind of strategy. But I think that’s been really great and insightful. Thank you very much for joining us, and we’ll move on to our next guest. Ziv: Thanks.