Cristina Calderin, Manager of Accounts
& Ad Operations at Thought Catalog
ConvertMedia recently sat down with Cristina Calderin from Thought Catalog for an inside look at the operations of this very popular millennial-themed website.
Tell us about Thought Catalog – what is the mission of the site?
Thought Catalog is a platform that allows young people to openly express their thoughts and opinions. Our mission is to provide millennials with a means to publish their writing and to give it a chance to become part of larger conversations. As one of the top-100 websites in the country, we reach over 30mm unique users per month, making us one of the primary platforms that millennials engage with today.
How long have you been working with ConvertMedia?
We’ve been working with ConvertMedia for over 4 months now. We’re using the Desktop In-Banner Videos (300×250, 300×600), and the 728×90 Expandable Video. We’re currently running ConvertMedia in the US, and all Tier 1 English speaking countries (UK, AUS, CA). Since we don’t have any proprietary video content on Thought Catalog, it’s difficult for us to tap into video advertising dollars. ConvertMedia’s in-banner products offer a great way for us to do that, providing us with beautiful and clean ads that don’t disrupt user behavior (with very little discrepancy between our ad server and our CM tags, I may add!).
What types of video advertising controls are most important to you as a publisher (audio/frequency/, etc.)?
First and foremost, the most important control for us is definitely audio. We require all our video products to be muted, it’s up to the user to play sound – auto-sound is the biggest disruption to the user experience. File size and load time is also a big consideration for us, the bigger the file is, the longer the page takes to load, sometimes even freezing it. Finally, we take into consideration frequency. Our ad set up is very clean – the number of ads per article depends on its length – and we don’t like to bombard our users. For this reason, we generally like to keep a tight cap on high impact ads like videos and welcome ads.
What are the benefits and challenges you are facing with programmatic advertising/programmatic video?
I’d say one of the largest benefits to programmatic advertising is the opportunity to sell 100% of your inventory at competitive rates. “Remnant” inventory now has the opportunity to be as valuable as direct inventory, it’s no longer considered “left over”.
With that in mind, it’s also challenging to create the right set up for that scenario. At Thought Catalog, we still reserve inventory specifically for our direct clients. We package native advertising deals with our clients, that come not only with native content, but also with guaranteed banner media. At the moment, this package is worth more than what we’re seeing in the non-guaranteed inventory space. To truly have direct sales compete with non-direct, we would need to build an ad set up more suitable for a unified auction, which takes lots of time and resources for testing, collecting data and analyzing, and monitoring to make sure user experience isn’t disturbed. Time and resources can be hard to come by, especially for a small, self-funded company such as ours.
What will be the biggest change to happen to digital advertising in 2016?
Definitely the move towards a unified auction. More and more publishers are heading in this direction – the notion of every impression being bought at what it’s actually worth (and not have to go through waterfalls that dilute its value) is too enticing. Despite the challenges of creating the right ad set up, I do believe this is where the industry is heading.
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