Q&A: Say Media’s Lawrence Horne on Creating a Publishing Platform for the Open Web

Lawrence HorneThere are various ways to build out inventory. Producing your own content is the most obvious path, but building a publishing platform is often a more efficient route to mass reach. Facebook’s recent launch of Instant Articles illustrates how even the largest of tech giants see the opportunity in publishers working on their platform. In a similar vein, Say Media have a content management system (CMS) that helps publishers get their content out on to the open web. The publishers leave the technology and monetisation side to Say Media, while Say Media takes a cut of the ad revenue. Here Lawrence Horne, Sales Director UK at Say Media, explains how the model works, the advantages of owning a CMS, and how Say Media are using video advertising.

Earlier in the year Say Media moved away from getting its hands dirty with media and moved back to its roots with a renewed focus on the ‘Tempest’ publishing platform. Could you provide a brief overview of the Say Media business model, explain what Tempest is, and how advertising fits in to your strategy?

We build digital magazines, we develop state-of-the-art technology and we partner with advertisers. Going back to our ad tech roots, our focus is now on supporting independent publishers through technology and a range of premium advertising solutions.

Tempest, what we like to call our next generation content management system, caters to the needs of storytellers and readers with editor-friendly, smart layouts and device-agnostic article pages.

Unlike a general purpose CMS, it has been built from the ground up to support the needs of modern publishers, helping to optimise engagement and growth. In addition, it is fully hosted by Say Media which not only gives publishers reliability and scalability, but reduces hosting and web development costs to zero.

With no technology to purchase or maintain, this leaves publishers with more resources to focus on what they do best, which is creating great content. And it does this by giving authors and editors the best tools to create rich, interactive stories.

We also work closely with marketers, through a range of premium advertising products and sponsored content solutions all designed to align with editorial, captivate readers and flow seamlessly within the Tempest environment.

Does having your own publishing platform give you a competitive advantage over other supply sources or is it mainly a means of bringing publishers on board?

Controlling the platform means controlling the quality of the environment and consequently providing better value to our advertisers. They know what they are buying and where it’s showing up. They trust the kind of sites we work with and the variety of advertising we bring to them – ranging from rich media to branded content.

So is your inventory limited to publishers who use the Tempest platform?

It’s a mixture. Between our portfolio and our extended network of high-quality lifestyle sites, we reach over 200 million people worldwide.

With Tempest, we’re also making that inventory available into private marketplaces [through AppNexus], where you can deliver a high-impact ad experience at scale. We should be able to make that a more efficient buy and it will be available programmatically.

Where does video advertising fit into the Say Media strategy?

Say Media started out as VideoEgg, a video ad engagement network before becoming a media company and now a tech platform company. With Tempest, we’re going back to the core DNA of the founders.

On the advertising side of things, we offer a range of content products and integrated programmes that can incorporate broadcast-quality video production. Our video offering includes: Video Pre-Roll, Branded Videos, Spark Video and Spotlight ad formats.

We’re also currently in the process of migrating some purely video heavy sites – including Fun Size Horror and FourReals – onto Tempest and the reason we’re able to do that is because Tempest is so nimble and flexible in terms of its technology that it can integrate almost any video server so we have the ability to partner with almost any video server.

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