Andy Wiedlin on Media Disruption & the Death of the Banner
Andy has a stellar resume building successful media empires from Wedding Channel to Huffington Post, mySpace and most recently Buzzfeed where he took the company to $121.4 million in in revenue.
CEO and Buzzfeed founder Jonah Peretti worked with Andy at Huffington Post and when Jonah shared his vision for leveraging social platforms in media to create advertising that doesn’t suck, Andy realized they were in violent agreement over the future of media. Andy joined Buzzfeed as employee number 38 and was a key piece of its meteoric rise.
Leveraging lessons in content strategy used at Huffington Post, the power of the internet and word of mouth marketing, Buzzfeed pioneered an new type of custom branded content that people actually like and share. And rather than try to lure visitors to websites the traditional strategy that increases eyeballs and thus ad CPMs, Buzzfeed tailored its publishing strategy to stay within the social networks where content is consumed during most people’s “bored at work” time. And that strategy has paid off big time, netting Buzzfeed a valuation of $850 million with Andreeson’s most recent investment of $50 million.
Andy like most of us sees banner ads, the industry’s de facto ad product as intrusive and ineffectual, “Why do we bombard people with crappy banners, why not create on-brand content that people like and can share w/ their friends?” Yet, the media industry is slow to change and most consumers recognize that free content comes with the necessary evil of banners, but most of us know it is not the ideal experience and on mobile it only gets worse.
Banner ads on websites suck..banner ads on mobile suck harder.
Andy sees the industry as ripe for disruption. Not only are consumer behaviors changing with ad blockers gaining more traction, it is also full of fraud and improper reporting… this makes the argument for the efficacy of banners even less appropriate. “Now is the time to kill the banner.” Brands need to do more to engage with their customers by creating on-brand content that is likable and shareable.
On the publisher side, many traditional news media sites see their traffic numbers dwindling and see the decrease on a viewership as a lack of interest in news by consumers. Andy disagrees, “People are junkies on their phones, they’ve never been more enamored with news. It’s a bad time to be cutting down trees, but a great time to be in the news business”
Never have consumers been more in charge and more interested in news. Consumers are always on their phones now and always in search of new content, the pace of news consumption has in picked up. In fact, it’s the publishers who need to change by creating content in ways consumers want to read. Long form printed content is dying, the consumer landscape is changing and millennials want to digest their news differently. At it’s heart, Buzzfeed understood this and has been able to connect with consumers through extensive video offerings, listicles, and shorter punchier articles that grab attention and keep consumers entertained while they are “bored at work”.
The Huffington Post in contrast to the New York Times embraced a new way to publish by aggregating content from various sources vs. having on-staff reporters and a lack of physical assets such as expensive printing presses. By constantly making their writers aware of stats around social sharing, journalists get real-time feedback into what content is resonating with audiences enabling a better feedback loop that improves content over time because HuffPo understands what people like and share.
Especially in this electrified political season, these old school publications could benefit from many of the strategies Andy employed such as video and socially shareable content.
These days, Andy spends his time as Advisor and Executive in Residence at
Andreeson Horowitz helping start-ups refine their monetization and growth strategies.