The Medium Rules: Long-Term Trends in Media and Technology
with Alan Baldachin and Powered by HBA
Conversations with founders, investors and thought leaders in the orbit of HBA's tech and media ecosystem and beyond. How are media and technology companies conceived, how do they scale, and how do they interact with the
Aggregating and Innovating in Publishing with James Heckman, CEO of Maven.
On this episode of The Medium Rules, I sit down with James Heckman to discuss hisbusiness philosophy animating Maven, as well as a look back at James’ career to date.Maven styles itself as a technology solution for publishers, centralizing and optimizing virtually all functions of a publishing business, from sales and marketing all the way through to legal and finance.And Maven is roughly modeled on two prior ventures founded by James, Rivals and Scouts, both sports-based publishing properties based on a similar “hub-and-spoke” approach to the publishing business in a digitally-native world.In this wide-ranging, informative and engaging conversation, James and I cover prior successes and failures, James' keys to success (net:strong team, reliable investors and high-quality partners), and what the future holds for Maven and the various brands it now owns and/or controls.
The Impeachment Trial with Adam Michaels & Mike Norton of HBA
For this episode of The Medium Rules, the first of 2020, we decided to delve into the headlines and take an in-depth look at the impeachment trial of President Trump in the US Senate from a trial lawyer’s perspective.For this discussion I’m joined by two of my HBA colleagues: our head of litigation, Adam Michaels, and Partner Mike Norton, a former Assistant US Attorney for the Southern District who worked under Rudy Giuliani.We examine, among other topics, the concept of the Senate functioning as both judge and jury, the role and function of the media, the rules of evidence, the “presiding” role and function of Chief Justice Roberts (and what we might expect from Roberts in the coming days and weeks), and how all of these variables influence how a trial lawyer might approach the impeachment trial both as prosecution and defense.We hope you tune in, watch and listen to this important conversation.
Network Effects, with Tim Gunderson of Carta
Sometimes the biggest startup ideas are sitting right under our noses until somebody decides to just pick up and build the company.This is the case withCarta, which took an obvious pain point, the management of private company capitalization tables, and built a unicorn business.On the final episode of The Medium Rules for 2019, I sat down with Tim Gunderson, VP Products atCarta, to discuss howCartatook what might have seemed like a straightforward problem, built a simple cloud-based solution, and grew a company to a valuation of $1.7 billion (and counting!). In addition to great tech, the ubiquity of the cloud, a great founder and a great team, the magic insight here lies to a great extent in network effects:startups (in many cases with a not-so-gentle nudge from startup counsel!) go on the platform to reduce friction associated with cap table management, fund investors start to see the benefit of a high-level view of all of their portfolio investments and also urge companies to be onCarta, and finally fund LP’s are also pulled into the network to be able to easily view fund performance from the bottom up.We hope you tune in, watch and listen to this very lively season-ending episode.
Media Strategies for Political Advocacy in the 2020 Election Cycle w/ Swing Left
How do you crack the code on effectively messaging political advocacy on social media?What is the right tone, what are the right platforms, and what is the right targeting? One organization that seems to be nailing this challenge is the progressive, grassroots political advocacy organization, Swing Left.Swing Left was founded in the wake of the 2016 Presidential election.The initial, basic idea was to develop a tool by which individuals could plug their zip code into Swing Left’s website and quickly locate the nearest US House district whose seat was, in 2016, decided by a small margin and might be “flappable” from red to blue in the 2018 midterms.So the idea was to identify the “swing seats” in the 2018 midterm elections and to mobilize volunteers to help flip the US House of Representatives from Republican to Democrat.In and around this advocacy, Swing Left developed a highly visible social media campaign mixing in voters and volunteers with influencers and celebrities, all in service to Swing Left’s ambitious activist swing seat agenda.Those short videos with celebrities each speaking a line or two telling you how to vote?That was Swing Left.And, as we know, the 2018 midterms were a historic blue wave, particularly with respect to the House, and many observers credited Swing Left as a significant factor.In other words, mission accomplished.On this episode of The Medium Rules, Alan sits down with Michelle Finocchi and Marc Smrikarov, respectively the Chief Marketing Officer and the Head of Communications of Swing Left, for a discussion around Swing Left’s highly successful media strategy leading up to 2018 and, of more moment, and how it is thinking about creating and deploying media in the months leading up to 2020. We cover the shifting political landscape since the 2018 mid-terms, how Swing Left is evolving its advocacy for a Presidential cycle, its priorities for the coming cycle, as well as how Swing Left is developing and deploying technology in service of advocacy.We hope you tune in, listen and watch this very interesting episode by a group that represents some of the most skilled advocacy entrepreneurs in the country.
AppNexus, AT&T and the Future of Media, with Michael Rubenstein President of AppNexus
The explosion of so-called programmatic advertising over the past decade is one of those technological phenomena that has had so many and so varied a set of seismic second-order effects that we almost take it for granted that the world of interactive advertising was always so.Not the case.Consider this quote, which now reads as charmingly quaint, from the April 14, 2007New York Timesarticle announcing the sale of DoubleClick to Google:“DoubleClick’s chief executive, David Rosenblatt, said a few weeks ago that a new system it had developed for the buying and selling of online ads would probably become the chief money maker within five years. The system, a Nasdaq-like exchange for online ads, brings Web publishers and advertising buyers together on a Web site where they can participate in auctions for ad space.”As it turned out, the acquisition of DoubleClick by Google has turned to be one of, if not the single-most consequential acquisition by any tech company in history as it relates to the publishing web and the business of online advertising.On this episode The Medium Rules I sit down with Michael Rubenstein, the President of AppNexus, for a conversation tracing the origins and history of electronic exchanges for buying and selling digital advertising inventory.Michael takes us through his experiences working on the first ad exchange developed at DoubleClick, the decision-making process in connection with the sale of DoubleClick to Google, and then his decision to leave Google for another startup, AppNexus.Of course, AppNexus went on to become the biggest and most successful independent ad exchange out there, and Michael discusses the growth of AppNexus, it’s various strategic decisions along the way, the competitive pressures as programmatic advertising in effect swallowed the industry, and finally the process and logic in selling to AT&T.In the process of walking through all of this history, Michael ends up delivering a master class in current and future trends with respect to the media business.This episode is a true must-listen piece of content which we hope you will enjoy watching and listening as much as we enjoyed in the taping.
Podtech Analytics & Attribution w/ Sean Creeley & Andy Pellett of Podsights
With the explosion of podcasts and podcasting in recent years (there are 700,000 podcasts and counting, according to The New York Times), podcasting has become big business.In addition, there has been a recent spate of headline-grabbing podcast M&A activity, signaling that this new, highly intimate form of media is still in its early stages.However, the industry is struggling to find an advertising model that matches the growth and popularity of this new medium.Listener data is both very difficult to obtain and fragmented among the various industry participants, as a result of which ad-targeting, and CPMs, remain low.Enter Podsights, a podcast analytics and attribution company co-founded by industry veterans Sean Creeley and Andy Pellett, which seeks to work with both the supply and demand side of the podcasting advertising business (call it “podtech”) to optimize both yield, on the one hand, and conversions on the other.Prior to co-founding Podsights, Sean founded a web attribution and analytics company by the name of Embedly, with Andy as his chief engineer.Embedly was sold to Medium Corporation in 2016.On this episode of The Medium Rules, Sean and Andy walk us through the various players in the podcast ecosystem, from the players to the hosting companies to the producers/creators to the brands and to the analytics companies in between.We talk about some of the newer entrants, such as Luminary, and we also discuss the current M&A environment, what the future might bring, and who will be the winners and the losers going forward.We hope you tune in, listen and watch this chatty and informative episode with Sean & Andy.
The Rise of Food Media, with Gail Simmons
The past 15 years have seen the cooking show move from niche, daytime and educational “good for you” programming to the center of mainstream American entertainment.This has fueled the rise of the celebrity chef and, it’s cousin, the rise of the TV chef.The beating heart of this explosion is the food competition show, principally among them “Top Chef”, but also “Hell’s Kitchen”, “Iron Chef”, “Masterchef” and a host of others which have proliferated on network and cable television dials at a dizzying pace.Enter the streaming services, and this trend has only accelerated with shows like “Nailed It” and “Sugar Rush”.And this says nothing of the kids competition shows, chief among them “Masterchef Junior”.At the same time, food media has taken a life of its own on social media, from Instagramming cooking and dining, to “maker” videos on YouTube, to food and restaurant blogs, and on and on.In a nutshell, food and cooking are pretty much everywhere at all times, everyone is a critic, and everyone is a chef.On this episode of The Medium Rules, host Alan Baldachin is joined by Gail Simmons, who as a judge on Bravo’s Top Chef throughout its fifteen season run (and still going strong) has become a household name in both the United States and her native Canada.Gail and Alan discuss the origins of Gail’s interest in cooking, her background as a trained chef and food writer, her stint working for Daniel Boulud, and of course her tenure on Top Chef where she continues to reign alongside Padma Lakshmi and Tom Colicchio.We also discuss how the proliferation of food media has changed the way people think about the culinary arts, and how cooking and eating have themselves been transformed.We hope you tune in, listen and watch this chatty and informative episode with Gail.