The Medium Rules: Long-Term Trends in Media and Technology


Media Strategies for Political Advocacy in the 2020 Election Cycle w/ Swing Left

Ep. 18
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

Ep. 17
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

Ep. 16
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

Ep. 15
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.

The Amazon HQ2 Pullout: Anatomy of a Disaster, with Ari Wallach and Duff McDonald

Last November, after an extended RFP bidding process involving initially 280 cities, narrowed down to twenty “finalists”, Amazon announced Long Island City in Queens, New York as its “HQ2” winner. New York’s agreements with Amazon guaranteed $27 billion in revenue for New York with $3 billion returned to Amazon in tax credits.In February of this year, however, on Valentine’s Day no less (slightly tone deaf!),Amazon abruptly canceledits plans entirely and reversed course, citingmounting criticismit received from state andlocal politicians, activists and community groups in and around Long Island City.The main arguments from the so-called resistance were that it wouldcause housing costs to skyrocket, drive out low-income residents and worsen congestion on the subway and streets.Others have distilled the story into three categories:(1) subsidies/corporate giveaways, (2) secrecy and backroom dealings and (3) corporate social responsibility and corporate behavior.On this episode of The Medium Rules, host Alan Baldachin is joined by Ari Wallach and Duff McDonald with a view to dissecting the various causes and effects, both short and long-term, implicated and exposed by the Amazon HQ2 debacle.Is this a story of corporate greed and Albany arrogance finally getting their respective comeuppance?Or, was the turning back of Amazon HQ2 an ahistorical blunder of epic proportions?How much should we care about community preservation, or is this just a nostalgic fever dream of a very vocal, activist minority?To what extent are we required to extrapolate the Amazon HQ2 into broader American political and social currents tracing back to Occupy Wall Street and the rise of the new left, or is the story much more localized in nature?Ari Wallach is the founder and CEO of Longpath Labs.We had the pleasure to connect with Ari for our very first episode of The Medium Rules last June.Longpath Labs is a 501(c)(3) organization whose mission is to promote and advocate long-term modes of thinking, synthesizing and responding to humanity’s greatest long-term challenges.Duff McDonald is a first timer on The Medium Rules.Duff is a New York-based journalist and is the author, most recently, ofTheNew York TimesbestsellersThe Golden PassportandThe Firm.A long-time magazine writer,Duff has written forTheNew Yorker,Vanity Fair,New York Magazine,Esquire,Fortune,Business Week,Wired,Time,and other publications. Duff wrote the book review for the New York Times on Brad Stone’s essential book on Amazon,The Everything Store.Duff is currently working on a book with Christiane Lemiuex about what makes entrepreneurs tick – Christiane is the founder and CEO of The Inside and a previous guest on The Medium Rules.

Content With A Purpose, with Troy Young President of Hearst Magazines

Ep. 13
The twin challenges of both monetizing content and managing the transition from a print-dominated world to a digital-dominated world are not for the faint of heart.For some, the scale and scope of this challenge would be at best daunting and, at worst, induce a level of anxiety and paralysis that would make many if not most media executives sprint in the opposite direction.Yet this is exactly the challenge that Troy Young took on when he stepped into the role of President of Hearst Magazines in November, 2018.On this episode of The Medium Rules I sit down with Troy to discuss his take on the media landscape as it pertains to Hearst’s incredible collection of brand titles and his game plan to transform Hearst from a print to an online content and publishing powerhouse for the 21stCentury.We cover Troy’s background growing up in Western Canada, his journey from the agency world in Toronto in the nineties to working in NYC and eventually becoming CEO of Say Media, and then moving to Hearst in 2013 as Global President, Digital.In that role and under Troy’s leadership Hearst increased its aggregate traffic across Hearst’s digital properties from 63 million visitors/month to 108 million.In 2015, Troy was named Adweek’s Magazine Executive of the Year, an honor that recognized him for unifying Hearst’s “print and digital brands into a single, well-oiled machine whose traffic has surged”, and for his development of MediaOS, "a combined CMS, ad sales and data strategy tool for all Hearst properties.” As an added bonus, Troy gives us his Top 5 desert island vinyl picks, a few of which might surprise!