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PinkNews CEO on Othervox agency buyout: we want 'whole LGBT ad budget'

PinkNews has acquired LGBT audience digital targeting agency Othervox for an undisclosed sum as it looks to scale up its ad offering and directly court brands keen to speak to its community on its owned media like the website and Snapchat, and beyond.

The acquihire officially brings aboard Darren Clapich, director of the LGBT digital advertising network Othervox, who handily is also head of brand partnerships at PinkNews – having previously served the same role at Grindr. By bringing the agency and Clapich into the mix, PinkNews is hoping to attract a broader share of LGBT marketing spend.

Benjamin Cohen has been chief executive and editor of chief of PinkNews for almost 14 years. He told The Drum that the buyout means PinkNews can reach LGBT consumers wherever they are on owned platform, be it on apps like Grindr or even other LGBT media.

Cohen said: “When an advertiser comes to us wanting to reach the LGBT community, they can safely spend their whole budget with us, they don’t need to go elsewhere. We can reach them on our owned platforms and on Snapchat. We are a one-stop shop for reaching LGBT consumers.”

The move shows that the media title wants to take ownership of its audience and deliver ad solutions to brands. PinkNews, comprised of a modest 24 staff members, claims to be the world's most-read LGBT publisher (accumulating 4.5m visits in January 2019 according to SimilarWeb).

Cohen said it is close to breaching 30 million monthly users on Snapchat Discover, boosted its appointment as Snapchat’s sole LGBT+ content partner.

However, with Othervox on board, PinkNews is unlocking a new audience, LGBT advocates who are themselves not necessarily part of the community. A poll to its sizeable Snap audience found that half of its users identified as straight.

Cohen said: “That is an audience that hasn't really existed or been offered to advertisers before. We are right at the beginning of that journey there is a huge opportunity for people to reach a young, liberal, Gen Z audience who have different attitudes to the consumers of other publications.”

He caveated this saying Mic and Vice may have pulled in this audience segment but without the specificity of focusing solely on LGBT issues.

“With us, [people] won't be engaging unless they are interested in LGBT content, so they are different to audiences that exist on other platforms.” This relevance has an intrinsic value to advertisers wanting to speak to both LGBT audiences or pro-LGBT young people.

In this respect, PinkNews has work to do informing advertisers of this audience. Cohen said: “We're not just about LGBT people, the content is LGBT people, but the users are not necessarily.”

Cohen said PinkNews is making “significant” revenue from Snapchat, at the moment through its self-service ads. However, as a Snapchat partner, PinkNews is afforded the ability to target its readers across the app on a revenue share basis. It can bring aboard its own brand partners to push creative, lenses and filters to relevant audiences via an in-house team that will soon number 10 people.

He said: “It is an audience we didn't have before, on a platform we weren't on, and we are generating significant revenue. People who dismiss it don't understand its power, it has taken a lot of investment to build up these capabilities.

“It has worked for us, it won't work for everyone.”

Cohen also opened up on the digital media ecosystem at a time when digital native publishers are slicing resources and staff, with BuzzFeed, Verizon Media and Vice just doing so in the last month.

He revealed close ties with Mic.com (which has imploded of late) in particular and said it had been in talks to acquire PinkNews in years gone by. As the chief of a sizeable title that hasn’t taken on significant investment, Cohen claimed that the expectations of venture capitalists hindered the digital media giants.

“Because they had the cash, they didn't have to make end's meat in the way that we did.”

He pointed to these title’s reluctance to embrace programmatic advertising like Taboola and Outbrain in aid of the user experience (although he did admit PinkNews currently runs “too many” ads and is in the process of a website redesign to bring it more in line with a social channel like Snap).

“They had a lot of traffic but had little monetisation on the website… if they had, they would have had a hell of a lot more money now.”

He noted that Upworthy’s peak of around 100m unique page views a month may have been more valuable if it was taking the $2 per-thousand views from one of the sponsored ad firms.

Cohen concluded: “BuzzFeed still doesn't have this… it seems wasteful, what was the point of building up all those audiences if you weren't going to monetise them.

"The content is great, they've done amazing journalism and it is a shame what has happened to them but below the articles, they have links to their low-value content, they could have just had Taboola.”

Featured by The Drum

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