Last month, European publshing giant Axel Springer announced a new partnership with Connatix, a video technology company, to help monetise the publisher’s video content. VideoWeek spoke with Bill Swanson, SVP EMEA at Connatix, and Mathias Sanchez, SVP Global Strategic Partnerships at Axel Springer, to discuss the partnership, the role of AI, and Springer’s model for sustainable journalism.
What was the thinking behind the partnership?
Mathias: We at Axel Springer are always looking at how to monetise in a more efficient way. The reason why we’re doing this is because we want to make journalism a more sustainable business model for the future. And this is why we have a team that’s called Global Strategic Partnerships. We seek great partners like Connatix to help us in achieving that mission. So that was exactly the case with this partnership. We were seeking a very good partner that has the potential to be active on what we call a global scale. That’s basically our German and our American business. And we got into a partnership where all Axel Springer brands get the potential to jump into the agreement. But we’re starting in Germany first. And if the brands of Axel Springer in America, for example, would like to join the project they can do it at a later stage.
How does the partnership work?
Bill: This is a long-term partnership where we’re working with Springer and all their German titles, with the option to work with their US titles, and some of their other subsidiary titles across Germany as well. We are providing our video player technology to sit across all those titles, alongside the monetisation that we bring via direct connections with all the DSPs. And obviously we really want to enhance the video quality, and the way that consumers use video and see video. And then we have the opportunity from the use of the video to monetise it, and make it relevant through contextual targeting through our player.
How does this drive monetisation?
Bill: We have our player on page, and it’s purely Springer content that sits within the player. We’re able to have a look at that from a contextual level. We have AI/Machine Learning technology that sits within the player, which can look at the images. We can also look at some of the page level detail as well. That all helps in terms of the contextual side of things. That basically then allows buyers to target at a contextual level. So there are signals that are passed in terms of the bid request that allows the DSPs and the buyers to target that. But also the context of the page and the video is recognised by the buyers. From a user experience, that provides more relevant advertising.
Connatix is also providing Axel Springer with transparent reporting capabilities – why is that important to a publisher?
Bill: Obviously transparency has become more and more of a buzzword, as have many in the ad tech space. But for us it’s always been the case that we want to provide quality technology, customisable technology, enterprise level for our publishers. But also we have got to make sure, from a buy-side perspective and an SPO perspective, that advertising dollars flow directly to the publisher, with as few hops as possible. And that’s where our technology sits, hence why we have direct integrations with the DSPs. We can have all those connections, but it’s also crucial that our partners have that visibility as well in terms of what is happening on their pages.
What kind of editorial content have you seen drawing advertisers to Axel Springer brands?
Mathias: Classically speaking, advertisers are 100 percent focused on brand-safe content. That’s the most important thing for advertisers. And that’s why many of our customers decide to make use of our advertising capabilities, because Axel Springer has very recognised brands. So they know that in our publications, the quality of the content that has been published is very high. That’s the most important thing. And of course, there are types of content that are less attractive for advertisers, but I would say it’s an industry standard. If you think about things like war, there are not many advertisers that would like to be associated with a war context. That’s probably not the best environment for advertising products. But we build a lot on the quality of our brands.
Axel Springer has also partnered with OpenAI to build an AI chatbot – what has been the impact of this partnership?
Mathias: Axel Springer is a company that has always positioned itself as a first mover in innovation. And that’s what we have made with Hey_, an AI chatbot for our BILD brand. We put forward a chat experience that is aimed to create engagement. We build up a lot on pre-prompting, so the tool gives the users a selection of prompts that help with the experience, so people don’t need to type stuff. They get the chance just to tap. It’s a very interesting and nice product.