In light of our recent funding announcement, we’re interviewing a few of our backers. Ben Feder is the co-founder and Vice-Chairman of ZelnickMedia and ZM Capital. He is an accomplished executive with a proven track record as an operator and investor in the media and telecommunications sector and has held public and private company board positions in the United States and abroad. He brings more than 20 years of experience across various media industries to the Verto Analytics team, where he was just appointed Chairman of the Board.
Verto Analytics (VA): What are the unique aspects of Verto that led you invest?
Ben Feder (BF): First of all, Hannu is a wonderful entrepreneur. He’s absolutely mission-focused and has boundless energy. And he has attracted and retained a terrific team that is both client-oriented and analytically driven—so the management package is deeply compelling.
Second, there’s the opportunity. The market for a cross-device measurement and analytics platform is ripe. Technology firms, media companies, and brands all need to measure user engagement and usage in a way that is consistent, accurate, and insightful. Verto’s ability to lead the market, based on its platform and intellectual assets, is second to none.
Finally, I recognized that top-tier European investors—EQT, Conor Venture Partners, Open Ocean, and Finnish Industry Investment—are backing the company; their involvement will provide resources as well as strategic guidance, disciplined governance, and critical access.
VA: Do you think the future of advertising and media will be ruled by the next-generation Internet companies (e.g. Facebook) or traditional media giants (e.g. Viacom)? What do you think about the power balance?
BF: The traditional media business model grew up in an age of scarce distribution, and operators often exploited that scarcity to create highly profitable production businesses. But production and distribution were managed in separate, siloed fashion. Many traditional media businesses still operate this way.
But in the new model, distribution and production are inextricably linked and competitive advantage is driven by data and analytics. New media companies can use technology to create a feedback loop, which enables them to optimize content, personalize experience, and maximize audience monetization. They’re able to reach and engage audiences at great scale. As devices proliferate and territories grow, that scale and scope will only increase.
That said, traditional media companies still generate lots of cash and have great market clout. Digital video ad spend, for example, is still a fraction of the traditional television market. So, new media still has a lot of room to grow.
VA: Based on your background in so many aspects of media — gaming, television, music, and B2B markets, what do you think is the role of data in running today’s media companies from your point of view? Are companies using data to drive their business adequately today?
BF: In nearly all media sectors, publishing plays a number of essential roles including physical distribution, marketing support, and editorial value-add.
If you apply this to today’s mobile publishing companies in the U.S., for example, those elements have changed dramatically. While marketing is still important, the analogy for physical distribution is Google Play and the Apple App Store, which is outside the control of publishers. And editorial value-add, long the bastion of editors who rely primarily on human judgment, has been replaced by data and analytics, which provide real insight in real time. In the video game industry, publishers use data to drive customer acquisition and retention as well as monetization—data and analytics have become critical to compete effectively in the media business
VA: Are companies using data to drive their business adequately today?
BF: Not all data are created equal. Some data are available widely, and the margins associated with providing those data reflect their commoditized nature. Other data are differentiated, specialized, or otherwise difficult to attain. Those data are hugely valuable and can be used to gain competitive advantage and tilt the playing field, and I believe that early adopters of sophisticated data analytics tools will gain lasting advantage.
On top of the data stream, it’s also important to think of value-add services like analytics services and management tools. This is why Verto’s work is so exciting: there’s no other place to get the type of information that Verto supplies.