Australia is a test ground admits AOL’s international boss

Graham MoyseyOnline giant AOL is expanding its footprint in Australia with the launch of HuffPo and its programmatic platforms locally. Head of AOL International Graham Moysey sat down with Nic Christensen to talk about the future of video, its partnership with Fairfax Media and how the company is using Australia as a testing ground for its ad sales plans. 

Where are things up to with the Huffington Post Australia?

Fairfax are an amazing partner. There was a massive demand to see who could partner with the Huffington Post and I think Fairfax is really excited and we are excited about that partnership, which will give us an enhanced display and enhanced video presence.

It is going to be great. I had the fortune of previously running our Canadian business, which was our first international edition, and we are now at 13 and so I have witnessed what that platform can do, the niche that it fills and specifically how viral the sharability of the CMS is.

What are you expectations for the Aussie HuffPo when it launches later this year?

Australia is an interesting market – there are still almost five million Australian who come to an AOL property even though there isn’t really one there.

That’s 16 million Australians online and to have 33 per cent of that online population bookmarked or whatever coming to some sort of AOL asset is remarkable. We already monetise that market through reseller agreements etc. and now to have some installed local assets will be interesting as well.

(Following this interview Tory Maguire was named the editor-in-chief of HuffPo Australia)

How big will the HuffPo Australian office be?

The Huffington Post is a partnership with Fairfax. We will maintain the revenues into our P&L we will keep a close eye on it.

I’m not sure of the exact numbers but for a market like that you would most likely have a 10-15 people editorial resource and then they will plug into the existing editorial resource.

They will then have the Huffington Post as one of their heroes in the sales package. I know (Fairfax) are taking it very seriously, which is great, and I think the potential from a market perspective is that we will grow organically with demand and I think we’ll see what that looks like pretty quickly.

We’ve seen a lot of talk about the importance of video at of this week’s presentations at Newfronts, what do you make of the global race for online video and eyeballs?

The nice thing about the programmatic side of the business is that technology is a great differentiator and if you have great technology then you typically win. The great thing about the content side of the business is if you create content then consumers are the ultimate judge/jury on that.

What you will see tonight is that we are focussed on making it a seamless 365 day experience. The Newfronts started as an attempt to duplicate what happens in television and people would come in and buy on the scarcity principle. What is nice is that the Digital Newfronts have gained credibility – the week has become like fashion week – it is becoming a global event but with us you will see a pivot where it won’t be about a Newfront on a one time basis, we want that to be a 365 day experience both for consumers and our demand partners.

That’s exciting and a cool pivot for us. In terms of programming we are also making what I would describe as smart but tough decisions around shifting from editorial to video and do our staff have the ability to make the leap because we just believe in that focus on sight, sound and motion.

AOL recently had a big announcement about the launch its of full programmatic offering One in Australia. What will that do you for local business? 

We rebranded under the One banner and promoted Mitch Waters into the MD role and so he will take on a more holistic role of our AOL business.

That is signalling to the market that Australia is a top five demand market globally. In terms of usage we have got a great crew there, we think we have got a really scalable business model there in terms of bringing English language assets like AOL One into what is a supply constrained marketplace.

We talked to a lot people in market about the lack of premium video inventory.

We are excited to be expanding our programmatic platform there. We have plans to launch Marketplace which is our display supply-side platform (SSP), we plan to launch AOP which is our demand side platform (DSP), now known as ONE by AOL: Display, and that puts some interesting composite parts together for the display business.

We already have a beautiful footprint when it comes to the video business.

What timeframe are you looking at?

These will be Q2 and Q3 launches and then when you look at today’s event we are also placing a massive focus on original content and in this premium video content.

We think its an exciting market opportunity we have a library of over 1.5m original videos, some are our own and some are publishing partnerships, but the point is it is ready to go.

After talking to agencies, clients, there will be a demand for it and it will allow us to fill that upper funnel of that content pipe. AOL One will launch in Q3 of this year as well and that will help with what we call culture and code – culture being meaningful human experiences that are non circumnavigable by consumers and code being technology and scale on the other side.

Now we have a particularly strong ad stack on the code side and it will be really interesting to have a resonance around that original content.

What are you doing more broadly around the world in video?

In Canada we are doing some cool stuff where we have built out construction of a studio in office. It is efficient, almost like a Vice model, where we are creating original content in the studio and seeing what happens. That stuff is amazingly exciting.

Similarly the sales stuff we are doing with MCN in Australia is interesting because Australian then becomes a test and learn market for AOL around the world. You have Australia, this test market which is largely isolated – its an island – and therefore isolated in terms of demand and supply and then prove out that model and then you have the possibility of scaling that into a different way.

It gives Australia a great name and it also helps us learn and evaluate from being able to do that in one market.

So Australia from a programmatic side is a test market for the rest of the world?

From a linear TV point of view getting access to data so you can make informed decisions when it comes to buying TV is a very intuitive path for us, and we are doing that now in Australia before anywhere else in the world.

And therefore how that is going to inform how we go to market in other places including the US.

We’ve been hearing a lot about video this week, but I wonder how much is it being used by publishers as a bit of a panacea?

It’s a good question. Everybody is moving to where the consumers are whether that’s a conversation about multiscreen, which is something we are focused on.

I think organisations that have a more traditional business model which is getting crushed – like print – are obviously having to pivot and reinvest their resources in other things.

I wasn’t at the New York Times presentation but it makes a lot of sense to take the brand and to try and allocate premium content across that. How scalable that is is yet to be determined. Is that a financial lever to help offset some of the other issues? Only they can tell that.

What makes a hell of a lot of sense is taking the premium NYT brand and scaling it across the bigger buy. If they are doing that effectively using programatic tools to do it awesome.

That’s certainly our strategy. We have a mechanism at the top of the chain and then we have these 40,000 publishers globally who we spread our buy across, and it give immediate access to scale your spend, much like a TV budget.

Organisations like the NYT can provide a certain amount of inventory allocation at the upper end of the tunnel but they need to be able to scale it to be able to have a meaningful play. They are definitely smart to be thinking about video – sight, sound, emotion is pretty important.

It is a fascinating time that’s for sure its not only about how its being consumed but also about how it is being traded.

Nic Christensen in New York


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