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Jon Steinberg, CEO of the Mail Online, Discusses His British Invasion of Madison Avenue

Aggressively courting brands and agencies with stats, and a new URL

Photo: Alfred Maskeroni

Specs
New gig: CEO, Mail Online, North America
Old gig: President, COO, BuzzFeed
Age: 37
Twitter: @jonsteinberg

So how’s the U.S. invasion going so far?
Because the Daily Mail is a British company, there is a perception that Americans don’t go to it. So we really have a Madison Avenue challenge, not a user challenge. Americans love the site, 69 million people come to it monthly from the U.S. alone and the engagement is very high. But for some reason the agencies and media buyers don’t know that, so that’s Task One.

What are you doing to address that?
This is very much a ground war and no matter how much air cover you do—whether its PR and events or new ad products—you have to go brand by brand and agency by agency and planning team by planning team. When I got to BuzzFeed five years ago, I didn’t know that. I thought you’d just go and have a meeting with Martin Sorrell and convince him of the merits of your product and then all the brands would buy you. I very quickly learned that’s not the way it works and that there is no substitute to pounding the pavement.

What are the BuzzFeed teaching moments that you’ve brought to the job?
Because we were inexperienced and hadn’t done it before, we just said let’s do 100 percent native because it works and its a great product. We had a naive learner’s mind-set because we didn’t know any better. At the Mail, I’m trying to rediscover again. So the thing I’m working on right now is what would it mean to knit together a programmatic offering with native and high impact and make it all one package. I’m trying to be naive all over again.

Is video a priority?
We do 14 to 15 million monthly views in the U.S. and hopefully that will grow substantially in the coming year. Every package we take to market has high impact display on the homepage, which gets 600,000 U.S. uniques each day, native, video and ideally some programmatic. Every brand comes to you now and asks, “What is your idea, what should we do with you?” So our pitch to brands and agencies has to be very custom and idea centric.

How do you make the Daily Mail iconic in the U.S.?
In the U.S. we have a slightly muddled brand. We are a .co.uk URL and the company goes by the name Mail Online, which is incredibly confusing. We are going to go back to DailyMail.com sometime in December and that will be the core brand with all its history and lineage.

What is your editorial mission?
It’s to tell people what they want with as much detail and photography as possible. There are two kinds of information that we are focused on: breaking news and what they call show business in the U.K.

Spend more time thinking about mobile or data?
About 54 percent of our traffic in the U.S. is mobile and that will continue to ramp over the next year and approach 70 to 80 percent. So it’s really important that all our content and advertising and products perform well on mobile.

What’s the most important hiring you’ll do in 2015?
I’m really focused on making sure we have the right ad ops, programmatic and delivery people because the renewal of the business is how things scale. The first sale is so hard and time consuming that if you can make the campaign really great, that brand will stay with you forever.

Most hated industry buzzword?
I’d say ad tech because it’s really hard to know who really has technology. It’s virtually impossible. It’s much less interesting to me than media and content.

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