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From Magazine to Global Entertainment Network: How Complex Networks is Diversifying Their Business

By October 13, 2020 No Comments

Welcome to TripleLift’s Publisher Spotlight Series. Every month we’ll share an interview with one of our premium publishers, highlighting unique stories and uncovering valuable insights. This week we’re speaking with Alex Mason, Senior Director, Yield & Programmatic Operations at Complex. Read on to learn about Complex’s recent partnerships, their efforts to shine the light on important issues (like voting) to Gen Z and millennial audiences, and some “hidden gems” from Alex to shake up your usual content consumption.

Excited to hear more about Complex, thanks for chatting with us Alex. For starters, can you tell us a bit about what you do?

Thanks for having me! I head up programmatic and yield for Complex Networks, which includes Catalyst, our B2B initiative providing yield and revenue ops solutions for other publishers. It’s a lot of ad tech management and data analysis, my two favorite things, but I just tell my parents I make sure the ads show up on our sites.

How has Complex evolved from a portfolio perspective since you’ve been at the company?

The portfolio itself hasn’t changed too much, but our monetization strategy across Catalyst has. Beyond our O&O properties (Complex, First We Feast, Sole Collector, Pigeons & Planes), we represent 40+ publishers in categories endemic to Complex like music, pop-culture, sneakers/fashion, and sports. A majority of these publishers have actually been with us for many years, but it wasn’t until recently that we formalized Catalyst as a product offering and became set on expanding. We’ve spent the last year rebuilding our ad stack from the ground up, optimizing deal workflows, expanding our analytical capabilities, and turning things off and back on again, all of which have proven to be beneficial projects for our Catalyst publishers.

Do you have plans to add more sites any time soon?

Absolutely. Since it was announced earlier this year, we’ve added a few new publishers, Blastbeat Network being the latest, which consists of sites such as Metalinjection.net and Metalsucks.net. In addition to the websites we work with, we also provide in-app solutions and represent a wide range of YouTube creators, so partnerships of all shapes and sizes are welcome. At the end of the day, we’re a publisher looking to extend our monetization expertise and resources to other publishers, so I’m excited to see Catalyst grow. For those interested, we accept inquiries at https://complexcatalyst.com/.

It looks like a lot of those sites center around rock and heavy metal music – is there a strategic reason behind those partnerships?

More of a coincidence than a strategy to corner the heavy music market, though that sounds fun. Music is a category that we already cover pretty extensively, so being able to add 8 sites that specialize in a genre with a dedicated audience just makes sense. While our partners have historically fit into one or more of the categories I mentioned above, I’d like to see us branch out into new areas or expand on already existing ones like gaming and current affairs/news. We have a large audience with a wide array of interests, and I believe it’ll be beneficial to build up our contextual categories as we get closer to the cookie-ocalypse.

Have you noticed any interesting trends in any of Complex’s areas of focus due to Covid-19?

For sure. Specifically on the content side of things, having to quarantine pushed us to experiment with new franchises we probably otherwise wouldn’t have tried. In some cases they were completely original, drawing from our expertise in areas like food or sneakers, while others were extensions of existing IP like Hot Ones… 10+ series in all and featuring big-name talent like Tracy Morgan, Issa Rae, G-Eazy, and more. Some were even shared with brand partners, like HP, who we worked with on new series Sneaker Battles and DIY Closets. What we found when surveying the industry is that 90% of respondents said remote production wouldn’t deter them from watching our content so long as it was still interesting and entertaining — two qualities we consistently deliver on.

Most recently though, we announced our first free, open-world, virtual experience called ComplexLand. It’ll feature 5 days of shopping, merch drops, discussions, music, and food, and will be coming to mobile and desktop browsers December 7 – 11 at ComplexLand.com. We’re taking our annual convention ComplexCon to our audience and I for one am excited to give my avatar a fresh fit.

As someone who primarily works on a laptop in Excel crunching numbers, it’s been cool to see the innovation. I want to give a big shoutout to everyone involved in the production, execution, delivery, success, and everything else that goes into the creation of these ideas.

What are some of your “hidden gems” of Complex – the types of content that people may not expect when they think about you, but they should definitely check out?

Everyone should check out Complex World, our youth culture current affairs docuseries which has put out new episodes biweekly since April. The Complex World team has done incredible work covering some of today’s most important issues, such as voter suppression, immigration reform, and environmental racism, in a voice that resonates with our largely Gen Z and millennial audience. To me, it’s been a standout, fresh take from the other news providers taking up my feed, and seeing a new episode becomes a highlight of my week.

We also just launched Pull Up & Vote, a new company-wide initiative to educate and motivate our large, young, and diverse audience to check their registration, double-check if they’re unsure, and to make a plan for how they’ll vote in this 2020 presidential election. We’re providing vital information and resources to our audience like how to vote by mail, how to find your polling place, and where both candidates stand on the most salient issues for young voters. It’s great working for a company that uses its resources and reach to support important causes, especially right now.

Last question – it’s time to tackle that major project and you need the perfect tunes to get in the zone. What are you turning on?

I’m turning on my streaming service of choice’s “Rap Bangers” playlist or some older pop-punk like Alkaline Trio. I need some energy while I’m working and either of those will do it for me. Some new albums I’ve been listening to a lot lately are SuperGood by Duckwrth and In Sickness & In Flames by The Front Bottoms.

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