In our latest spotlight, we spoke with Michelle Smith, The Arena Group’s VP Product Management, Ad Technology and Monetization about how her team is preparing for the inevitable deprecation of third-party cookies, the role of ad tech in maintaining a free and open internet and what advertisers need to know about The Arena Group’s portfolio.
Tell us a bit about The Arena Group and your role there.
The Arena Group is a tech-powered media company that owns and operates 40 properties and over 200 brands, including Sports Illustrated and TheStreet. In my position, I focus on our advertising suite and growing revenue opportunities, but also on the incredibly talented teams integrating our entire technology platform to provide better experiences for the consumer. I love the opportunity to be a publisher and still work to build the technology for our business to flourish.
You recently went through a rebrand from Maven to The Arena Group. What were the primary motivators behind that change?
Our former name was a product of our former business model. As The Arena Group, we provide value in the market with ‘arenas,’ creating verticals and robust ecosystems that achieve significant scale with like-minded partners. In the two years since the rebrand and shifting our strategy to a vertical model, The Arena Group jumped into the Comscore 250 and drove to number 48, with the sports vertical (Sports Illustrated Media Group) reaching number 5 in sports.
Is The Arena Group taking any steps to prepare for deprecation of third-party cookies? If so, what steps?
We host a cross-functional working group called the Post-Cookiepocalyptic Commission to prepare for the transition. It’s a forum for other publishers, our identity partners, and cross-functional internal stakeholders to meet and share sources regularly. We work with as many partners as possible to build a healthy repository of contextual data and provide as much “signal” as possible to ensure advertisers can find their buyers. Cookiepocalypse gets a bad rep, but we know where users are and what mindset they’re in when viewing material is essential. For us, the goal is to balance maintaining privacy for viewers while still ensuring the advertiser experience is relevant and timely.
What are your thoughts on the role that ad tech plays in maintaining a free and open internet?
Advertising platforms are critical. Without advertising subsidizing content creation, we wouldn’t have an environment for entrepreneurs to try new products or reach new audiences. Imagine if you had to pay for every place you went on the internet – it would cripple the flow of information only to reach the wealthy. In the industry, we complain about the dominance of a handful of giants – the ‘walled garden.’ But if there is no free and open internet, there would only be walled gardens.
What types of video ads are you running? Do you see any changes to your video strategy over the next 12 months?
The Arena Group runs video prerolls, ads before original content, and out-stream ads as high-impact, engaging units on our sites. I already see changes to our strategy in the next 12 months because we constantly stay focused on what engaging video content and mediums audiences are looking for. We’re grateful for our partnership with TripleLift and other independent ad tech companies as we do so!
What should brands know about your lifestyle portfolio now that Parade Lifestyle Brands – led by Parade, Relish, and Spry Living – is a part of it?
Today, the Parade Lifestyle Brand portfolio has an established and engaged audience that consumes a lot of content when they come to visit. Parade brands have been building communities for years and bringing people back for the latest in entertainment now across digital, video, and print. I see an opportunity for The Arena Group to strengthen those communities and connect advertisers with customers to create fully integrated, engaging experiences. With our strong editorial teams working together to drive distinct content on our highly efficient media platform, plus strong momentum from Parade.com (reaching its highest 16.4 million unique visitors in January), the audience and brands will continue to flourish.
What do you think is the most important thing advertisers could know about The Arena Group and your sites?
The Arena Group has built multiple arenas that attract a large, loyal fanbase. Savvy financial investors, passionate sports fans, travel, fitness, or beer fanatics – you name it, they return to our partners’ sites day in and day out (even in the offseason). We have a skilled network of people, modern tooling, and a model that brings transformative scale, efficiency, and yield to digital brands. Our award-winning journalism expanded to include breaking news and the ability to engage users when they’re interacting with content. All this drives quality audiences and environments for advertisers to influence consumers up and down the sales funnel.
Ok last question. What might we find you reading on your poolside lounge chair this summer?
As the mom of a rising sophomore in high school, I often read young adult novels or revisit the classics, so we can discuss some of what he is reading. I recently finished one book series Akata Witch, Akata Warrior and Akata Woman. It’s a young adult series featuring rich cultures and an amazing lead, and it reminds me of why I fell in love with reading in the first place.
For more information around The Arena Group, check out our publisher feature here.