BtoB CEO on How Data Is Transforming Publishing

Tony Uphoff Says Publishers Have to Get Serious About Data and Algorithms

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Tony Uphoff, CEO of, has more than 20 years of experience leading and transforming b-to-b publishing companies.

Tony Uphoff
Tony Uphoff

Before joining in 2013, he was CEO of tech publisher UBM TechWeb, where he led the company's transformation from a $125 million print-centric business to a $225 million digital media, event and marketing-services company.

When he joined, he was charged with relaunching the business, which had previously been owned by Yellow Pages and was a business directory and ad network serving small and medium-sized businesses.

Today, delivers content to more than 30 million buyers to help them make decisions about purchasing products for their businesses, and has more than 10,000 advertisers that want to reach small and medium-sized businesses.

In the following interview, Mr. Uphoff talks about how data is transforming the publishing business and how media companies must adapt.

Ad Age: How has evolved into a different company?

Mr. Uphoff: About three years ago, JMI Equity acquired the legacy, which had pretty much been idled, and a small but very powerful lead-gen platform business called Resource Nation. Their vision was to bring these two together to create a regular destination for business executives that would also be able to serve up contextual advertising from top-of-the-funnel brand engagement to bottom-of-the-funnel demand generation.

I was brought into this strategy about two years ago. One of the things I'd been looking at is the changing nature of content and business information. What I believe is going to start to happen is that more and more business people are interested in how to do something as opposed to reading about something. You can see this happening in consumer markets and with YouTube content. So I had a strategy in mind to build a market-expert community that would focus on critical issues for business executives and provide practitioner-to-practitioner content. We launched the new business a year ago August. We built our own data management platform, we built in all of the ad technologies so that we could track first-party data, customize and personalize the experience for the audience, and deliver native and contextual advertising at an in-depth level.

Ad Age: What are your different revenue streams and how do they contribute to your overall business?

Mr. Uphoff: Right now, 60% of our revenue comes from demand generation, and that takes the form primarily of three product lines: content marketing -- we call them marketing-ready leads; then we have a product called sales-ready leads that is a lower-funnel product, which is an immediate price-quote product that gets streamed into the sales-lead databases of our customers; and we also have an email marketing and lead nurturing product. And then about 40% of our revenue comes from brand engagement, which is primarily advanced use of display advertising, and we also have price-per-click advertising.

Ad Age: How are you using data in offering these different types of programs to advertisers?

Mr. Uphoff: If we look at the data on the advertising side of our business, there are four main areas that advertisers are looking to deal with. First is brand engagement, second is demand generation -- how do I engage with these prospects at a level that will start them down the path of becoming a customer -- next is lead nurturing, and the fourth is customer retention.

We leverage first-party data so we can do two things. One is to drive engagement from brand engagement to demand generation to lead nurturing to customer retention across all of our advertising products. We can either sell them to the advertiser as a one-off -- so maybe someone just wants to do advanced display with us -- or they just want to do content marketing. But increasingly we are integrating these products into solutions to drive to the advertisers' KPIs, which could be leads or a certain type of form-fill. Data informs virtually everything we do -- how people are engaging with our content and how they're engaging with advertising.

Ad Age: What are some lessons you've learned that you can share with publishers?

Mr. Uphoff: The first is, you really have to get serious as a publisher about data and algorithms -- having the technical capabilities to capture a lot of first-party data, and then to set up a series of agile and flexible algorithms that could help increase the audience experience and increase the advertiser's contextual experience.

Second is the need for high discoverability today -- really sweating the details around quality, original programming that drives SEO, social and email engagement.

The other aspect is a scalable content model -- being very smart and thoughtful about the type of content that the market you're serving really needs. Carving out a niche where you are producing content that clearly engages with the audience and has some level of sustained differentiation and a unique value proposition.

And the last thing is having brand trust on both the audience and the advertising side.

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