When Time Inc. announced its acquisition of Viant Technology, a data-marketing company that owns Myspace — among other properties — some headlines expressed confusion.
“Time Inc buys… Myspace?” read Engadget‘s headline. The AP’s: “Myspace still exists? Yes, and now Time Inc. owns it.”
(In fact, after being sold to Viant’s Specific Media and Justin Timberlake in 2011, the company was made over into a music and entertainment site.)
Time Inc. bought Viant to target ad delivery, link devices to real people and convert ad spending into actual sales, Real-Time Daily reported.
Viant’s CEO Tim Vanderhook said the company has access to over 1.2 billion registered users whose data can be linked across devices and used for targeting, according to a release. In a TechCrunch story, Vanderhook said the combination of Time Inc.’s premium content assets and Viant’s ad tech could offer a compelling alternative to Google and Facebook.
Rob Griffin, chief innovation officer, Almighty, is skeptical of that idea. “The technology to [target and retarget] is simple. How you do it is much more complicated,” he said, adding that he thinks publishers should focus on being publishers and use technology specialists to augment their content with targeting automation.
“You need audience and you need adoption at scale,” Griffin said. “You can’t manufacture this, you have to have something of value and let people take to it.”
The print business is struggling with declining circulation and ad revenue. Last year, Time Inc. posted a loss of $881 million. Most publishers don’t have enough registered users to provide the data scale they’d need to compete with the likes of Facebook, Twitter or Google, Ben Kartzman, CEO, Spongecell, said in an email.
He added, “For traditional publishers like Time Inc., adding programmatic tech and data assets helps hedge against the downturn in other aspects of their businesses. The question is, ‘Is it enough?'”
Doug Knepper, VP at semantic ad company ADmantX, said Time Inc.’s challenge will be to amalgamate and filter its expanded data pool to understand the relationship between its audience and the content it consumes. If Time Inc. can do that, Knepper said in an email, it can use that info to improve targeting and the consumer experience, as well as boost its own inventory value and revenue.