Interview with Andrew Grillo, Director of New Product Revenue at The Boston Globe

The Boston Globe is a leading American newspaper and recipient of more than 25 Pulitzer Prizes. With several hundred thousand readers across their digital and print properties, The Globe offers high-quality inventory for advertisers, especially in the Greater Boston area. As part of the publisher’s digital transformation strategy, The Globe knew that they wanted to find a streamlined and cost-effective way to serve small-to-medium sized businesses (SMBs) in an automated, brand-safe environment. 

Hi Andrew – great to have you. Could you tell us a little about how The Boston Globe decided to invest in self-serve as an advertising strategy?

Sure! Really we arrived there by using the internet and watching what was happening in terms of the SMB ad market. We saw how smaller businesses were flocking to “The Platforms”, aka. Google, Facebook, and Amazon, and realized we could use self-serve advertising to offer an alternative for our customers.

What were you looking to achieve with a self-serve platform?

We wanted to both provide a better experience for our existing ad buyers by automating manual tasks, allowing them to make purchases in a fraction of the time, and also to reach new and lapsed customers. The sheer accessibility and simplicity of the self-serve platform opens up our inventory to a much broader range of buyers. 

How easy was it to implement this new technology? 

Like any new tool, change doesn’t happen overnight. It’s not simply about plugging in a new technology; we also had to rethink how we sell advertising inventory across the board. But with that said, it’s been a relatively smooth process, and that’s thanks to incredible support we’ve had from all our various internal departments. Tech, finance, sales, marketing, ad ops, legal, and senior management – getting everyone aligned was a huge win that really allowed us to drive the project forward. 

What were the biggest challenges you faced?

There were at least three big challenges that we had to think about. First, resources. We have a lot of different exciting projects going on, and going all-in on a new strategy can be resource-intensive. Second, the business case. Crucial to getting that internal buy-in was creating a business case that demonstrated clearly how advertising dollars are moving to self-serve, and that now is the time for us to get in there and compete with other self-serve platforms. And third, we had to get sales onboard. Self-serve is a tool that will help sales, not disrupt their book of business. 

What is the status of your self-serve business today?

Right now we’re still in beta testing, and we’ve received some really great feedback. Account setup has been super easy, and now we’re making small tweaks to product wording and creative options to really make for a straightforward checkout experience. Our projections are looking positive and we expect this project to have a meaningful impact on revenue, and also allow our sales representatives to have more time to focus on larger, integrated accounts.

What advice would you give a media owner considering self-serve?

Self-serve is a long road that will have lots of trials and learnings. As a company you have to be comfortable skating to where the puck is going, investing in a system that provides efficiency, new business opportunities, and rigorously trying and testing techniques of growing adoption.

Thanks for your time, Andrew! 

Looking for a more comprehensive breakdown of The Boston Globe’s self-serve business? You’re in luck – download the full case study here.

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