Denise Shrivell

Digital People - Sam Granleese

Welcome to Digital People where we profile Sam Granleese, Strategy Manager at Private Media. Sam shares his career journey, starting in high school to working on key accounts at ZenithOptimedia & now with one of Aust's most successful independent publishers. He offers valuable insights into our 'schizophrenic' industry & shares forecasts on digital broadcasting & more. A highly worthwhile read....

Sam Granleese, media strategy managerName: Sam Granleese    

Works: Private Media

Job Title: Strategy Manager

1.  Please highlight your industry experience and how, where and when you came to digital media?

I've always been involved in either media or technology. I built websites part-time in the nineties while at high school, then after university in 2003 my career, oddly, went as follows: music trivia writer/presenter/producer, marketing for a small music promotion company, marketing and product development for telecommunications company WorldPacific, agency campaign work for Telstra (OMD) then Qantas, Honda, L'Oreal and Nestle Peters at ZenithOptimedia and Mojo as an account director and digital strategist.

My dream had always been to work in the business of news and publishing. A year after moving to Melbourne in 2009, I joined as Strategy Manager of what was then 'First Digital Media' (a joint venture between Private Media, Business Spectator and Alan Kohler's Eureka Report). They were looking for someone with a different perspective on the industry, an 'advertising insider' if you will, to improve their competitiveness and drive the commercial strategy of their websites and expansion plans.

2.  Can you outline your role with Private Media - what do you actually do?

I lead the commercial strategy of our six digital publications, the majority of our revenue being advertising-based. This team covers everything from research and product development, pre-sales, technology and tools, training, pricing, tactical sales initiatives, industry analysis and interpretation and business partnerships of strategic importance to the business.

I manage our ad operations team, where we have a strong focus on technology, delivery of marketing solutions and project management. And I also lead our trade marketing relationships and initiatives.

A big part of the role is creating and starting up new publications. In less than two years I've launched six new digital publications: Climate Spectator and Technology Spectator (as part of the discontinued First Digital Media joint venture) and Property Observer, The Power Index and LeadingCompany for Private Media. We are a dynamic organization, and these projects have to be worked on whilst juggling day-to-day priorities with our existing mature media properties.

3. Can you offer a brief insight into Private Media - your market position and forward plans?

Private Media is an independent, privately owned, digital only publisher of quality journalism. Our business, investment and political publications attract a hard to reach affluent and highly educated readership that allow us charge premium advertising rates. We build the publications around communities, which enable us to create custom marketing solutions for our partners. This solution focus, and our agile development, is probably our main competitive advantage.

Crikey was the first publication for Private Media - acquired in 2005 from founder Stephen Mayne who still contributes articles regularly - and SmartCompany was the first publication we started up ourselves in 2007. Our other publications are StartupSmart, property investment website PropertyObserver and investigative journalism website The Power Index. We are maintaining our rapid organic growth.

In March this year we launched a business management publication for Australian mid-to-large company executives. Later this year we will also be launching a high-quality female-audience focused publication led by Marina Go, who recently joined us, which we are very excited about.

Until December last year we operated in a joint venture with Business Spectator and Alan Kohler's Eureka Report - as 'First Digital Media' - but have since separated due to differing strategic directions and operational priorities.

We are on track to reach a combined monthly digital audience of one million readers by mid-year. Our growth areas in existing publications are increased reader events, knowledge and education products and expanding our in-house creative services. We are also doing more content partnerships with publications, brands and organizations that see the value in our original and unique writing and reporting.

4. Please share your general views on the current state of the digital media market?

The overall market is very short-term, schizophrenic and resource starved.

However, I still believe right now is one of the most exciting times to work in digital media. We have a far greater understanding of technology and interactive behaviour in digital channels than ever before. This is creating a surge in demand for digital ideas, solutions and creative work.

At the same time, technology disruption and self-publishing has allowed dozens of innovative or quality alternatives to challenge the half-dozen big consolidated media companies. These big publishers, in my view, have deteriorated in quality over the years as they seek to protect their readership through quite cynical defensive means like auto refresh (something I stamped out in our publications in 2010), sensationalist link-baiting and celebrity-focused journalism.

5.  Is there any one person, digital business or sector you think we should be keeping an eye on?

Our local online retailers are undergoing the biggest transformation of any sector online. It is a sad indictment on the retail industry that it took over 15 years after Amazon started shipping here for our local bricks and mortar retailers to treat them with any degree of seriousness. Compare this with the travel, finance and education industries that were quite quick to adapt and compete online.

The challenge for this industry - what I'll be watching - is how to create a competitive advantage outside price. That may be through usability, CRM, social media, personalisation or exclusivity. Some of the most innovative online retailers are the high-street fashion retailers (Net-A-Porter and ASOS being good international examples that are now hurting the local industry).

As far as local media innovation goes, it is hard to go past the ABC's iView and multiplatform team.. Specifically guys like Sally O’Donoghue and Arul Baskaran.

6.  What do you see as the key challenges and opportunities in the digital media market in the coming 12 months?

Biggest challenge on the demand-side (marketers/agencies) is growing and maintaining talent, whilst the supply-side (publishers) is maintaining a quality differentiated product in a global market place flooded with options. Can anyone really tell the difference now between the, Daily Telegraph, Ninemsn or Yahoo!7?

This can be achieved by working closely with marketers to understand them better and deliver tailored solutions that are appropriate to readers. A lot of audience insights can be unlocked and used, rather than relying on a mass-approach that is popular with many agencies. This is clearly an industry wide trend with the launch in the last 12 months of Fairfax's 'fx' team, or in the mould of niche digital publishers like Sound Alliance, VICE or Right Angle Studio.

7. How do you see digital and other media evolving in the next 5+ years?

Most media will be digital in 5 years. Most newspapers will be gone, or have a reduced frequency. Television will be disrupted by digital video in many forms, including Apple's inevitable entry to the market, and will be going through the same challenges in viewership as print is right now in readership.

Industry protection that television and radio receive from government will have less influence, while internet speeds increase, video quality improves and accessibility improves. The ABC and their myriad of digital streaming and catch-up products is the model for future successful multi-channel digital broadcasters.

Marketers will have more interactivity, instant and accurate digital measurement on most, and a unified view across multiple channels. By then media and creative agencies will have the talent to properly execute an all-of-digital approach to creative and media planning, strategy and execution.

8. What does the digital/interactive industry need to do better right now?

Increase and improve the training of non-digital talent in the digital arts. This is the only way to arrest the perceived drought of digital talent.

The industry should be more open in our criticism of each other in order to evolve and stay competitive. More plain-speaking, critical thought and experimentation.

9. Where do you get your industry information from?

Twitter, email newsletters and private meetings.

I check Twitter on the hour for what is going on in the media industry. Any analyst, blogger or digital strategist with a competitive viewpoint to my own  is worth reading - either through links to their own work or as a filter to work they consider valuable. There are a few international newsletters that I find invaluable, such as PaidContent, Clickz, Monday Note, Folio - and then some good Australian business newsletters like our own - SmartCompany, Crikey, LeadingCompany et al.

For me, the most insight comes from one on one conversations had over coffee or drinks with industry friends, clients, other digital publishers, tech start-ups, former colleagues, etc. I think the Australian media industry, having such concentrated ownership and management, is pretty poor at sharing useful insights and information. Or at least speaking candidly when public at events or writing in trade media. Most events or trade press locally tend to resemble a soft-sales or publicity pitch, rather than an open and transparent discussion, or insightful analysis on subject.

10.  What industry groups or networks are you a part of?

AIMIA, IAB, ABA, AdSchool, Mobile Monday, SMC Melbourne and the Wikimedia Foundation. But I only get to around 1-2 events a month.

Thanks for your continued support and interest in Digital People.  If you have any comments please feel free to get in touch - or phone:  0424 100325.  I welcome your feedback.



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Denise Shrivell MediaScope Denise Shrivell
Company: MediaScope
Position: Director
Founder of MediaScope - Australia's most up-to-date & evolving directory resource connecting agencies & marketers to more than 3,000 niche, alternative & emerging media options Read Denise's full bio

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