Nick “Brutus Grass” Younes
Creative Director / PR
For those of us not familiar with IX Daily, please tell us a little more about your platform and core audience.
The name IX Daily is specific to our online publication. It’s a fairly new name, as we’ve operated with a different one for years before we decided to establish the online pub as only one part of our platform and call it that. “IX” is the acronym of our company and is utilized for the different facets of our platform and in terms of what we do. Formally speaking, we do PR related work and we consult a lot of Canadian brands and major record labels. Our online publication stands at the front of the house, as all the rest of the magical work we do is behind the scenes stuff. We consider ourselves as trendsetters more than anything else. We target an audience that is interested in discovering new trends and cool gems related to music and fashion and Canadian culture.
Being a publisher (or really any content creator) these days is hard, especially with ad technology companies potentially threatening your premium CPMs and inventory, and cannibalizing your direct sales efforts. What has been your experience so far with programmatic advertising or real-time bidding?
Being a publisher has never been an easy task, for anyone. It is a very competitive industry, but we feel like we stand out a bit because our passion lies in creating content, not advertising. We aren’t solely dependent on ad technology companies, so it’s always been important for us to not let any ad technology company hinder our passion for doing what we do best. We never wanted to depend on programmatic advertising and real-time bidding. Yes, we’ve used it, and yes, we do have some going right now, but it’s never cannibalized our direct sales effort. We have strong relationships with ad brokers which we usually deal with directly for banner ads, and we focus a lot more on other alternatives ways of pushing non-formal advertising to our audience. Ad-blocker has been around for a while, and I feel like a lot of people are only noticing this now. We knew a while back that we didn’t want to be affected by it, this is why we’ve always made sure to have alternative methods of making money and only use programmatic ad methods to fill in the blanks.
Having a counter-culture audience with boots on the ground in major cities like New York, Los Angeles, Montreal, and Toronto is very unique to say the least. What types of custom ad executions or experiential events can you run that many other publishers can’t?
Our main focus is to be able to twist all of our content to have some sort of Canadian aspect or relation to it, with a big focus on Montreal and Toronto. This gives us an edge for brands and names who want to expand their reach outside of Canada in other trendy cities. We were very lucky to have organically grown audiences outside of Canada like New York, Los Angeles and Europe because of their interest in what we do. This gives us an opportunity to stand out when covering other cities in the world with brands and companies who want to reach our Canadian audience through our perspective. This method helps us build relationships with networks and industries all over the world. We can target many different audiences, for different purposes which lets us offer amazing custom packages for the advertisers and PR companies.
What do you think are some common misconceptions of a counter-culture audience?
A lot of people might have the misconception that our audience is counter-culture, but it really isn’t. Our content and attitude behind our execution is driven by the idea of being counter-culture, or not following the norms. That is very attractive to early-biters, and these early-biters are technically the best influencers out there. We target an audience that is going to become the promoter/influencer to the mainstream audience, which gives us the upper-hand on making things “cool” before anyone else latches on. Contrary to some beliefs, being counter-culture has been a strategy that is very influential all-while keeping a reputation that people can trust. Following the norms and being “safe” is just boring, and most companies and brands understand this when we explain it to them.
Are there specific types of advertiser categories that perform best for your audience? What are some counter-intuitive brand verticals that surprisingly melded well with the IX Daily audience?
Anything related to Entertainment, Food & Beverages, as well as Nightlife are definitely strong categories that perform great with our audience. We partner up with brands and companies like Vice because we know that they understand and target our audience. We aren’t in the business of running ads just to make money. We are in the business of influencing audiences, which means that we need to be somewhat picky as to how to approach partnerships with ad brokers and programmatic advertising. I can’t say that the brands we’ve worked with are always counter-intuitive, but most of them are definitely looking to reach an audience differently than how they have done it with other publishers.
What would you say are some of your biggest challenges as a publisher?
One of our biggest challenge is to always be 10 steps ahead from anyone else in the same industry when it comes to how we influence new audiences and create exciting content. Re-establishing our identity and constantly remodeling it to align with new trends could sometimes be exhausting. Don’t get me wrong, it is a very exciting challenge to have. We kind of hate it when people compare us to ad-based publishers that establish themselves as culture-influencers when all they do is sell ads. We want to stray away from this type of comparison because we don’t just sell ads, we influence. It is very evident that other ad-based publishers take great inspiration from what we do, but we want to make sure people understand that we are not in the same type of business as publishers such as BlogTO, Narcity, and Elite Daily.
Many publishers monetize through direct ad sales, ad networks, exchanges, data partners, affiliate sales, and e-commerce. To the extent that you can reveal, what do you think the % revenue breakout of each of these channels is for a publisher similar to yourself?
Our highest % of breakout comes from our PR services for brands and record labels. We’ve worked with the likes of Warner Bros. Canada, Universal Music Canada, as well as local brands, fashion designers and musical acts to help elevate their image/branding and establish themselves online. We tend to put Direct ad sales, ad networks, exchanges, data partners, affiliate sales and e-commerce in the same category and call it “ads”, and these channels all take the backseat when it comes to our revenue model.
In your Mediakit, you also state that you do sponsored posts for a $200 CPM. Is this due to the extreme effectiveness of this unit with your audience, and what KPIs do you typically use to measure success of these branded content / sponsored posts?
We actually state we do sponsored posts for a $200 to make sure we don’t get many requests for those, and if we do, we know it’s serious. We don’t really believe in doing “sponsored posts” so when a company reaches out with interest in this model, we let them know that our approach is going to be a tad bit different than what they tend to expect. There are some other Montreal-based blogs that run just on those types of sales and they really don’t hold a very strong reputation because their content tend to be very shallow. We use alternative methods that include content as well as social media reach when it comes to these types of posts. We use platforms such as Chartbeat, Google Analytics and AddThis (amongst others) to measure the success of these posts. Because our goal is to “influence” and not sell ads, we make sure brands and companies understand that, and they tend to trust us when it comes to measuring the success of the sponsored content.
What is your take on the use of ad blocking by consumers? Has it affected any of your properties heavily at IX Daily, and if so, what steps are you taking to mitigate the use of ad blockers by your audience?
Like I previously mentioned, we’ve always been aware of ad-blockers being a major problem when it comes to direct-ad sales methods, which is why these methods have taken a backseat on our revenue model a long time ago. It obviously has affected some of the banner properties on our website when it comes to ad brokers wanting to fill those properties, which is why we have primarily used those spots to fill with our own ads for content on our website. I don’t really have a negative opinion against those who use ad-blockers because it’s at their disposal and they clearly want to use it. I think that major companies who are complaining about this tend to not want to align with their audience and offer alternatives methods of reaching their audiences with ads. A great example to follow is Forbes, who is already offering “ad-light” experiences to those who use ad-blockers and are doing their best to gain the trust of their core audience by offering an alternative. Ad brokers and Ad-technology companies are only starting to realize all of this now, which is kind of late in the game if you ask me.
Lastly, what do you see as the future of digital ad selling for independent, niche publishers?
The future of digital ad selling for independent, niche publishers is somewhat of a grey area (for me) to be honest. I am not 100% sure where we are headed, and this makes it somewhat exciting. I think that big corporate publishers are taking up a whole lotta room on platforms such as Facebook, Google and Snapchat (amongst other social medias) to offer direct-article experiences for their audiences. Independent publishers are going to have to find new grounds to get their voices heard without having to pay bigger platforms to “boost” their content to audiences. We’re going through a small transition right now, and although we have a couple cool ideas up our sleeves when it comes to offering alternative methods of digital ad sales, we are still researching for what others are trying to do and utilizing this research to inspire ourselves a bit more. I feel like there is going to be a ‘silent revolution’ in the next year to come, and I can’t wait for it to start rolling.
IX Daily is a trendsetting pop culture collective with boots in Montreal, Toronto & New York. We want to explore and share all facets of entertainment, fashion, nightlife, activism and lifestyles, both locally and internationally. Launched in 2006 as an event promo crew, today IX continues to showcase what really matters to young adults through various digital (site, social media, apps, webTV) and traditional (events, publications) platforms.
Our rapidly expanding talented staff of editors, correspondents, artists and bloggers is passionate about keeping you in the loop and ahead of the proverbial curve. You don’t have to resort to the influences of heavy drugs or a John Hughes Film to fuel your curious quest for culture– though we at times admit to strive for those same side effects.