The Big Media Shift. Q&A with Rich Kahn

Richard Kahn, CEO of eZanga, “always had a keen interest in software development. Computer software always fascinated me from the time I wrote my first game until now. I was even featured in a computer software magazine at the age of twelve.” This early interest has helped him launch eZanga as a search engine and digital marketing company that helps convert traffic to clients based on standard analytics.

I sat down with Rich and talked to him about how digital marketing is evolving, it’s impact on television and the types of analytics that help drive his business. He also spoke about how the digital landscape is evolving and how the future of media might look in the next few years.

CW: What Is Your Background? How Did You Get to Where You Are Today?

RK: I've always had a keen interest in software development. Computer software always fascinated me, from the time I wrote my first game, until now. I was even featured in a computer software magazine at the age of twelve. I started my own internet company in 1993; an online magazine that discussed the internet and how it was going to change the world we live in. In time, the company grew into an online shopping mall; one of the first of its kind. In this venture, I was featured in an online newsletter for writing up one of the first motion graphics on the internet. Over the next ten years, I started several ventures before founding eZanga with my wife Beth in 2003.

CW: Tell Me about eZanga

RK: eZanga is a search engine and digital marketing company that drives quality, converting traffic to clients based on standard analytics.

CW: What are the standard analytics that you use?

RK: We use everything from Google Analytics to comScore, and conversion metrics – any analytics that help us achieve our client goals. For example, a client wants to drive traffic to a specific landing page. This landing page generates sales, and eZanga uses analytics specific to their campaign goals. We'll use that data to optimize their campaign based on what the analytics tell us.

CW: Tell me about your relationship with comScore.

RK: We are a comScore client, meaning our data will show on client dashboards. That data can then be used to service their campaigns according to results. In comScore, we tag all our users so that we can extrapolate demographic data. Many advertising agencies use comScore's data base to look for certain audience demographics. By tagging our users, agencies get a better idea of our demographics and audience too.

CW: What are some of the measurement challenges that you face?

RK: Some clients don’t have the ability to share analytics with us and sometimes clients are secretive about their data. It's tough to optimize a campaign when you cannot see how it's performing.

We've also come across clients who are not Google Analytics enabled.  Some use an analytics platform that we may be unfamiliar with. When that happens, we usually work with them to get Google Analytics installed. That way, we both have the data we need available. If the client does not wish to use the free Google service, we need to ask that they provide us with the data that we require. It helps us give them better service and a full-scope of their campaigns.

Some clients don't want to share their data, fearful they will share their trade secrets.  It's often difficult to pull data from these customers. We're not going to get a full report, but they may give us some information. With this information, the account manager can optimize the account for success. Without it, account managers cannot optimize, limiting the client’s success.

CW: What will the impact of connected TVs have on your business?

RK: Any time you have multiple devices with different screens, it creates a risk to businesses. There are security holes on different operating systems, and hackers love to exploit that. The technology eZanga has built works well, but we're diligent at looking for holes. For instance, we've seen these types issues arise on Android devices. Knowing this, we watch these devices for new developments.

CW: What are the different types of security risks and how do they vary by provider?

RK: Security hacks on iOS devices are less prevalent. Apple has a stringent approval method for apps available in the Apple Store. The Apple team checks for viruses and malware as part of their screening process. This makes it difficult for developers to slide malicious content on an iOS device. That’s not to say we've never seen an issue on an iOS device, but it's a rare occurrence. Android devices see this more because Google Play doesn't have a central monitoring system in place. Without central monitoring, developers can create an app and put it on the marketplace immediately. This makes it easy for hackers to affect the user’s device.

Google has recently realized that there’s a problem with their lack of central monitoring. Today, they are working on putting a monitoring service into practice. With this, Google will need a system to check new apps, as well as those already on Google Play. While Google worries about getting this monitoring in place, Apple reviews its new apps. And until Google is up to speed, that risk remains.

While this does present more issues, our software has always been in-tune with new technologies. We’re always reviewing and testing new devices. When a new device comes out that’s different from something we own, we buy it and test it. We try to hack it ourselves to see what hackers could do to it. Then, as our software picks up different anomalies, we review it. This allows us to pinpoint modifications, preventing a security attack.

Our goal is to provide clients with clean, converting traffic. If we see traffic is converting at an improper level, we know there’s a problem with it. Our system knows how to handle that traffic, and alerts us to new fraud dangers.

CW: Do you really think that print is dead?

RK: It’s only dead in the traditional sense. When you think of print media, newspapers and magazines come to mind. Prints not dead, it has transitioned. Today, instead of printing on paper, content is printed online. More people are likely employed as writers today than twenty years ago. It proves that the move to digital is coming as a rapid pace.

Generations before carried around newspapers or magazine to read at their leisure. Today, smartphones are at an arm’s reach. The days of thumbing through the newspaper for sections are long gone. Today, you can subscribe to the information that is important to you. Digital gives us instant access news alerts and updates faster than ever.  It proves that information is available much quicker than it had been in the past.

Years ago, newspapers were printed at 4am and distributed throughout the day. If there was a change, it wasn't corrected until the following day. With digital, updates are frequent, abundant, and accessible in a moment’s notice.

Print isn't dead, because there are people out there who still use it. Some people still like to look at the physical paper, or turn the pages in their books. Yet, it's dying in the traditional sense with the transition to digital. For instance, we recently put an ad for a job opening in the newspaper and online. Every single response to the job listing was from the online source. Digital is just more conducive to our busy lifestyle than print.

CW: Where do you see television headed?

RK: Most people don’t watch TV commercials. They DVR their shows, and fast forward through them.
Soon you’ll see cable services allow you to download an app onto your smart TV. You'll be able to watch television through the app, dropping the need for cable boxes, too. Those boxes are expensive to build, maintain, and support. And consumers want access to with TV via the cloud. It’s more efficient, faster, easier to support, and much more cost effective.

Today, you can DVR your favorite shows and fast forward through the commercials. When DVR moves to the cloud, I see providers taking that ability away, forcing users to watch commercials. It maintains the viability of TV commercials, which is declining now. It’s a great medium, and I don’t see it ever going away.

CW: The world is becoming digitized…

RK: Yes and digital is going to continue to grow. You have the ability to take your TV programming and watch it on different devices. You can watch your favorite shows on-demand on your computer, tablet, or phone. That’s something you are going to continue to see more of in the coming years. The TV that has sat in your living room for years is no longer a traditional television set. It’s a digital device. Everything you pump into it now is digital, so your TV is an extension of the internet.

CW: What do you see as the impact of mobile in the media industry?

RK: I recently read that Google says that 60% of searches are on mobile devices. It makes sense; one of the top mobile queries is restaurants nearby the user. People look for a restaurant that will satisfy their tastes and will offer a great experience. The mobile app Yelp has capitalized on this search. Users refer to Yelp for reviews on meals, customer service, and ambiance of a restaurant. A positive review will go far, and a negative one has a user looking for an alternative.

Mobile is going to see continued growth because it is right there in your pocket. Most people are on their phones more than they are watching TV these days. A phone isn't just a phone anymore. It’s your TV, your tablet, you social circle, to-do list, and more. With such a captive audience, it gets the message to people faster than any other means. I always say that you need to advertise where your audience is. We'll see more wearables, smarter smart phones, more robust features on our devices too. Advertisers should be ready to get their message out there utilizing these new technologies.

CW: Give me some predictions as to how the media landscape will look 5 years from now.

RK: People will always need to advertise their product to bring new clients in. Whether it’s word of mouth, print advertising, or with media, they'll still need to bring in clients. That aspect of marketing will never change, but the ways to reach these clients continues to evolve.

Let’s face it, print media is dying. In the coming years, you’ll see marketing budgets and efforts shift from print to digital, if they haven't already. Companies will invest in internet-based advertising and social media marketing to amplify their messaging and increase brand awareness. With this comes the rise of video advertising, continuing its upward progression. I expect we'll continue to find new and unique ways of advertising products through video and audio.

Search engines continue to grow as people turn to online versus print as a primary information resource. As a result, the ad-fraud industry will become increasingly important in protecting advertisers and publishers from unwanted or unscrupulous advertising practices. This is where I see eZanga making a difference. We look forward to the continued enhancements of our ad-fraud detection system, Traffic Advisors, and welcome new players to the landscape as well. I expect those trends to continue evolving, and I look forward to seeing what new technologies are developed as a result.

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