Name: Matt Nystrom
Title: VP Digital Media for Saga Communications
Tell us a little about your background
My first job out of school was working for a Minor League Baseball team in the Pacific Northwest. There, I learned a ton about capturing attention, building an audience, running large-scale events, and corporate sponsorships. Ten years ago, my wife and I moved across the country to central Ohio. Shortly thereafter, I joined the digital team at Saga and haven’t looked back.
Tell us about your current company and your role
I work for Saga Communications, a radio company operating in 26 small to mid-sized markets in the U.S. My role as VP of Digital media is to oversee all aspects of the design, build, deployment, and monetization of the digital side of our business.
We know you are doing a lot in smart speakers, tell us what you are doing and why you think there is such an opportunity there?
Like many others, we view smart speakers as an opportunity to re-enter the home as connected devices replace traditional radios in kitchens, living rooms, and bedrooms. As that happens, we want to make our content as easy to access as possible. Looking more long-term, we believe voice activation will become more commonplace. If we stay out on the front edge of this wave, we’ll be ready to serve our users as voice assistants continue to spread across multiple devices and environments. Our users are forming habits today that will influence their decisions tomorrow. It’s imperative that we make ourselves easily available where our users want to consume us so as not to risk losing that relationship.
We understand you are running tests with programmatic ad formats to improve your UI and better performance. How’s that going?
We’ve been testing a number of changes to the way we deliver display ads on a couple of our higher-trafficked sites. The biggest changes we made were deploying a lazy-loader, infinite scroll, fewer templated ad positions, and fewer ad sizes. Additionally, we completely removed all programmatic ads from our sites (for now) and are filling 100% with local ad sales. The results have been staggering; we’ve cut our page-load time in half, display ad clicks are up 410%, and display click-through-rates are up 340%.
Are there revenue successes you’ve had so far this year that you’re pleased about?
Our digital revenue numbers have been solid so far this year. We continue to see big growth in digital services, digital marketing, and digital promotions.
What’s the best challenge facing your business today and how are you addressing it?
The biggest challenge facing all aspects of our business is choice. Our listeners/users can listen to practically anything on demand at very little to no cost. Our advertisers now have more options for their marketing dollars than ever before. Saga’s core philosophy is to make great radio at the local level. While our competitors consolidate and automate both the sales and content sides of their business, we’re keeping our roots deep in the communities we serve. Our local presence is the primary differentiator when comparing us to the vast majority of our competition. Ultimately, we believe that approach creates a better product that delivers better results for our clients.
Anything neat happening in your company you’d like to share?
We’re growing! Last year we acquired two great markets in Charleston and Hilton Head, South Carolina. This year, we continue to look for good opportunities to bring more properties in to the Saga family.
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