Media-seller Federated Media Publishing, which began in 2005 with big native advertising ambitions for independent bloggers, has given up that mission to focus on programmatic media. The company is selling its content marketing business to LIN Media, and is re-branding what remains, founded on FM’s acquisition of Lijit in 2011, as sovrn holdings.
Federated Media will become a business within Austin-based LIN Media’s Digital unit, and will be headed by general manager Chris Eberle, who comes to Lin Media with the FM acquisition.
LIN was formed in the 60s in the radio
space as LIN Broadcasting, and now operates or services 43 TV stations and seven digital channels in 23 US markets. LIN appears to have a good track record of shifting its business from one medium to another as consumer behavior has changed — it began with radio, then moved to TV, and now to digital — including mobile and video.
In a blog post, FM founder and, until now, CEO, John Battelle, says all of FM’s content marketing employees will join LIN, with no layoffs planned. Battelle will become executive chairman of sovrn, while Walter Knapp, who had been Lijit COO when it was acquired, will become CEO of sovrn. He had been COO at Federated Media before this split.
In a post on his personal blog, Battelle explains his thinking about the sale and corporate reorganization:
“…Our programmatic business has been growing so fast that it demands the focused attention of its executives, as well as more investment – the opportunity is tremendous. This transaction with LIN will allow the new company – sovrn – to pursue its dream of building a next-generation publisher-facing programmatic platform leveraging all the data and insights we’ve gained over the past few years.”
In fact, rather than planning layoffs it appears both LIN Digital and sovrn are hiring aggressively. Both list multiple job openings on their web sites. Sovrn will be headquartered in Boulder, Col., where Lijit began, and will maintain offices in San Francisco and New York. LIN, meanwhile, is based in Austin, Tex. and lists offices in Dallas, Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York, along with sales representation in San Francisco. (LIN was named after the cities where its first radio stations were based — Louisville, Indianapolis and Nashville.)
The move makes sense for Federated Media, as, since its 2011 acquisition of Lijit, the company has been operating in two distinct spaces, with each unit servicing clients with different objectives. The content marketing, or native advertising, part of the business was more oriented toward brand-building advertisers, while programmatic is more direct-response oriented.
Content marketing is a people-oriented custom-made effort, which is executed on brand-owned web sites or distributed on larger publishers. FM originated the widely-praised American Express Open Forum site that publishes small business-oriented content. Programmatic, on the other hand, is more technology-driven and can therefore scale to deliver advertising on thousands of smaller sites.
Disclosure: The author is a former employee of Federated Media and holds an investment in the company (now sovrn).