Ant Farm, an innovation sandbox founded by former Times Internet Limited* (TIL) CEO Rishi Khiani, has launched its first venture – Fork Media. Founded by former TIL execs Upen Rai and Samar Verma as its co-founders, Fork Media is an advertising venture which has on board publishers like HT Media, The India Today Group, The Hindu, and The Daily Mail, claiming an aggregate of 25 million users on Internet and mobile; the website lists 15 publications in all.
Khiani told MediaNama that they will content focused, and create branded content properties, standalone sites, do native advertising, and also integrate Outbrain with publishers for discovery. “We’re creating properties with publishers, where there are brands that are sponsoring entire zones. The publisher there powers content, and provides the audience. We create it, package it, and sell it as a complete package to the advertiser. That’s the content marketing piece. Additionally, because we are representing publishers, we won’t do the usual 300×250 advertising spots. We’ll do Interstitials, large formats, microsites, full fledged sites, and we’ve built a tool where we can deploy any site in a day, as long as the design is done. The content comes from the publisher, or syndication done by our content team. The idea is to create a longer term shelf life for the audience. In video, we’ll create a series with a publisher so their brand gets better visibility.”
But publishers have been doing much of this in-house so far. So why would they sign up with Fork Media? “Many publishers don’t know how to sell this. It requires insight into consumer demand, and is ad-focused rather than audience focused,” says Khiani.
What’s also noticeable here is that, from a publisher point of view, this will not cannibalize on internal banner sales, but be seen as additional revenue, and if Fork isn’t able to sell the inventory, then the publisher doesn’t really lose out either. From a publisher point of view, it’s an easy buy in.
A statement from Fork Media also suggests that the company will put “the brand before measurability”, which is a shift from the norm in the market, which has tended to focus largely on measurability. Fork says they have created an index that helps advertisers reach out to their intended audience via the appropriate publisher. According to its website: “We do not advocate the inventory play since there is mass commoditization of inventory leading to sub optimal yields for media owners. Our focus is least on conventional monetization models like CPM, CPC , CPL or CPA.”
The tricky part of this business will be sales, especially because it means that advertisers and/or media buyers will need to put an effort into creating (or approving) something beyond just regular banner advertising: sub-sites and native advertising require creatives that are specific to the publication and its audience.