“The days of, ‘Do we publish on Facebook? Do we tweet?’ are over,” Buddy Media CEO Michael Lazerow told Betabeat. “Either you do it, or you’re crushed. Do it or go out of business.” Hearst Magazines must have got the memo, because its Digital Media unit just announced a partnership today to use Buddy Media’s platform to enhance its presence on Facebook. From its Midtown headquarters, Buddy Media will create “sapplets” (short for social applets) that overlay on the Facebook pages for titles like Cosmopolitan, Seventeen, and Marie Claire.
Sapplets like Buddy Media’s Interactive “Personality” Boutique, which recommends products based on answers to a personality quiz, introduce a game-like aspect into the Facebook page and encourage interaction. They also offer a handy new advertising vehicle for Hearst, which is probably why Kristine Welker, Hearst Digital Media’s chief revenue officer, was the point person on the deal. Hearst is further removing friction for potential advertisers by launching multiple brands (13 titles and websites will eventually be involved) at once. That way, if an advertiser wants to reach a certain demographic, they don’t have to negotiate with each magazine individually.
“Instead of doing one-off siloed programs, they’re almost selling it as part of a cable network that lives on top of Facebook,” Mr. Lazerow explained. But why “sapplet”? Did the world really need another word for a widget? “I can’t speak for the world, ” he said sharply.
Although both Ms. Walker and Mr. Lazerow say this partnership is unrelated to the recent launch of Hearst’s well-funded App Lab for emerging technologies, it’s hard not to notice the similarities between the two. After all, in addition to creating tablet versions of Hearst magazines, the App Lab is also branding game-like apps, like House Beautiful‘s paint colors app and Esquire’s iPad puzzle app, in an effort to attract advertisers that’s not exactly editorial.
Mr. Lazerow sees the Hearst deal as an example of pay-off from a gamble he made back in 2007. “With Google, it was paid clicks. Everything was search-based. Facebook reoriented the world around people and sharing. When you can no longer scale by buying more clicks, you have to get people to share. That was a bet we made.”
It didn’t hurt, added Mr. Lazerow, that Buddy Media is in close physical proximity with Hearst and Conde Nast, another publishing client. “We decided to stay in New York as the technology moves away from hardware–stuff we don’t do incredibly well–and moves towards content, storytelling, and media,” Mr. Lazerow told Betabeat. “We pay a little more to be in New York for people and real estate, but the upside is so much bigger than if we were in Atlanta or Chicago, or even the Valley. It helps that we’re right down the street.”