The second startup participating in the New York Daily News’ Innovation Lab began at the Daily News itself.
Optimera was founded by Keith Candiotti (pictured above), the ad operations manager at the Daily News. Candiotti joined the newspaper last year, where his team has been working to implement new ad technologies like real-time bidding and programmatic buying.
By the end of 2014, Candiotti noticed that ad viewability (namely, the question of whether ads were being served in a location where consumers could possibly see them) was becoming “more and more of a buzzword.” The challenge, he said, was that an increasing number of advertisers were saying they wanted their campaigns to hit certain viewability thresholds, but he didn’t see much technology enabling publishers to do that.
So Candiotti started working on a product of his own. The idea was to move away from existing “labor intensive products” and instead organize viewability data in a way that would “allow us to get our head out of the weeds to say, ‘Here’s what’s going on, here’s what we can do to optimize campaigns.'”
Put another way, Optimera is supposed to give publishers a clear sense of how viewable each ad is on their website, and to use that data while selling to advertisers. Over time, Candiotti said the process should become more automated — for example, publishers could set up private marketplaces where companies could programmatically buy ads based on viewability.
Sounds like a good startup idea, but as Candiotti began “to conceptualize this whole thing in late March,” he was also a little concerned — after all, he was still working at the Daily News. So he went to his superiors, and they pointed him to Cyna Alderman, the Innovation Lab’s managing director, who embraced the idea of turning this into “an in-house startup.”
The goal of the Innovation Lab is to connect early-stage startups with the Daily News’ staff and resources. In Candiotti’s case, that means he’s balancing his existing job on the Daily News’ ad ops team while also building Optimera. The goal is to gradually roll out Optimera across the Daily News website, then open it up to other publishers toward the end of this year.
And yes, if the product takes off, Candiotti will probably have to leave the Daily News to work on it full-time. He actually sounded slightly regretful about the possibility, saying he has “such a unique awesome role” and that the Daily News is “this awesome product generator of things that I’d like to see.”
Candiotti’s current juggling act can’t be easy, but he said he’s getting a lot of help from Daily News staff — he described everyone as being “gung ho and supportive” and giving him high fives when things are going well.
“I’ve done a lot of small startup ventures before this … but I think the Innovation Lab is the first time I’ve been surrounded by all the right people,” he said. “It’s an awesome springboard to go from zero to 1,000 instantly.”