This influencer network will be “powered by” startup Speakr; as explained to me by Time Inc.’s senior vice president of digital business development and business operations Regina Buckley, this means Time Inc. Connect will combine Speakr’s technology with a unique pool of influencers.
“Why we chose Speakr is because they’re really smart about the way they approach and use their analytics on behalf of marketers,” Buckley said. “They have an edge there in their space, and they give us that edge in our space, as well.”
Speakr CEO Marco Hansell added that the Connect network “combines the best of all the work we’ve been doing,” with capabilities like helping marketers identify the influencers who are the best fit for their campaign (based on factors like the tone of content they post and the demographics of their audience), plus predicting the reach and engagement of a given campaign.
The influencers aren’t actual Time Inc. editors or reporters, but the company said they’ve been vetted by the editorial team — the initial lineup includes My Nguyen of My Healthy Dish and Jacey Duprie of Damsel in Dior.
So, for example, the influencers could work with the Time Inc. team to create native ads for Time Inc. properties, then promote the message through their own sites and social media accounts.
To be clear, this isn’t the company’s first effort to work with blog and social media influencers on marketing campaigns — Buckley said the Time Inc. different publications have “started to naturally incorporate influencers as content creators as they became more and more important to marketers.” But she said that by launching the new network, the company is centralizing the process and “creating a center of excellence.”
And even as it moves into new kinds of advertising (where the lines between content and advertising can get blurrier), Buckley said the company is maintaining a “church-state” divide in the process. It won’t be “100 percent separate,” but the network will be overseen by an influencer manager from the editorial side, who will coordinate between influencers and Time Inc. editors.