Gizmodo looks to still have a place within Univision, but the new media group’s future role isn’t exactly clear.
It’s been just over a week since a 7,000 word article titled “Univision Is a F–king Mess” came out of Special Projects Desk, the investigative reporting arm of Gizmodo, the group of digital brands Univision bought from Gawker — but excluding Gawker itself — after it went bankrupt in 2016. Of the many issues brought up in the deeply reported article, the story focused on Univision’s private equity debt, executive departures and another expected wave of staff cuts, as well as the notion that Univision has become even less than the “absentee stepfather” it had been since the acquisition.
Lisa Valentino, Univision’s new executive vice president of “revenue innovation,” mentioned the Gizmodo brands during her presentation at the corporation’s Monday evening Upfront presentation in Manhattan’s TriBeCa neighborhood, saying they “generate hundreds of millions of dollars every year” for advertisers and brands, but that they can “work harder.” After the presentation, she only offered a stern “no comment” when asked about the article. She also declined to comment on Univision’s widely reported effort to sell a minority stake in Gizmodo and carve-out the former Gawker brands.
But Valentino said she does see a place within Univision for Gizmodo, which includes popular sites like Jezebel, Deadspin and LifeHacker, along with a number of other Millennial-driven web outlets, and said there will be “continued investment in the digital business.” She added that her main focus in the new role is “innovation in new products and with new partners.” That probably means more branded content is on the way and, as luck would have it, Univision revealed it has launched UCI Studios, a new “full service branded studio.” Before joining Univision in February, Valentino worked about four years as chief revenue officer for industry and agency at Condé Nast.
During her presentation, Valentino mentioned a number of partnerships under way with the likes of Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat, among others, and claimed that through Univision’s various partnerships, advertisers have access to every Hispanic in the U.S.
“Every company we speak to recognizes that the Hispanic consumer is the gateway to growth,” Valentino added. And that was the crux of Univison’s presentation.
After a scrapped initial public offering and the $135 million acquisition of a stable of English-language online brands, it seems Univision may be looking to stick closer to what it knows best — the Hispanic and Latino community. Tonia O’Connor, Univision’s chief revenue officer, characterized them as the “consumers shaping our new America,” while president of ad sales Steve Mandala urged brands to think about strategies in English and Spanish, noting that 81 percent of Hispanic adults in the U.S. speak Spanish. Overall, Univision executives made the case for advertisers to see their company as the way for consumer brands to reach Hispanic audiences, which it repeatedly pushed as vital for any brand’s growth.
But media is tricky right now and Univision certainly knows it. O’Connor admitted it’s “more challenging than ever” but remains “very bullish” on the industry’s future.
“We’re in the age of the consumer — they have more control than ever,” she said.
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