Happy Spring from all of us at PowerInbox! This month, we’re featuring a very special guest, who’s not only a digital marketing expert, but he’s also our friend and customer. Élie Ashery is CEO of Gold Lasso, email automation firm that works with publishers to build and monetize subscriber engagement.
He’s also a publisher. As the Managing Director of DEMY Media, Élie is the mastermind behind the BlabberBuzz social media platform. Born out of the contentious 2016 election, BlabberBuzz was created to provide a forum for the open discussion of political issues—a place where diversity and opinions across the political spectrum could be discussed and debated.
We sat down with Élie, to get his take on the current state of audience engagement and where publishers could find some growth opportunity.
1. Why did you choose digital marketing, or maybe it chose you?
I’ve been working in digital media since 1997 when I founded Newsletters.com, which was eventually acquired by Tribune Media. I saw the potential in this model of bringing high-value information in newsletters and to digitize the industry. So, I cut my teeth there and have continued to build core competencies around digital media and digital marketing ever since. As the internet was being commercialized, there was this opportunity there with niche media, a place for it online. Everything I’ve done since then has revolved around that.
2. What is your personal mission statement?
To be happy. It’s just that simple. However, I have a philosophy behind that: as we’ve become a more industrialized society and with more automation that gets harder and harder. For hundreds of years, we had to hunt our own food, build our own houses, and we found satisfaction in that. Now, we have to make up things to satisfy ourselves. We’ve trained ourselves to expect instant gratification and that makes it that much more difficult to feel fulfilled. Being happy is much more difficult for humans to achieve. It sounds simple, but in reality, because of our industrialized society, it’s become more difficult. To feel fulfillment and satisfaction is a challenge and something our ancient ancestors never had to experience. Their happiness level was 10x higher than ours today. We need to work on that.
3. Tell me something about your job that inspires you to keep working at your company.
I work with incredible people, and I’ve been with the same group for 13-14 years now. This core team, one of whom is my wife, makes you want to do awesome things. I can constantly challenge myself, find new ways to build products, generate new revenue streams, find a way to influence people in positive ways… it motivates you to come to work every day. If it was just about money, there are a lot of other things I could do.
4. When you think of the word “successful,” who is the first person who comes to mind, and why?
My grandfather, who recently passed away at age 99. He dedicated his entire life to public service, to others, and to his family. He had an extremely strong, very rich life. He served in World War II at the battle at Guadalcanal, which was one of the bloodiest battles in the South Pacific. He volunteered for another tour in Indo-China to serve as an intelligence officer helping the Chinese fend off Japanese attacks. After the war he completed two graduate degrees from The University of Virginia including a Juris Doctorate and moved to into public service, first at the Justice Department, then on to The Treasury Department where he served as a head legal advisor to George Schultz in President Nixon’s cabinet. Between his military, government, and synagogue service, and his dedication to family, he was the epitome of helping others, and it really showed in everything that he did. He was married to my grandmother for 76 years. She was the backbone of the family. They made an incredible team. To have those strong family bonds that is grounded in service to others, is what it means to me to be successful.
5. What is a skill that every digital marketer should have and why?
Critical thinking skills, the ability to really understand the forces of the marketplace and what’s coming up next. You have to develop the skill to distinguish between what’s a true trend and a new, shiny object. Digital marketers get too obsessed with shiny objects that tend to fall out of favor very quickly. The notion of “if it’s too good to be true,” holds in digital marketing today.
6. What is the best part about your job?
One: having the ability to evolve. Too many times people have mandates and the market changes, but the mandates aren’t flexible enough to evolve. Having that freedom to change to meet new market ideas, that’s how we’ve been successful and grown with very little money invested.
Two: Having a great team to come to work with every day. It sounds trite, but it’s very true. If you hate the people you work with, you won’t come to work every day with enthusiasm. You have to love the people you work with.
7. If you could only use five tools, what would they be? And why?
1) Eloop – our email marketing tool. As a media company ourselves, we understand digital marketing and built our tools around digital media. We’ve really perfected it. Now, if we need a specific function, we just build it.
2) Monetization – PowerInbox, of course.
3) Joomla – This is our platform for the BlabberBuzz site. We just feel that, for social, we needed a robust platform, with more complex features. Joomla serves our needs.
4) Any business intelligence software – No specific brand or platform here, but the ability to crunch data is a must.
5) Monetization management tool – Something that allows you to stay on top of campaigns and make adjustments on the fly.
8. Who inspires you?
I don’t really think of individual as inspiration, because there are always good things and bad things about people. Some might say Gandhi or Mother Theresa are inspiring, but they’re not perfect, and I’m just not the kind of person who’s inspired by individual effort. I get inspired and I’m in awe of science and civilizations, how we’ve worked together throughout history. For example, Israel is a very inspiring country because it has persevered against all the odds. In 70 years the Israeli people transformed a barren desert into an economic and military regional superpower. This was done through democratic and communal efforts, and not through a dictatorship or authoritarian government. This is unprecedented in human history.
9. What is the biggest digital publishing trend/challenge for 2019?
I think the biggest trend will also be the biggest challenge: micropayments. There’s a lot of opportunity to have people pay for snackable content, as long as it’s original and good. Building that audience will continue to be a major challenge, but it’s also a huge opportunity. People are tired of the one-size-fits-all platforms of Facebook, Twitter, Google, etc. and I think they’re looking for more fragmentation in terms of personalized experiences. They want to be in communities that really speak to them. That tribalism you see online right now is going to seriously fragment. We’re seeing this already with younger generations, who aren’t big on Facebook. I’m talking about pre-teens, teens, those younger generations who are finding their own avenues in various niche apps and platforms. That trend will pickup and continue. Facebook is going to be challenged by demand for more mass customization that needs to be done, as will other platforms. The opportunity here is that, with that fragmentation, audiences are peeling away, looking for something more niche. The winners will be those who are able to harvest that audience.
10. If you could have one billboard and place it anywhere, what would it say and where would it be?
It would be somewhere around the DC beltway, the center of power here in the U.S. and it would say, “Every action has a reaction.”
11. What have you changed your mind about recently?
As a digital marketer, in the beginning when the industry was evolving, privacy wasn’t that big of a deal. It’s just data, just random information about strangers. Now it’s a big deal. With the pervasiveness of cameras, microphones, facial recognition, there is no privacy anymore. Before we didn’t really have the ability to make sense of this data, we just used it for very linear processes. We used it to target a pitch and that was it. Now we’re really trying to shape minds and hearts, and we have the ability to do it with very intrusive, latent ways, even subconscious ways that aren’t recognizable for the average person. For the majority of people, privacy is dead, and that’s a very scary thing because it creates a power vacuum for people to influence, to pressure, using these very personal insights. There’s nothing personal and private anymore.
12. What’s the one or two things you can’t live without to get the job done?
My wife. She basically takes care of all the things that my ADD prevents me from executing on. She’s great at that, and she’s the best support system I could have. I couldn’t function without her.
A good internet connection is probably the second most important thing. Without that, nothing’s getting done.
Thanks so much, Élie! We agree that the demand for more personalized, snackable content is growing, which fits right into our own newsletter and push notification monetization strategy. We appreciate your insight!
Thanks for joining us!