Why I’m back working for The Man, er, The Grey Lady

Article contributed by Matt Prohaska, Programmatic Advertising Director, The New York Times

My apologies to those who happened to notice from a tweet, or post on Facebook or LinkedIn in the past nine days, for this will be a little repetitive, but last Monday I started as Programmatic Advertising Director at The New York Times. I am privileged to have responsibility for all global programmatic and channel/”indirect” revenue in display, search, text, mobile, and video. For those of you who have been kind enough to follow my columns here or been in touch over the past couple years, you’ve heard me say and write about how being independent and consulting has been very rewarding and fun. Note I didn’t say easy (just ask my wife/sole board member of Prohaska Consulting), but rewarding.

But I always told myself and friends that ask me how long I was going to consult by saying in so many words, “when something much better comes along than what I’m doing now,” just like when we all consider any opportunity that might be much better than what we are doing now in any full-time job.

Well, this opportunity was the first available in two years that was actually better than being independent. I had to transition six great active clients over the last thirty days, fortunately being asked to stay on as an advisor with a couple ongoing partners. Overall, business was very good again, after a slower period around the holidays. 27 paying clients in 21 months is a nice stat, but there were three main reasons why I had to make the switch. See if any of these sound familiar to you, for the job you are in now, and/or the one you are currently considering.

It’s the right people.

One of the benefits I highlighted earlier about consulting is the ability to work with a wide variety of people, learning from their experiences and building many relationships. But during one calendar month last year, I worked for nine different companies, splitting my time pie into many slices. It was great being able to scale a bit by bringing on several talented freelancers I’ve known for a while, and I’ve had a few clients that developed into super longer-term retained assignments. But I began to miss the excitement of being part of the same team every day battling in the trenches and shedding blood, sweat, and tears for the cause, whether for a lean start-up or established big firm. I can easily say after just eight weekdays on board so far at NYT, I have met and work with amazing people across all departments that I hopefully get to fight the good fight with together for a long time. And client relationships can be developed again in a longer-term manner – while I got to meet a ton of good people handling pub dev, ad sales, marketing, operations, or a little investor relations for different companies, it’s challenging to spend the quality time with your clients that you know you want to do and can do more for, when your time is split many ways.

It’s the right time.

I wrote a New Year’s resolution column earlier here that spoke about the art and skill and luck of timing during one’s career. While I’ve certainly had a few experiences and moves that ended up with tough timing as part of the challenge, this one feels right. We are definitely not starting at square one in programmatic at NYT, given the talented people that have been handling things with their overall jobs, in sales, or operations, or business development, or strategy, or finance, or legal. And that’s very helpful, in part because my role includes continuing to infuse programmatic into the culture, product, and process of many things we do at NYT. But the fact that NYT recently decided as part of its new overall global corporate advertising sales strategy to focus more on programmatic, and I happened to see one thing online allowing me to connect with someone there, just as they started looking for specific additional leadership, is just humbling and fortunate timing.

It’s The New York Times.

It’s been a favorite brand for me and my family for decades. I tried to think of other important and sacred brands in media globally, with headquarters in New York where I am based. The two that most come to mind are the one I’m at now and the one I was lucky enough to start at in 1997 when a few crazy people let some 26-year-old launch the sales team for the new online division of Sesame Workshop. I’ve had industry friends the past week+ nicely reach out with congratulating me, including notes like “great to see you back on top.” While the fighter in me feels like I had already climbed back up quite a bit since the last day of my previous job two years ago left me pretty far down at the time, I understand and appreciate the sentiment considering the platform/stage/pond of The New York Times, providing the chance to do some great things at a great place with great people.

The last 23 months have been quite a ride. And it has been wonderful having a fantastic forum like The Makegood to share experiences and lessons around a few themes, like career development, consulting, and digital media. Your feedback and support have been wonderful to receive. Fortunately, the good folks here are letting me continue writing a regular column, which will still occasionally touch on consulting issues and opportunities, knowing many others that are focused full-time in freelance, and maybe helping some folks down the road here or there where appropriate. But the column will likely now include more on this exciting world of programmatic marketing and media, hopefully adding a bit to the great thought leaders already writing here and elsewhere.

So thanks for reading, commenting, and sharing, and I look forward to seeing you next month to continue the conversation, hopefully providing a small piece of All the Opinion That’s Fit to Post (btw, don’t tell The New York Times I’m trademarking that…).