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Matthew Watson of SendtoNews: “Disruption needs to be purposeful and have multiple stakeholders in mind”

I had to work for a couple years after highschool to make enough money to go to University. I worked hard, always taking the extra shifts and having a job or two on the side. I was nervous heading off to University and my brother, who had just finished his Masters, said “just treat it […]

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I had to work for a couple years after highschool to make enough money to go to University. I worked hard, always taking the extra shifts and having a job or two on the side. I was nervous heading off to University and my brother, who had just finished his Masters, said “just treat it like a job — put a shift in, get stuff done and then leave it behind”. I didn’t waste much time worrying, and always found the time to have a lot of fun.


As a part of our series about business leaders who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Matthew Watson.

Matthew Watson is CEO of SendtoNews, an online video platform that helps digital publishers increase revenue and enhance the experience by supplying technology, monetization and content that keeps users more engaged and on digital properties longer. SendtoNews has partnerships with 100’s of video content providers, including NFL, MLB, NHL, NBA, NASCAR, AP, Bloomberg, Rolling Stone, Conde Nast, and Cheddar. Every month, SendtoNews delivers more than 1 billion videos to over 45 million unique views to publishers like the New York Post, Chicago Tribune, SF Gate, Miami Herald, Houston Chronicle and over 1800 other newspaper.com, broadcast.com, radio.coms and native digital publishers.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?

I’ve been really lucky and honestly never really had a plan beyond getting an education. After graduating law school, I was fortunate to get on with a huge national firm that at the time had a nascent technology practice full of opportunities to learn. The practice of law was interesting but nowhere near as interesting as the businesses that we were assisting. One of them was an early stage startup in digital imaging right at the advent of digital imaging and gave me an offer I couldn’t refuse. The opportunity seemed clear to me even though it was early stage. I’ve never looked back and essentially have been stumbling into one pioneering company after another. I started a web application firewall company with a couple buddies and we did it virtually because we didn’t have enough money to ship it on appliances, and I hated hardware business. The cloud came along and we hit the jackpot. SendtoNews was similar. It got started just as digital video became an opportunity and a problem.

Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?

SendtoNews was born out of disruption, so it’s our natural state of being. We were founded by a traditional newsroom broadcaster who saw news publishers struggle to get video content onto their digital properties. In streamlining that process and solving for all aspects of it, we disrupted the model of how publishers, content providers and advertisers engage users and maximize revenue with digital video.

This foundation has kept us on the cutting edge of the digital video industry and has allowed us to deliver a transformative service. Innovations include an artificial intelligence powered video player designed to be the fastest and easiest way for publishers to get monetized video onto their sites, extending live-streaming opportunities for content partners like the NFL and PGA TOUR to over 1800 publishers, and bespoke, contextually relevant ad campaigns for brands that have delivered record conversions.

Our disruption comes from a place of wanting to help all our partners thrive using digital video. Digital publishers needed a reliable online video platform that reduces costs, increases revenue and keeps users on page. Content providers needed to get their videos in front of more audiences than just their owned and operated properties. Brands and advertisers needed trustworthy, contextual relevant and brand safe environments for their creatives. When you think about what you’re doing as a benefit to the industry at large rather than a benefit to your bottom line, the disruption presents itself.

We all need a little help along the journey. Who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?

Well, I’ve had a few. My first was my mom. She was well educated and humble so you never saw her coming. I’m the 5th of six kids so she was busy with us too but always looked for projects and things to do that fed her creative and community spirit. We lived in a rural area of a small town and didn’t have a kindergarten in our area. She thought we needed one and just started one up from nothing in an old church. Went on for years until the public school system added one to the elementary school in our area. She showed me first hand how to solve problems, seize opportunities and make things happen without giving a second thought to who gets credit or makes money. Success is its own reward. .

In today’s parlance, being disruptive is usually a positive adjective. But is disrupting always good? When do we say the converse, that a system or structure has ‘withstood the test of time’? Can you articulate to our readers when disrupting an industry is positive, and when disrupting an industry is ‘not so positive’? Can you share some examples of what you mean?

Disruption needs to be purposeful and have multiple stakeholders in mind. When we developed Smart Match, the AI functionality of our video player that automatically matches a publisher’s written editorial with the most relevant video in our library and instantly produces it into the article, we wanted it to benefit all our partners. Publishers get an intuitive tool that makes getting the best possible video in their articles simple and effective. The content provider then benefits because publishers are getting more video on their page, increasing the opportunity for their brand to be seen by more viewers. Finally advertisers benefit as it provides a heightened level of contextual relevance improving brand lift and favorability metrics. Disruption thrives where one innovation benefits an industry not an individual.

Disruption for the sake of disruption or where one party is the sole benefactor is where it becomes a negative. We can see the blow-back of the monetization model of the Social Media industry right now because it took the narrow view of “how can we generate the most revenue possible”. Brand Safety concerns have plagued YouTube for the past 5 years causing advertisers to rethink spending on their platform. The genie unfortunately is proving near impossible to get back into the bottle because of their initial “disruptive” advertising model. Users and brands are now leaving Facebook because of what might have been considered “disruptive” algorithms with the sole purpose of keeping users online longer to increase their revenue, no matter the social cost.

Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.

I had to work for a couple years after highschool to make enough money to go to University. I worked hard, always taking the extra shifts and having a job or two on the side. I was nervous heading off to University and my brother, who had just finished his Masters, said “just treat it like a job — put a shift in, get stuff done and then leave it behind”. I didn’t waste much time worrying, and always found the time to have a lot of fun.

We are sure you aren’t done. How are you going to shake things up next?

We aren’t ready to tip our hat just yet but we are always innovating ways to help our partners in the digital video industry. That’s what has made SendtoNews such a valuable resource. Rather than offering a product where you pay a fee and use it to the maximum of its capabilities until you’ve outgrown its functionality, our service is evolving with the needs of our partners. The product that SendtoNews offers today might be very different from the product we offer a year from now but the outcome will be the same — our partners will be more successful for having used it.

Do you have a book, podcast, or talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us? Can you explain why it was so resonant with you?

Honestly, there’s been way too many and I read so many or parts of so many, that I’m struggling to name any one above any others. I know it’s not popular anymore, and we learned more about the author later in life, but Jack: Straight from the Gut, actually contained some thoughts that held true for me — one of them was to always strive to be first or second in a particular market place. We did that with SendtoNews by focusing initially in sports. We had been trying a bunch of stuff but I thought, what could we win at — really dominate — and we set out to do that in 2015 and by 2018 we were the largest sports online video platform in North America with more online video views and viewers than ESPN. We’re now striving to do that in all categories.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Abraham Lincoln is attributed with the first to say “If I had 5 hours to chop down a tree, I would spend the first 4 sharpening my axe”. I’m not that contemplative so don’t live that ratio of 4 hours of thinking and 1 hour of action but I do tend to “slow down to speed up”. Legal training helps as you’re taught to look at things from more sides and consider other points of view and also the longer term consequences. If I’m uncertain, or too certain, I tend to say, let’s sleep on it. It’s saved me a few times.

How can our readers follow you online?

You can follow us on our website at www.sendtonews.com and I’m on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/matthewwatson-sendtonews/ or on my blog page at https://www.sendtonews.com/matthew-watson-sendtonews-ceo/

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