Rui de Freitas focuses on making technology more helpful in journalism

By Paula Felps


Nashville, Tennessee, United States


Editor’s note: In an ongoing series, INMA is profiling our most engaged members — our super fans — to give members a chance to learn more about each other. Today we profile Rui de Freitas, head of advertising for Ringier in Zürich, Switzerland, and co-founder and chief operating officer of the digital advertising startup C Wire.

As Artificial intelligence (AI) becomes part of many aspects of our lives, the human element is still important. Rui de Freitas, head of advertising for Ringier in Zürich, Switzerland, believes technology is vital for any business area.

“But to make it work, you will need a wide adoption — which means that having a strong human factor is the key to making any business case successful,” he observed. “So companies need to focus on why and how technology helps rather than on the tech itself.”

Freitas is reaching out further into the digital world as co-founder and COO of C Wire, a digital advertising startup, which he said is designed to build sustainable funding for journalism. In both capacities, he focuses on why and how technology helps rather than focusing on the tech itself.

INMA recently caught up with him to learn more about what’s on his mind.

As head of advertising for Ringier in Zürich, Switzerland, Rui de Freitas focuses on why and how technology helps rather than focusing on the tech itself.
As head of advertising for Ringier in Zürich, Switzerland, Rui de Freitas focuses on why and how technology helps rather than focusing on the tech itself.

INMA: What big lesson have you learned over the past couple of years that helped shape your plans for the year?

Freitas: The big lesson is that you need to make yourself resilient in terms of revenue sources — but also on how future-proof they are. Working toward models and products where Big Tech or legislators cannot disrupt you will be key in the long run. This means developing privacy-focused ad technologies or increasing transparency from all middlemen to understand where the advertising revenue is flowing to grow user-driven revenue through content commerce, subscriptions, and additional services.

INMA: What makes you excited to get out of bed in the morning?

Freitas: That no day is the same. We work toward the same vision every day, but somehow the challenges are constantly changing in the current environment. It helps get you out of your comfort zone and hopefully in a healthy way. Working hard to make sure that journalism is sustainably funded by advertising is not easy but surely worth getting out of bed every day.

INMA: What is the craziest job or project you’ve ever done in media — and what did you learn from it?

Freitas: There are so many of them that it’s hard to pick one. I would say the craziest was building up the programmatic channels with a handful of people in the Swiss market. Originally, I don’t think many people understood what it meant and how big it was about to become. You start implementing systems overnight with some tags implemented in an ad server that suddenly makes an entire advertising offer available globally in an automated way.

The start is very lonely, as you are siloed from the organisation in a corner with people regularly asking what you actually do all day. You have similar situations at some agencies; across the entire country, you maybe have five to six people that you can actually talk to. As it grows, you start feeling the interest from everyone, and things get a lot slower as you try to involve everyone in existing processes and integrate it. Many challenges follow each other but [it is] a great journey after all.

INMA: What success within your company are you most proud of right now?

Freitas: I would say involving people and showing with data how much impact everyone has. Typically, revenue is driven by salespeople, but it only scales and accelerates if everyone makes the product and the service better. I can remember sitting with the tech and design teams of a publisher and showing them how the latest redesign that we all worked on helped all KPIs. We had killed ad placements, created new ones, and ultimately ended up improving all KPIs such as viewability, CTR, and eCPMs.

INMA: What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned in your career?

Freitas: Take advantage of any upcoming opportunity and mitigate potential risks. I guess this applies to any business nowadays, but solving problems is what keeps publishers relevant.

INMA: What do you do to relax?

Freitas: Unfortunately, not enough. Depending on my mood and energy level I will go for sports, chill in front of screens, play music, and sing — or play games on a console. Ultimately, the only moment I really relax is when I travel to some places where not much reminds me of work.

INMA: If you hadn’t gone into news media, what was your backup plan?

Freitas: My backup plan was to be a rockstar. Given my talent and abilities, the news media industry will hopefully work for me. Otherwise I don’t think I can rely on my backup plan so much.

INMA: What is your favourite thing to read?

Freitas: Outside of news, obviously, I would say specialised media content or books about business. A bit boring, but that sums up pretty much what I read.

INMA: What do you find the most challenging/interesting about the news media industry right now?

Freitas: All the privacy shifts in Europe are very challenging. It makes it interesting but adds a lot of uncertainty to the entire ecosystem built in the last 10 years. Publishers have to make scenarios and prepare for the worst while taking advantage of any revenue source they can for as long as they can.

About Paula Felps

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