AdExchanger.com: One of the complaints about ad serving in general is the lack of innovation over the years. What's your view?
RS: You are right - ad serving did lack innovation for many years. However ZEDO has heard the demands of publishers', and is innovating to meet their specific needs. As the largest independent ad server and advertising technology provider, ZEDO released 22 new versions of its user interface and ad delivery platform last year and has released it's 7th update this year. Our large research and development teams, and dedication to innovate for publishers has lead to new features including: a full ad network optimization system in the ad server, a self service feature for the advertisers to buy directly from a publisher's site, ad serving for ads in iphone apps, reporting on the iphone, reporting by sms, unique new formats like sliders and much more. ZEDO is now the only ad server with an ad network optimization and a self service platform built into it. So at ZEDO, innovation is back and strong.
What problem is (or problems are) ZEDO looking to solve today?
ZEDO's a technology provider to premium publishers like newspapers. But more than that ZEDO aims to be an technology partner - for publishers. It will provide any technology or service that will help them increase revenue. Publishers are looking for self service platforms to allow smaller advertisers to buy from their sites (Alexa.com and Friendster are ZEDO customers), and they are looking for ad network optimization (ZEDO technology is used by lots of newspapers). Publishers are also looking for ways to get local advertising onto their sites, unique rich media formats for their direct sales teams, behavioral data built into the ad server (ZEDO has eXelate data built in), inventory forecasting that really works, and better ways to see which ad network served a particular ad on their site (ZEDO's AdMagic Firefox plugin is a leader).
What are some key trends you're seeing on the client-side today which you expect to gain momentum in the future?
Today, publishers are much more serious about making money. Newspapers and TV station sites are not happy with having tiny revenues compared to their offline properties. They are now willing to take faster and bolder decisions on new formats, new ways of selling and new technologies to support this. ZEDO customers like CBS reach out more for new technologies - and ZEDO builds them. Newspapers in particular want a technology partner. Yahoo provides many services but can't meet all their needs. ZEDO is now also offering them advertising technology and doing well because we are focused solely on being a publisher's advertising technology partner. That is all we do and we love doing it and seeing publisher revenues grow.
How is the increasingly data-driven, media buying process changing your business?
Data-driven media buying (behavioral and demographic) is a good potential revenue stream for publishers. We help publishers sell these difficult to find but valuable impressions at a good CPM in two ways. First we aggregate the impressions across publishers, ensure high CTRs by finding only the first impressions per user on the site, and we add data then we sell these impressions ad networks on behalf of the publisher. We don't sell to agencies - just to ad networks. Second, we have a new self service platform where small advertisers can buy these aggregated, first impressions with eXelate data. It is at www.zedoadnetwork.com. By selling aggregated data driven impressions to both small advertisers and to ad networks - that sell to agencies - and by keeping a high floor CPM we make the most revenue possible for publishers.
How big a problem is malvertising? Is more of a problem for advertisers or publishers and what is ZEDO doing to help its clients in this area?
This is a big problem for publishers. They just don't want it on their sites under any circumstances. ZEDO has a big effort underway in this area. We started by scanning everything uploaded into our system including java script and flash creative. Now as a second step we certify all third party urls that are uploaded into our system. If an ad network that is certified serves malware they have a financial penalty to pay and after 3 infractions they are de-certified and their ad tags can't be uploaded into ZEDO. This upsets some ad networks immensely but it protects publishers. We also use third party companies to scan our tags and have a new feature in our system that allows a publisher to visually see 100+ creative that any ad network is serving anywhere in the world. We believe in openess and share information that we find with others. Our blogging on the steps we have taken to counter malware has been well received.
What's your competitive set? Are you concerned that Google will take over the ad serving world? Or does OpenX provide a threat, for example?
ZEDO as the largest independent publisher ad server doing the most new development and is therefore very well placed in the reinvigorated market. Competitor ad servers are part of companies whose major revenue is from selling advertising. These companies are more interested in lowering prices to win advertisers than building technologies for publishers.We have big development teams solely to meet publisher's advertising technology needs. Competitors won't and can't build anything resembling our technology products for big publishers. When publishers really need an advertising technology partner for their business they choose ZEDO.
11 years as CEO and ZEDO's co-founder - if you could do anything over again regarding guiding the company, what would it be?
Two things: first I should have focused the company solely on premium publishers much earlier. Second I should have hired some senior publisher execs onto the ZEDO management team so that we knew their problems better and could solve them. However we did may things right and I am happiest that we did not sell despite several written offers 3 years go. Since then we have invested in various new tools for publishers and learning about publishers needs and wants. Now with the demand for technology driven innovation, integrations with DSPs and data driven advertising, ZEDO is taking a new leadership role in the industry.
Where do you see the company growing in the next 12 months? Any key market opportunities or targets that you would like to see Zedo achieve?
We are growing revenue fast for ZEDO and for publishers. In the next year I want to take over as the key technology partner for online newspapers, TV stations and other premium sites. ZEDO will help them get real revenue. The time has come for online divisions to be proud of the revenue they earn.