Answers.com CEO On Building Content, Commerce Credo Out Of Q&As

DavidKarandishAnswers.com, a knowledge resource site, has evolved from a basic wiki to a publisher and marketing tech provider.

“We’ve made a lot of positive changes to the site,” said David Karandish, CEO of Answers.com, “have added support for Facebook, Google+ and Twitter for [gated] logins (Answers.com now has over 180 million registered users) and turned the Answers home page into a news feed on trending Q&As on subjects and categories consumers are interested in.”

Answers.com, whose parent Answers Corp. was acquired in August by funds associated with equity firm Apax Partners for an estimated $900 million, is investing in technology and sales talent to drive new revenue opportunities.

Answering The MarTech Call

Despite its tech investments, Karandish still sees Answers.com as more of a publisher and platform and less of a marketing tech provider.

However, when Answers.com acquired analytics company ForeSee for $200 million last December, it inherited 1,200 enterprise software customers, many of which are Retail Top 100 companies.

AT&T, for instance, uses ForeSee to run customer experience analysis on its U-verse and mobile sites and compares its scores against an aggregated index based on its competitors’ first-party data.

ForeSee wasn’t Answers.com’s first tech acquisition. It gained a content syndication platform via its 2012 acquisition of online merchant review site ResellerRatings. It then acquired Webcollage and Easy2 Technologies in the spring and summer of 2013, companies that provide a cloud-based platform for interactive product listings on retail sites.

Answers.com also has planned a 2015 release of a retargeting product to help publishers and advertisers convert Answers.com users when they’re shopping on third-party ecommerce sites. And with its backing from Apax, “we’re looking to execute larger M&A deals, and extending our existing product road map.”

How the commerce cloud services work: If you’re Samsung and you want to ensure a video for LeBron James using the Galaxy phone shows up on related third-party ecommerce sites, you could upload that asset to Answers.com’s cloud services platform and syndicate it directly to Walmart, Target and BestBuy.com product detail pages. That capability stems from the Webcollage and Easy2 acquisitions.

The Native Scene

Answers.com also builds custom and native sponsorships called Brand Pages, which advertisers like Microsoft use as a quasi-customer support tool. For greater reach, brands like Sprint have sponsored posts that appear in the Answers.com news feed, which are then tailored to logged-in users based on their activity over time.

Or a retailer like Office Depot can sponsor Microsoft’s Q&As or in-feed posts, if it wishes to align with like-minded vertical messaging. Many of these sponsorships are sold as part of Answers.com’s cloud subscription services.

“We wanted to focus our direct ad sales business on endemic opportunities you couldn’t get through exchanges,” Karandish said. “It’s all very endemic, native advertising and we want to integrate brands into the experience.”

Karandish said Answers.com uses DoubleClick For Publishers as its ad server, while layering in technology in-house, “so it’s a combination of off-the-shelf and things we’ve developed internally.”

Over the past six months Answers.com has built robust native apps for iOS and Android, said Rich Dredge, GM of Answers.com.

“We’re integrating some of these native features on-site with mobile so when an answer comes in, we can send you a push notification,” Karandish said. “We’re also taking advantage of the formats themselves – whether it’s a Q&A with a brand, or doing an article where the brand sponsors content in the article, these are all things you can’t do in a 300x250 display ad.”

Stocking Up On Data

Answers.com is one of several publishers (like Shopzilla, which expanded from comparison-shopping and merchant ratings into audience discovery and activation) that have evolved into content, commerce and marketing platform hybrids. Answers.com did not operate a direct sales unit two years ago, relying mainly on sponsored links and Q&A search queries to monetize through third-party sellers.

Over the past year, it began building up media sales internally. The company just hired an SVP of direct ad sales, Toby McKenna, formerly head of property and advertiser solutions for Yahoo, to lead display and programmatic sales teams. A team of four initially will report to McKenna.

“The second big thing for us is providing large, high-impact units on the premium programmatic marketplace, [such as] Rising Star units,” said Dredge in an earlier interview. “The fact that we have the capacity to traffic and transact on the exchanges, and do direct-sold, is a powerful combination for us.”

Answers.com uses a homegrown data-management platform to activate user data for media purchasing. This data includes the 80 million “answers” the site hosts as well as its more than 500,000 daily logins.

 

Correction: An earlier version of the story cited 500 million daily logins. The correct figure is 500,000.

 

 

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