On Wednesday, ShareThis announced that former Google AdSense exec Kurt Abrahamson (and most recently CEO of SocialMedia.com which was sold to LivingSocial) would be taking over as CEO and former CEO Tim Schigel would become chairman of ShareThis' board. Read more on the ShareThis blog.
Abrahamson discussed his new role and the opportunity ahead for the company.
AdExchanger.com: Some see the sharing space as based on the "Trojan Horse" model where transparency on use of data is not understood by all parties. How will you look to overcome this perception in your new role as CEO of ShareThis?
KA: Our view is simple: transparency and privacy are top priorities. We do not view the sharing space as based on a "Trojan Horse" model at all.
Allowing our users to set preferences for their data usage, providing publishers with a way to tap into the value of the data that users do make available and providing meaningful insight into the way people connect with other people, content and brands will enhance the entire online ecosystem. This "sharing economy" – as we like to call it – then takes on a kind of snowball effect. The more people contribute to it, the better and more valuable it becomes. But we respect consumers' right to choose whether they want to be a part of this movement.
We recently participated in Evidon Empower 2011, a great event that highlighted the myriad initiatives – both self-regulatory and government-imposed – that will affect the advertising industry in the coming weeks and months. It's events like these, and Evidon's GreenLight certification program, that help brands build relationships of trust and transparency with their customers, and we're happy to be shaping this discussion.
Looking one to three years out, between first and third-party data, what do you see happening as it relates to ad targeting?
As we make headway on educating consumers about the use of their personal data – how they can take a more active role in protecting their data or opting into campaigns they want to be a part of – we'll be able to better serve all players in the sharing economy. Consumers will have access to high-quality content and advertising that they actually want to receive, brands will be able to build more focused campaigns and publishers will be able to increase the value of their inventory by producing valuable content. Ad targeting has been portrayed as having a negative impact on consumers but, with the right guidelines, it will improve the online advertising for everyone involved.
How does your experience at Google speak to the opportunity you see with your new company? And, are you concerned about Google+ will someday run over ShareThis and companies like it?
Leading the global launch of AdSense was an incredibly valuable experience, one that will guide the way we move forward in scaling ShareThis to bring new value to all the players in the sharing economy. Regarding being overrun by Google, I'm not worried. We believe that publishers and advertisers alike want more than just one single option – options that are the inverse of the Googles of the world. The way we see things, ShareThis turns the Web inside out, by offering sharing across the entire Web and tapping into the power of the entire Internet. I believe there will always be a place in publishing on the Web for independent tools like ours.
Given your successful track record with SocialMedia.com, is one of your goals to sell ShareThis?
First and foremost, my charge as the new CEO is to scale the business Tim and the team built up over the last few years. At AdSense, I helped lead the global launch of what we believed to be an incredibly successful tool. And by the looks of it, Web publishers felt the same way. Given the solid team I'm getting to know at ShareThis and the momentum we're working with, I expect to see record revenue growth. Who's to say we don't have a billion dollar business? We'll talk about selling later. For now, we're focused on turning ShareThis into the next big thing to hit online advertising.
By John Ebbert