CEO Mortensen Says Visual Revenue Is Optimizing Front Page Performance For Publishers

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Visual RevenueDennis Mortensen is CEO of Visual Revenue, a predictive analytics technology company.

AdExchanger.com: When you are at Yahoo! could you see the "big data" opportunity coming? Has it happened as fast as you thought?

DM: Yahoo was into big data long before we arrived as part of the May 2008 acquisition of IndexTools. Publishers in general though were - and to a large extent still are - super casual about data (this is supposed to be their big data moment). I am still baffled by how easy they depart with all the audience data in exchange for a simple social share widget etc.

Looking at your startup, what problem is Visual Revenue solving?

We increase the Front Page performance for online media destinations like the NY Daily News, Telegraaf and similar. The increase comes from Editors using our predictive analytics platform to recommend what story goes where on the front page and for how long – in a manual or automated setting.

In that you're recommending to editors, where content is placed, how does this jibe with the needs - and interests - of the publisher's sales team?

The publisher runs his media destination with an objective in mind. This objective could be as simple as him wanting to maximize the amount of Article Views. We optimize towards the asked for objective; and if you want more Article Views, we’ll set a Front Page that helps you do that. If you want a higher level of engagement, we'll help you set a Front Page that does exactly that.

These objectives are established before we arrive and as such we don't see much of a conflict.

Given the real-time nature of news, is there a fit for closer integration with real-time ad sources?

Yes! But do have in mind that a large chunk of the most valuable and premium inventory is sold at a different schedule. At Visual Revenue we spend all our time thinking about content and how we can assure that the optimization techniques we apply are not short term gimmickry, but something that is based off of real intent and provide real engagement and long term value.

I publicly suggested the possibility of replacing sophisticated online revenue opportunity models with simple monthly RPM values, to calculate believable publisher revenue opportunities.

Just curious - What's your view on pay walls?

I personally believe it is going to be difficult to pull off a hard-stop-pay-wall such as what we have seen from the Sunday Times of London. I am much more inclined to believe in leaky-pay-walls such as what we have seen from the Wall Street Journal or the expected metered-pay-wall from the New York Times.

Who's the right type of client for Visual Revenue?

Medium to large online publishers that set their front page today based on simple analytics data or no data at all.

This includes:

  • Daily News (e.g. International, National & Local News, Business, Sports, Celebrity etc.
  • News Aggregators (Portals)
  • Magazines
  • Large volume Blogs
  • TV Networks

What are the costs to the publisher? Is the integration time consuming?

We take ALL the pain on our side! And I would really like to stress this concept of the vendor absorbing the deployment pain if possible, as I’ve certainly done my share of traditional web analytics deployments, which are essentially small IT Integration projects. So all we ask for are a plain vanilla tracking script in the header or footer of the property. The rest comes from our side.

Who's in your competitive set? And, how do you differentiate from them?

We see our primary competitor being the existing organizational processes in place – which we are suggesting updates with the use of our decision support system. We are not suggesting you go replace your Omniture, Google or Yahoo Analytics suite, which is surely needed for strategic input to the organization and for more static optimization. In the long run we might see CMS companies getting a tad more scientific.

Profitable? Any funding needs?

The company is self funded and our primary plan is simply to keep developing technology that solves our customers problems and make them happy. Surely; we keep the odd set of VC firms up to date on what we do, but we are not actively seeking investments. Old school perhaps, but thats what we really do well.

A year from now, what milestones would you like the company to have achieved?

That we reached that 100th enterprise customer! AND I am sure we’ll get there. :-)

Follow Dennis Mortensen (@dennismortensen), Visual Revenue (@visualrevenue) and AdExchanger.com  (@adexchanger) on Twitter.

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