Burst Media CEO Coffin: The Publisher Is The Ad Network’s Customer

Burst MediaJarvis Coffin is the CEO of Burst Media.

AdExchanger.com: What must ad networks do, if anything, to make sure that publishers do not feel like they’re inventory is being cannibalized?

JC: Ad networks need to decide that the publisher is the customer and then do business with them on that basis. That means a relationship predicated on full transparency with regards to the price of inventory sold on publisher web sites and knowledge in advance of the sales efforts the network will conduct on behalf of the publisher.

Or, networks can decide they work for the advertiser, in which case they are simply media buying agencies, which will do wonders to mollify publishers (but may excite other agencies).

We blogged on this recently.

Does Burst Media consider itself an exchange? Or are there plans to move to an exchange model – even a vertical exchange model which would sync with your vertical channels?

Burst Media has an exchange, called the adConductor Inventory Exchange. It is populated by customers of our adConductor ad management platform, which includes our two in-house networks, Burst Network and Burst Direct, and other networks and publishers, that need and want access to additional inventory to support their business. The Inventory Exchange is a transparent environment so participants can push and pull ad campaigns with confidence in the quality of their Exchange partners and without the need for separate trading agreements and revenue commitments.

In an April 14 Burst Media blog post, you wrote about the importance of “less is more” suggesting that the Wall Street Journal, in particular, was better off concentrating on its core competencies – news analysis – as advocated by its long-time editor, Barney Kilgore. How is Burst Media implementing a “less is more” strategy?

Two ways: 1) Burst works specifically for web publishers. We have three businesses – Burst Network, Burst Direct and adConductor – and each of them is dedicated to enabling publishers. So, for example, this means no separate email business in our Company that might offer good value to advertisers, but is not otherwise publisher driven. Also, for example, our adConductor platform is designed for publishers, not advertisers. 2) More meaningfully, however, is that Burst has always championed the Long Tail of the Internet, and is known as a representative of vertical niche content. This displays our belief in the less-is-more standard we talked about in our blog. Audiences and advertisers benefit mostly from the targeted nature of the Internet. It does a superior job of respecting a user’s time and interests, the thing Mr Kilgore had right 60 years ago.

Are there too many ad networks?

No, but there are too many ad networks without proprietary customers. There are too many networks that exist solely in the gaps between buyers and sellers right now. This is probably normal. As business grows online those gaps will fill and ad networks that have no proprietary media buying or selling agreements with either advertisers or publishers will get squeezed out. Afterwards, there should be space for hundreds of ad networks that represent well-defined constituencies stretching the length and breadth of the Internet media environment.

Will ad agencies or ad networks – or neither – be disintermediated in the future?

It will be one or the other. Call the survivor whatever you want, probably ad agency if it is buy-side focused, ad network if it is publisher driven, or maybe ad representative. But they will each take on the characteristics of the other over time.

The Online Publishers Association (OPA) announced three, new oversized media units that would only be available through select, member sites – not ad networks or exchanges. How does Burst Media’s respond to this development? Will you be offering the new sizes anyway?

Burst announced the availability of a new over-sized unit this week, the Half Page Ad at 300 by 600 pixels. We provide creative solutions based on what the advertisers want, based on IAB standard, and not always what the OPA wants. That said we’re sympathetic with the desire of OPA members to assert control over their inventory, which has clearly found its way into the ad network supply chain. If they can reassert that control through the addition of unique ad units all power to them. Burst will go its own way, with its own publishers.

How does Burst Media ensure brand safety?

1) We choose the sites we agree to represent carefully, 2) We audit them regularly, and 3) we give advertisers full transparency to the site level, including post-campaign, site-by-site reporting.

When will brand advertising come online?

Brands are coming online, but they keep trying to prove the medium on a transactional basis. Like any business, brands depend on transactions. Big brands, the sort of brands your question asks about, depend on millions of transactions. Right now, those brands are conflicted by the fact they are big and the fact they want to be able to feel like they can affect transactions one at a time. It causes a disconnect. They regard television as a way to think big and they regard the Internet as a way to affect transactions one at a time. Interestingly, enterprises like Canoe, the joint cable TV initiative, are trying to introduce a transactional solution to television advertising. Depending on how it goes, this may help the Internet appear more TV-like. Or, it may make TV appear more Internet-like and exaggerate the value that advertisers place on transaction-led advertising until someone, finally, notices that sales are down overall. At the end of the day, big brands can’t afford to market their business one transaction at a time, and they should come to recognize that the Internet enjoys household penetration that is equal to or exceeds other media.

Where is Burst Media seeing revenue and product development momentum? And where does it remain challenging?

As above, we see brands coming online and we see real interest in custom channel targeting, i.e., custom-built web site packages designed around the audience requirements of advertisers. Interest and pricing in this segment has been strong for us. That momentum transfers to our adConductor business which supports other vertical ad networks customers. Finally, and no surprise, performance advertising continues to do well. Direct response advertisers have been please with our CPA business in Burst Direct, which has grown substantially.

Follow Burst Media (@burstmedia) and AdExchanger.com (@adexchanger) on Twitter.

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