Podcast: Back To The Roots With Digital Pioneer Mike Kelly

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This week’s podcast guest has a way of showing up during pivotal moments in internet history.

He was president of AOL Media Networks from 2004 to 2007 during the first ad platform build-out there. Later he was brought on as CEO of The Weather Channel Companies on the cusp of its transformation from a broadcast- to a mobile-centric business.

I’m talking about Mike Kelly, of course. This week, Kelly shares his experiences and describes where he sees innovation today in his role as an adviser and venture capitalist with Kelly Newman Ventures.

“We were trying to build a transactional advertising business,” Kelly says of his AOL stint.

AOL had immense audience scale at the time – to the tune of 2.5 billion daily ad impressions – but no way to effectively monetize all that attention. AOL Instant Messenger alone had 5 million concurrent users, an enormous number.

“In those days, advertising was a blunt instrument. It was about volume,” he says.

Working with Scott Ferber at Ad.com (in which AOL had a 4% stake at the time), Kelly and AOL’s sales boss, Michael Barrett, agreed that any inventory that couldn’t be sold for more than $1 would be thrown into the Ad.com inventory pool. And thus, digital remnant inventory was born.

Later AOL acquired the rest of Advertising.com, along with Tacoda, Quigo and several other companies – basically engineering the first ad tech roll-up.

Also in this episode: Kelly’s role as a VC and adviser to startups, Weather’s mobile revolution and how history is repeating itself in TV.

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