Podcast: Rubicon CEO Michael Barrett On Take Rates And Industry Change

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Rubicon Project’s new CEO, the storied Michael Barrett, comes into the studio for the latest episode of AdExchanger Talks. And he doesn’t disappoint, talking in-depth about the company’s roadmap and fee structure.

Barrett has known Rubicon Project since its inception 10 years ago, when he ran key competitor AdMeld. Now he has taken the reins of the public company.

“I got to see firsthand the first time they got knocked on their heels, when RTB came along,” Barrett recalls. “They were incredibly patient about it to the point of eschewing it, and obviously it didn’t work out so well. So you would think a normal company with a misstep like that – venture-backed, early-stage – that’s a death knell.”

On the contrary, Rubicon bounced back from that early miscalculation and advanced the business as a clean, curated exchange with strong tools for publishers, eventually going public.

Today, Rubicon faces a new set of challenges, including structural changes to the auction and client pushback on its take rate. Coming off a listening tour with clients, Barrett says he is seeking ways to regain trust and “pole position” as header bidding pervades the landscape and the unified auction takes over.

“This is the same organization that fought back and become a leader. I think it has muscle memory,” Barrett says. “Getting back to where you were, even in a radically changed landscape, isn’t impossible. As a matter of fact, I think Rubicon has done it on several different occasions.”

The key this time around will be to create new tools for buyers and sellers alike that could take the company well beyond the traditional exchange model.

“What can we do to help buyers in this world where they’re choking on inventory?” he says. “What can we do to help sellers maximize optimization and do several other things that are important to them? It starts to stretch the definition of what the exchange, the SSP, might be. But I think it’s timely because things are changing and you have to adapt.”

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