Solbright CEO Pace Says Advertising Will Remain Major Way Publishers Create Revenue; Discusses Company’s Back Office Solutions

Tom Pace is CEO of Solbright, a web publisher solutions provider. Solbright has been around for a while. Discuss the evolution of your company and how it has tracked changes in the online ad industry.

Solbright started out as a practical solution for addressing the basic business processes of publishers and Web sites looking to manage their online advertising businesses. It began with some improvements in the trafficking and operations area, including flight and creative management. Over time, as the process grew increasingly complex, features and functionality were added to the Solbright solution to address the sales and billing processes, followed by inventory forecasting and management. All of these features were strategically considered and added in order to reflect the needs of the online ad market as it grew over the years. Now ad hoc reporting, yield management, multiple ad server management, third-party system and buy-/sell-side integration are all being addressed due to the current and anticipated demands of the market. In addition, we’ve partnered with leading technology providers – such as Ad-Juster, with whom we announced a partnership last week – to integrate these technologies into our solution and further simplify the process of digital ad operations management for premium publishers. When you are managing processes for the best publishers and Web sites in the business, there is a terrific interplay of ideas and trends coming from this base of clients, all of which are setting expectations and needs for the market based on real-world experience. Do you think publishers are going to have to move away from advertising solutions for monetization and toward pay walls?

Publishers and Web sites will do what is necessary to grow their businesses.  This will not mean a simple pay-vs.-advertising model.  It will mean optimizing the advertising model through use of better management tools to increase revenue and the efficiency of their operations.  It will mean relying on management tools that allow best-of-breed options to be used when most expedient and in a manner providing maximum control to the publisher/Web site over its information and operations (including use of third party systems).  It will mean increasing the media formats and targeting options to advertisers.  It will also mean finding other ways to maximize the value of content through distribution, syndication, networking and other segmentation options; the Web offers limitless opportunities in each area.  Subscriptions and other pay schemes may come into play as well, but advertising will remain a major – if not the major – means of monetizing the content and services being provided.

How is your product line playing out today?   What pain points are you trying to solve?

Publishers and Web sites are rightfully concerned about the growing power of a few major players in online advertising.  Do they want to rely on these players – who are competitors, I might add – to handle their most important and confidential information and processes?  Our product line is designed to keep control and power in the hands of the publisher/Web site.  These companies need more options, not fewer options, to address the growing cross-media format, flexible targeting, sell-side/buy-side integration, third-party system integration and tracking/auditing requirements.  Certain major players would have the market believe that only they can offer fully integrated, one-size-fits-all solutions intended to meet these complex needs.  But just the opposite is true.  Instead, these players limit options and assume some control over publishers’ information and business.  Our focus is to provide more options to the publisher/Web site and, in doing so, enable them to maintain full control over their digital advertising businesses.

What’s your view on exchanges and demand-side platforms? Do they benefit the publisher?

There can be definite benefits to publishers in having access to such third-party platforms.  Demand-side platforms can provide access to ready buyers.  The important thing is that publishers be able to access and use these platforms intelligently.

Can you see a day where there is a futures exchange for digital advertising? Given Solbright’s interest around inventory forecasting, you may have special insight here.

There may well be a futures exchange for digital advertising across all distribution platforms.  But before that can happen, there needs to be greater connectivity and interaction between the buy- and sell-sides of the market.  This means building connections between buy- and sell-side systems and providing information to both sides so that intelligent and efficient decisions and executions can be made.  When that more efficient mechanism is in place, then, like the financial markets, all kinds of interesting derivative plays come into the picture.

How is the leveraging of audience data playing into development of your products?

Data plays a critical part for the market as a whole and for us as a key system provider.  This information goes beyond audience data, which is just one part of the picture.

On the agency side, is there a fit for Solbright services that can help better synchronize the moving parts within their organizations to maximize revenue?

Absolutely, there is a fit.  We are in the process of integrating with buy-side systems that will make it easier and more cost-effective to place digital ads across markets.  Agencies are anxious to find more affordable and efficient ways to manage their digital buys.

What common mistakes do direct sales teams make when forecasting their inventory?

You mean beyond over- or underselling every day?  It’s a formidable task to forecast and track avails in the online market.  Not only do you have dynamic changes in inventory based on ever-changing numbers of users and hits, but there are also dynamic changes in site configuration, content, ad sizes and ad formats to deal with, as well as promotional and marketing campaigns.  In addition, you often have multiple sales people selling in real-time against that dynamic inventory, which can result in competing bookings and oversold conditions.  All of this can be a real mess.  We are focused on providing the most useful solutions possible to address those issues for sales and inventory planning people.

How much of a problem is the ad network model for publishers?  Isn’t it helping?

The ad network model works to some degree for remnant inventory, though of late with such low rates for remnant inventory a number of publishers are turning to in-house ads instead of running the ads on networks, as they see a greater return from such in-house promotional use.  The vertical networks, like Adify, seem to help niche publishers find a broader network of affiliates to increase the scope and reach of ads that they can undertake.  One of the biggest problems for publishers is working with ad networks in an efficient and integrated manner.  Most situations are standalone and outside publishers’ normal business processes.  We are working on integrating third-party ad network offerings into our system so that publishers can access them more readily  using the Solbright system tools they use every day for their direct sales.

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