Kirk McDonald Joins Pubmatic As President

Kirk McDonaldToday, PubMatic announced that Kirk McDonald (LinkedIn), who was President, Digital of Time Inc, has joined the company as its President. Read the release.

McDonald discussed his new role and the larger publisher landscape with  Why is PubMatic the right next step for you?

KM: Here’s the truth. I believe that the industry is beginning to consolidate and, at the same time, publishers are becoming more and more sophisticated. Yet, media technology still isn’t publishers’ core area of strength. Automation for publishers requires not just inventory management, but data management, and eventually, dynamic content management. And, the solutions publishers require are not something that they really should or, today, have the confidence to build for themselves. So, the media tech space that provides automation to publishers still has a huge opportunity ahead and a growing list of customers that need to be served.

I’m excited about where PubMatic is. I’m excited about the fact that their platform is as robust as it has been up until now and the fact that they’re thinking about diversifying and adding on incremental products beyond what they offer their clients and constituents today. And I’m excited about the fact that they’re unencumbered to do so right now. So, I have no criticism for Google and AdMeld. I have no criticisms for what Rubicon Project is doing or their ambitions. I am very excited, though, about the fact that PubMatic doesn’t have integration or a merger to deal with as a priority for the next year or two. It means that PubMatic is going to be able to keep focused on innovation and focused on growth. So that’s the excitement for me.

What have you seen on the large publisher’s side, within the past year or two, in regards to a shift in thinking in digital?

I totally believe there is a higher prioritization – where digital at the premium publisher is no longer the conversation in one division of the company. They’re moving rapidly away from having digital publishing leads, digital sales departments or digital operations units. And they’re thinking about it as part of their holistic strategy. It’s the same for the companies that are coming over from traditional magazine or TV media. They’re beginning to realize that the conversation is simply a media conversation and automation is a part of their future – and it’s also about their management of more assets than they have had to sell or brand for their partners in the past. And that’s good news, by the way.

Another way I would describe it is the conversation is moving up in the organization – even the CFO of a traditional publishing company is realizing this is a conversation she or he needs to actually to be active in, going forward. That’s exciting. I think it should be exciting for AdMeld, for Rubicon Project and like I said, very exciting for me at PubMatic.

Are you, in part, counting on a culture shift happening at larger media companies?

I’m not counting on a culture shift happening.  But, the reality of publishing media, moving forward, is that some level of technology that helps you automate will become a part of your life. That’s just the reality.  You’re either on the platform watching that train come in the station, getting ready to jump on board, or you’re on the tracks about to be run over by it. Regardless, one way or another, the train’s coming into the station.

So, it will mean a cultural change in some organizations.  Is it an industry wide cultural step? I can’t make that blanket statement about the whole industry. But for each individual publisher, I think, it’s going to be a unique change for their organization as they think about the future.

What does the new role of “President” entail?

It’s driving all the go‑to‑market operations. So, the things that fall into it are sales and product marketing – let’s make sure we’re building the right things, and then let’s make sure that we’re telling the story about it properly, and that we are presenting the solutions to the marketplace in the right way.

The idea is that the company has gotten big enough that when we think about controlling and being in charge of our own future, the truth is you need more executive level resources to keep all options available to you.  Whatever the future holds for the Company, we’ve seen accelerated growth in the last couple of quarters, which says there is still a lot for us to do for our constituents and customers. But there’s also a tremendous amount of preparation we need to make for what could be the future of the company overall – whether it’s a strategic opportunity of partnership or that we continue just building the best company we can for PubMatic’s investors.

Finally, what would you say your Time Inc. experience taught you and what may be most relevant to your new role at PubMatic?

Well, it wasn’t necessarily something new that Time Inc. taught me. I’ve been a publisher since 1989-90 when I started at Conde Nast.

I think I’ve always had a particular appreciation for the importance of heavy investment in content creation and how content relates to audience and the distribution platforms you push them out on. What Time Inc. may have done was reaffirmed those convictions as to the value of putting the right levers and controls in the hands of publishers and to allow them to continue bringing their product to market and create the kind of relationships they need with audiences.

By John Ebbert

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