Scott Cunningham from sovrn Appointed as VP, Technology & Ad Operations at IAB

Apr 11, 2014

Earlier today, the IAB announced that it was hiring Scott Cunningham as the Vice President of Technology and Ad Operations. Immediately prior to this, Scott was the SVP of Product Management here at sovrn.

When the opportunity to join the IAB first came up way back in November of last year, Scott and I discussed the potential of his joining. It was a long process and I’m proud to see Scott take on this prestigious appointment. I know he will bring substantial working knowledge of both the challenges and opportunities publishers and advertising technology companies have in front of them.

The product team here at sovrn is in a unique position in that they see the world through the lens of both the publisher and the marketer. We orient our business toward helping independent and influential publishers thrive. That means that we must understand and embrace the increasing sophistication of marketers and their agents in a way that best benefits our publisher partners. Our work around eradicating poor quality and fraudulent traffic is in many ways an example of doing our part to help get more money to publishers that truly deserve it. This is no easy task, and our product team handles these challenges expertly. I’m proud to see the validation of our work being embraced by the IAB’s choice of Scott to join their leadership team. I know that his contributions will be well informed by a complete view of the online advertising landscape.

As the CEO of a fast growing company, our roadmap is clear and our product priorities are broadly understood. Over the coming weeks we will deliver mobile and native solutions for publishers, continue our expansion into video, and of course deliver more advanced yield optimization and revenue growth options for display. We’re adding more demand partners, building our data visualization and management console, and starting to market-test custom segmentation offerings. Perhaps most exciting of all is that our publisher platform and marketplace remains on-track for a mid-summer launch into public beta.

As an organization we’re deeply involved with the IAB. I personally co-chair the Solutions Group focused on driving better and higher quality good traffic across the supply and demand of online advertising while eliminating the bad and fraudulent traffic. I’m looking forward to working across the table with Scott to make that happen.


Feb 3, 2014

For centuries past, the idea that a state could be sovereign was always connected to its ability to guarantee the best interests of its own citizens. Thus, if a state could not act in the best interests of its own citizens, it could not be thought of as a “sovereign” state.[wikipedia]

Sovrn's officeOn Tuesday at 9:05am Eastern time (1.28.14) we announced the creation of a new company: sovrn Holdings, Inc., (“sovrn”).

sovrn isn’t new in the sense of a start-up, but new in the sense of a renewed and intense focus on what made Federated Media and Lijit Networks (acquired by Federated Media in October 2011) great – the unwavering commitment to independent and influential online publishers.

We spend a good deal of our lives online. Whether it’s for information, commerce, entertainment or knowledge, we’ve all come to depend on what we discover, consume and share online. Publishers – the ones that create and curate content – are the cornerstones to what we all cherish about the Internet. Yet these publishers practice their craft largely in silos, without reference points or a deep understanding about how they compare. They don’t have the data they need about their site(s) or their readership to truly grasp how their site is viewed and valued by other important stakeholders (e.g. advertisers).

Publishers are our peopleSome years ago when we were still a small and relatively fragile start-up company, someone wrote “Publishers are our People” way up on the wall near the rafters of our old conference room. It was too high for anyone to stand and reach, and the office had no ladders. It stayed there for years, in big block print (red, no less). When we moved to our new offices a group of employees painted the same words in a huge mural on a big bare wall. The words are simple: “Publishers are our People”, but what they represent gets to core of why we exist as a company.

We advocate for and help independent and influential publishers. Help them understand their readership and how marketers view that readership. Help them engage their audience of readers with tools, technologies, and resources. Help them make money and profit from their hard work. This work is our mission. It’s the reason we exist. To foster an ecosystem where these independent and influential publishers can thrive.

When Lijit joined forces with John Battelle and the team at Federated Media, things really took off. The network of publishers grew from thousands of sites generating 100M impressions per day to more than 2 million sites and nearly 1B impressions per day. The programmatic and RTB exchange business has grown along the same trajectory and today we pay publishers $2M per week! We own and operate one of the most sophisticated and largest online advertising and data platforms in the world, and we’re still growing like mad.

In the coming months you’ll see us transition to our new company name, sovrn, as we double down on building out more resources and more offerings for publishers. Many of those will be services, tools, and revenue opportunities from the thousands of companies that operate in this ecosystem. And we’ll continue our work to pursue advanced yield optimization, data management, and data insights for our publishers and our marketing buyers.

I couldn’t be more excited for the journey that lies ahead.

- Walter Knapp, CEO, sovrn

5 ways for publishers to get retargeting right

Oct 10, 2012
Please note, any blog content before February 3, 2014 came before the Federated Media acquisition of Lijit Networks in October 2011. sovrn (formerly Lijit Networks/Federated Media) became an independent entity again on January 28, 2014.

As a relatively new technology, Site Retargeting–the practice of serving targeted display ads to people who have previously visited your site—is often misunderstood and misused.

At first, the misconceptions are usually positive. Unlike content or social media marketing, where initial results can be underwhelming, the early results from Site Retargeting often look quite incredible and far outpace other display techniques on the media plan. This makes sense: you have all these users who have visited your site and indicated intent to buy things, and you’re finally serving them display ads that compel them to return.

But beware. If you don’t have a complete understanding of Site Retargeting, the early results can paint a false picture of what’s happening and mislead you into making errors that waste time and money. Remembering these 5 things will help you get retargeting right:

1) You’ve got to know which ads to credit for conversion results

Imagine a scenario. A user gets served a display ad for your site, which compels him to visit your site. He browses around, but leaves without buying anything. Later, he gets retargeted and converts.

This is a productive conversion cycle, but if you use an ad server [like DoubleClick or Atlas], you won’t understand what happened correctly.

DoubleClick or Atlas will misguidedly give the Site Retargeting ad all the credit for the customer acquisition, ignoring the display ad that generated the customer’s interest in the first place. (Site Retargeting, by definition, isn’t a customer acquisition tool, since the users have already visited the given site.)

As a result, you’ll think that your Site Retargeting ads are killing it while your other ads are failing, and you’ll invest your marketing budget in the wrong places.

2) Using Multiple Site Retargeting Vendors Wastes Money

There are many different vendors that offer Site Retargeting solutions, and it can be tempting to use multiple vendors to achieve scale, as you would with more traditional display techniques.

That’s not a good idea, however. If you hire multiple vendors, they’ll end up competing with each other to serve retargeted ads to the same users who visited your site. This competition will drive up the cost of serving the ad impression and waste media dollars. Stick with one vendor.

3) Stalking your customers is suicidal

Consumers are savvy, and they notice when brands are relentlessly stalking them with display ads across the Web for weeks. Not only can this damage their perception of the brand, but it’s also a waste of money.

Start by examining the buying cycle of your product or service—the amount of time it takes them to make a purchase after first being engaged with an ad—and then set a maximum length of time for retargeting. When in doubt, remember that retargeting a user for more than 7 days is rarely justified.

In addition, set a cap for the number of ads that can be served to a user each day. These measures will ensure that your brand doesn’t go from “cool” to “creepy.”

4) Only retarget visitors to relevant sections of your site

It’s only worth tagging sections of a site for retargeting that demonstrate a user’s intent to convert: shopping cart, product pages, download pages, and so on. If you retarget visitors of every page on your site, you’re going to end up wasting media dollars targeting users who are unlikely to convert, such as those who only visited the careers page or those who have already converted.

5) The biggest name doesn’t mean the biggest reach

Brands, understandably, want a big media reach, but that doesn’t necessarily mean going with a big name. For instance, Google Display Network (GDN) is extensive, but a Search Retargeting company will have access to all the GDN inventory, plus additional inventory equal to or greater than the size of GDN.

Why is a bigger reach important? The more opportunities you have to retarget a user with an impression, the less you have to bid in ad exchanges to ensure that you serve that impression. A bigger media reach means bigger returns.

Bryan Bartlett is the Online Marketing Manager for Chango Inc. Advertising for the real-time world.

Maximizing The Yield Curve

Oct 8, 2012

As a publisher, maximizing your revenue yield should be a constant theme. Every day I hear from publishers and members of my team, “how do I get higher CPMs?” High CPMs(revenue per 1000 impressions) is a concern for all online publishers large and small. I think it is the common denominator for conversations among all publishers and advertisers.

There is an ever present theme in our daily lives when we are ready to engage in exchange, “How much to I have to give in order to get.” In the case of online advertising, how much are advertisers(brands) willing to pay you(the publisher) to smack a banner ad across your content. As a publisher you want maximum dollars flowing to you for each impression you allow on your content. Advertisers want to spend only the minimum amount to see a return(product purchase, brand lift, etc). With a nearly unlimited market of supply(impressions requests by publishers) and a finite dollar amount(brand advertising budgets), the brands(demand) will follow the economic law of diminishing returns and spend less and less for each additional ad impression across your content. As a publisher you have a choice to continue to sell at a lower rate thus maintaing market efficiency or closing the market, ie making your content no longer available to advertisers.

Below is a sample of a publisher’s revenue yield curve. On the right side are highdollar CPMs(y-axis) but a low quantity of impressions served(x-axis). As you move along the curve, the CPMs fall and the quantity of ads served increases. This is not atypical for any publisher that maximizes the revenue across their content.

As a publisher there are several questions that remain in order to maximize revenue and push the belly of the curve up and to the right:

  • How do I slow the rate of diminishing returns?
  • When do I stop selling my advertising on my content?

I analyze these questions every day for the publishers in the Federated Mediaexchange. There are several techniques but the most significant driver to decreasing your revenue delta is a robust ad partner(demand) structure. The demand market is limited but there are solutions available to you. As an exampleI,your site receives 1,000,000 ad requests per month and one advertiser(scenario one) has offered to buy all of your impressions for the month. They agree to pay you $5CPM for the first 100,000 impression then $2.50 for the next 150,000, $1.00 for the next 250,000 and finally $0.50 for the remaining 500,000. Now imagine your savvy sales development skills landed a second advertiser for you the next month. They agree to pay you the same amount as advertiser one keeping in mind that your number of available impressions is constant at 1,000,000 for the month. Can you see what is happening here? You have have to advertisers buying your content for the same rates and the same quantities. Good stuff for sure. Now let’s look at the impact of your additional sale.

  • Revenue is up by 63%
  • Your lowest value ad inventory is now priced at $1.00, not $0.50

This brings me to the topic at hand, by using two partners you improved your revenue yield. Did you reach the maximum? Impossible to tell. You would need to add additional advertisers until you found a diminishing rate of return.

The above scenario is a bit simplified but my point is that as a publisher you should focus on increasing your revenue yield by maximizing the return from each ad partner. High CPMs, like winning streaks are great but eventually all begins to normalize. This leads to the second question of when do you stop selling your content. There is no easy answer for this as each publisher is different. The rule I like to follow is if you don’t receive an incremental or noticeable bump in your revenue then you have likely reached the point on your yield curve where selling more content space is not going to lead deliver noticeable returns.

I hope this helps provide you with a better understanding of the market dynamics that are at play. I will continue to write about this topic as it resonates daily with me. Post comments and I will do what I can to answer.

This article was originally published on Matthew Barrowclough is the Director of our Publisher Management Group and currently oversees publisher revenue growth for our network. You will usually find him grinding away with spreadsheets and surfacing additional revenue yield for each publisher.

How-to: Ad-Chains

Oct 2, 2012

When determining the right advertising strategy for your site, implementing an ad chain can be a great solution to optimize earning potential and achieve 100% fill.  In the following how-to video, Lijit Publisher Development member Grayson Braswell walks you through all the components of an ad chain.

4th Annual Foodbuzz Blogger Festival!

Sep 20, 2012

Calling all food bloggers!  The time has come for the 4th annual Foodbuzz Blogger Festival in San Francisco. On behalf of our friends at Dailybuzz Food, we would like to invite you to a weekend of eating, classes, tastings, demos, and more eating. The weekend will be filled with the best of the best in food and drinks, our favorite bloggers, and good times to be had by all.

The festivities will be taking place October 19-20. You can go ahead and check out the full agenda here. As a Lijit publisher, you’re eligible to attend the festival for just $30. Get your tickets here or email for more information.

This is sure to be a great event. Come hungry, and we look forward to seeing you all there!

Dont be late, your audience is waiting!

Sep 7, 2012

Timing is everything and knowledge is power. Content is not king if there’s no one there to read it. Understanding your audience and the importance of timing are fundamental to blogging success.

As a blogger, you need to know exactly who your audience is and their habits online. Use what you know about your readership to fit into their day-to-day schedule. Think about what they are doing at certain times of the day and how it reflects on their time spent online. Leverage this knowledge to grow your readership and drive more traffic to your site.

Let’s imagine you’re a food blogger and your target audience comprises of moms like Alice, a 38-year-old mom of 3. On a week day morning, Alice sips on coffee and surfs the web for quick and easy dinner recipes in-between dropping her kids off at school and yoga. Too bad you didn’t do your research and submit your blog post “delish din in 10 min” until 2pm in the afternoon. On the fly, Alice took the kids for fast food after their soccer game and you missed out on catching the eye of a huge influencer. Had you known that your blog caters heavily to busy moms with me-time in the morning, you could have timed your post appropriately to reach Alice on time. Instead, you missed out on Alice seeing your blog post, taking action from it, and sharing it with family and friends both off and online.

Proof is in the pudding. Just check out these general stats from our friends over at KISSmetrics in their blogging series: Timing and Blogging.

* Note: the data below is presented in Eastern Time (EST)

While general stats, such as these, are certainly enlightening, it’s also important to do some digging of your own to really zero in on your unique audience. To do this, use your customized analytics to see when readers are most often on your site and use that information to schedule publishing, tweeting, Facebook updates and more. Be sure to consider time zones as well – four hours can be a huge difference in someone’s day.

Bottom line, timing is key. Harness the power of your research and your instinct so that you know when and where your audience is online. Build a strategy with this knowledge in mind and adapt it in a way that aligns with their schedule and routine. Organically, you will ramp up page views, saturate more of the social sphere, and ultimately, become a more successful blogger.

Lijit At the Races!

Aug 28, 2012

At Lijit Networks, we like to live by the phrase work hard, play hard.  This has been a year of milestones for our company, and no efforts have gone unnoticed.

Our most recent accomplishment as a company was demolishing our goal of 750M daily ad calls by clocking in a current average at 900M. Everyone was amped and the adrenaline was running. As a reward for everyone’s awesome work, we took a company field trip to Unser Racing, the local go-kart race track.

Who new we had so many professional racecar drivers! The competition was fierce, we had a blast, and needless to say all who competed were pretty legit!

Surviving A Blogging Break

Aug 23, 2012

David Pennington, a member of our Publisher Development team provides some great insight on maintaining your blog during those moments when you may not have the time to do so. Read on to hear some of his suggestions!

The holidays are coming. Your kids are on vacation. Your in-laws are in town. You’re tired, busy, uninspired. It is beautiful out. There is too much good TV on.

For as many reasons people start their own blogs, there are just as many reasons why they fall off and are never updated again. Starting is easy – you’re full of ideas and fresh content and every comment left on your blog is reason to celebrate. Burnout is inevitable – there are so many demands and not enough time to fill them. From developing your content to arranging your ad zones to developing a bigger audience and even taking the time to optimize for SEO – there is always something you need to be doing with your blog to stay on top.

We all need a break. Not taking one can result in forced-sounding blogs, bland content, and uninspiring entries. Your audience loses confidence in you and your blog falls apart anyway. How can you take a break without losing audience, traffic or ad revenue?

Consult your audience: Whether your loyal readership is just “blogluvr281″ from Illinois or a thousand of the finest mommy bloggers from around the world – the reason you have kept a blog to this point is for those who take the time to read it. Through your blog you’ve likely created a community and made friends. Why not ask them flat out what it is that keeps them coming back to your blog? Create a blog post with a survey in it (a simple, and free, survey can be created through Google Docs). There is little purpose in creating the kind of content that your audience isn’t exactly fond of.

Juices still not flowing? Do you actually need a break? Try these:

Guest Editors: Three things, which are true for every blogger: They write blogs, they read blogs, and they LOVE attention. Just imagine what one of them would say if you handed over the keys to your blog for a week or two? Your audience and readership, in the palm of their hands. Go outside and think “what would my blog look like if blogluvr281 ran it for a few weeks?” You might come back to a wealth of new readers!

Go on Auto-pilot: While there is some stigma towards blogs that auto-post with no one at the wheel, many popular bloggers do it when they aren’t able to dedicate time to their craft for a while. Plan ahead and create a backlog. Come up with your own content, contributions from guest blogs, do a “top 5 posts from the archive” week, or curate content from other quality sources. Your goal is to have your audience not even realize you’ve left.

There are dozens of tools out there that allow you to schedule content, and automatically post to social media, and manage your blogs remotely. For content ideas I use the blogging tools from Zemanta. Most blogging platforms already have scheduling tools built in and most social mediums have API services that are easy to use.

The only thing left to do is ask: What are you going to do with your blogging break?

Check out MediaPass!

Aug 21, 2012

At Lijit, we’re always looking for the best ways for you to monetize your website.  We’ve recently gotten to know an exciting company called MediaPass that gives publishers like you the ability to supplement your advertising revenue by converting some of your free users into paid subscribers. Created by experts in online subscriptions, MediaPass allows you to sell subscriptions to your content without the complexity or resource demands associated with building and managing the process yourself. Thousands of blogs, newspapers, magazines and other content sites use MediaPass as their digital subscription and paywall solution.

MediaPass makes it easy and delivers results:

  • Live in minutes: It’s so easy that MediaPass has been called “AdSense for online subscriptions” by the Nieman Lab at Harvard.
  • Huge ad revenue supplement: MediaPass’ average publisher is enjoying an effective RPM of $130 on their premium subscription pages.
  • No upfront costs: MediaPass doesn’t make any money unless you do, and will quickly send you payments for your subscription revenue.
  • No strings: Try MediaPass for free with no commitments or exclusivity requirements.  There’s no reason to not try MediaPass – that’s why we like them!

Find out why MediaPass is also the only subscription solution officially certified by and the only one they offer to their VIP publishers – just sign up for an account and you can be live testing in minutes.