Michael was first introduced to Kontera in 2007 while working with them at SmartMoney. In October, he became the newest member of the Strategic team where his focus will be on developing partnerships with premium publishers.
Michael grew up in northern New Jersey and attended the University of Maryland (he’s the third MD alum to work at Kontera). Outside of the office Michael enjoys traveling, surfing, and spending time with family and friends.
What was your role at SmartMoney?
I first joined SmartMoney as their Director of Digital Advertising on the west coast before moving to New York in 2008 to become their Director of Digital Strategy. In that role I worked as a liaison between ad sales, editorial, and marketing and was responsible for identifying new partnership opportunities with outside vendors.
What was the publication trying to do in terms of monetization and user value? What are the main factors that premium publishers take into account when choosing which monetization strategies to employ?
At SmartMoney’s core, the goal of the site is to be an empowerment tool that enables its users to make intelligent investing decisions. In that same light, SmartMoney looks to attract and partner with advertisers that can deliver additional value to its audience through the products and services they offer. These same principles carried over to the decision-making process when determining which vendors to partner with. Of course, revenue potential was always heavily weighed, but keeping true to user intent was equally as important. On some level there had to be a benefit to the users as well. I would say most publishers fall into that same line of thinking when evaluating which vendors to work with.
Why did you look at In-Text Advertising?
We first considered In-Text Advertising after seeing that more publishers (large and small) began adopting the technology. We also felt that we could have been doing more in terms of working with additional technology providers that could help to further monetize the site – be it with rich media, mobile, behavioral or In-Text advertising. Ultimately, we decided that In-Text advertising was something we could test without dedicating a lot of time and internal resources.
Why did you choose Kontera? What separated Kontera’s In-Text solution from other offerings on the market?
The decision to work with Kontera boiled down to a couple of key solutions that we didn’t find were offered from their competitors. While the revenue was certainly an important motivating factor, we were more so impressed with Kontera’s hybrid unit and its ability to both deliver related content to our users and keep them engaged. When we first evaluated in-text advertising we did not realize it was something that could actually add to the user experience. We also were excited about Kontera’s white label solution as it allowed our sales team to go to market with an additional product to sell to advertisers.
From your experience, what “words of wisdom” or recommendations do you have for publishers as they set out on their journey to grow their websites?
I believe the key to growing and sustaining a successful website lies first and foremost with audience engagement. Does the site keep a constant dialogue going with its users and truly understand their intent? More importantly, do they provide them with a reason to come back to the site on a daily or weekly basis? If the answer is no, I don’t think it’s possible to succeed in the long run. From a monetization standpoint, ad integration that is appropriate and introduced to an audience naturally is not only a good thing for the advertiser and publisher, but something that can end up being useful to the user as well. At the end of the day, relevancy seems to be the key to keeping both users and advertisers happy (and publishers wealthier).
How did Kontera deliver for you over the years?
While I was with SmartMoney, Kontera provided us with a consistent revenue stream that we could count on month-to-month, as well as top-notch customer support. We were always impressed with the proactive nature of Kontera’s Publisher Services Team. Good customer service was not something you could automatically expect from all vendors.
Why did you join Kontera and what is your role with the company?
As a former client and someone who understands and believes in the technology I felt that working at Kontera would be an exciting opportunity for me. I also felt that I would be joining a great team and a company that was committed to success, while also having fun in the process. As a part of the strategic team I am looking forward to establishing additional partnerships within the premium vertical and extending Kontera’s contextual advertising technology to the top properties on the web.