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MarTech Interview with Eric Hochberger, CEO at Mediavine

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“I know “data” is a vague-sounding buzzword in our industry, but CEOs should invest in actual data science as early as possible.”

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Hi Eric, please tell us about your journey into advertising and content management. How did you start at Mediavine?

When I co-founded Mediavine in 2004 (not a typo), we were primarily content creators as the publishers of websites like The Hollywood Gossip. Back then, WordPress was not the dominant market Content Management System (CMS) it is today, so we built our own lightweight CMS, learning many of the aspects that power Grow.me all these years later. I began my journey into digital advertising as an engineer trying to solve the problems that plagued outsourced solutions at the time: slow ads, inefficient auctions, and outdated business models. With my engineering background and our unique perspective as publishers, we launched the original programmatic-first, exclusive ad management company that solved these issues for our owned and operated websites, and then for other publishers.

How has COVID-19 crisis affected your business? What unique challenges and opportunities did you meet during this period of uncertainty?

Mediavine was an all-remote company before it was cool – our Co-founders have lived in separate states since the late 2000s – so the work-from-home culture didn’t require any adjustment for our team. Currently we have 86 Mediavine employees living and working in 30 different U.S. states. Our publishers were also in a unique position to stay agile during the initial stages of the pandemic. While many were at the mercy of changing user trends (like reduced travel), others saw increases in searches for recipes, crafts, remote activities and more. Mediavine ad ops and engineers worked tirelessly on unique ways to mitigate decreased earnings during the pandemic with new optimizations to our ad stack.

Tell us about your COVID-19 technology stack. What technologies / tools do you currently use for Marketing, Sales and Communications?

Like many other companies during COVID-19, Mediavine has relied on the usual suspects – technologies like Slack, Zoom and Google Meet – to stay in contact with both our employees and partners.

Could you tell us about your recent partnership with LiveRamp? What is the technology engine driving “Grow.me”?

At its core, Grow.me is a solution for helping independent publishers generate first-party data. Grow.me will allow publishers to offer value to their readers in exchange for consenting to personalized ads. This value exchange must be the linchpin of all privacy-first solutions, in my view. Thanks to our partnership with LiveRamp, we’re able to share this first-party data securely and anonymously with brands. This isn’t a distant pipe dream, but an established, proven solution, allowing the industry to transact on this data today.

How can advertisers and publishers benefit from LiveRamp ATS and Grow.me?

In a changing privacy landscape, brands are increasingly looking for ways to reach their audience. By integrating with LiveRamp ATS, Grow.me will provide advertisers with people-based targeting in a sustainable way, even in the cookie-less future. Publishers adopting Grow.me can begin the process of obtaining first-party data well in advance of Chrome’s changes, and improve monetization of iOS traffic starting today

Influencer marketing is suddenly a very powerful Martech specialization. What do you think about influencer content pushing up the brand value of any business?

Our mission at Mediavine is helping content creators build sustainable businesses and as of October 2020, we are working with more than 7500 influencers to provide them with full service ad management. All of that is to say, we are full believers in the power of the influencer. From our perspective, it only makes sense that consumers are far more likely to trust recommendations that come from other individuals over recommendations that come directly from brands. It’s a testament to the trust that influencers have spent years building with their audiences that they’re able to influence purchasing decisions and increase the visibility and value of the brands they love. We have a full department at Mediavine dedicated to influencer marketing and they have been building custom campaigns for many years, hand-selecting influencers to meet a brand’s unique needs and goals.

Hear it from the pro: A DIY tip for modern CEO looking to diversify to Content and Publishing: Which technologies should the CEO particularly invest in at the beginning of this journey?

I know “data” is a vague-sounding buzzword in our industry, but CEOs should invest in actual data science as early as possible. It’s not just the collection of data, but knowing how to actually use it to make informed decisions that’s so important. Powerful reporting software, analytics and testing frameworks have been instrumental in Mediavine’s rapid growth.

As a CEO, what are your thoughts on the role of AI and ML in content marketing?

Data is extremely powerful, but again, it’s all about the actions you take based upon it. I know AI and machine learning have negative connotations in today’s media landscape, but at their core are computers making decisions based on data. It’s no different than humans making decisions from spreadsheets, except that it’s more efficient and scalable. We’re excited that Grow.me will rely on AI and ML to deliver the best content recommendations, ultimately leading to a better user experience across the web.

A piece of advice for all young Marketing and Sales professionals working in publishing industry:

Focus on what you do best. While that seems like generic career advice, it’s more important than ever in the publishing business. A rapidly evolving web, social media platforms, and privacy changes make for an increasingly complex ecosystem. No one person can do it all, let alone do it all well. Find your strengths and outsource the rest.

Thank you, Eric! That was fun and hope to see you back on MarTech Series soon.

Eric Hochberger co-founded Mediavine in 2004 and leads its technological and advertising initiatives. He holds a B.S.E. in Computer Engineering from the University of Michigan and lives in Lighthouse Point, Fla., with his wife, daughters and too many dogs.

Mediavine is a full-service ad management and technology company focused on maximizing revenue for publisher partners, optimizing performance for advertising partners and engineering WordPress products with user experience top-of-mind. It is an award-winning Google Certified Publishing Partner, Trustworthy Accountability Group (TAG), Ads.txt and GDPR compliant, and is also a member of the Coalition for Better Ads and Prebid.org. Mediavine exclusively represents and monetizes more than 7,500 publisher partner websites in addition to its owned and operated properties.

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