An Interview with Jon Malach, CEO, NativeAds.com
After a brief description of his unusual professional journey, Jon Malach explains the benefits of native ads in general and of his company’s unique platform in particular. He also shares some tips for advertisers and his vision of advertisers making the user part of their story in the near future.
HostAdvice: Please tell me a little bit about yourself and your background.
I guess I’ve taken a rather unconventional path to where I am today. I was working as a Hip Hop, Dancehall, and Rhythm & Blues DJ in nightclubs and was also a martial arts instructor. I realized that all of these local martial arts studios needed all types of software to successfully run and market their business. This cost a lot of money and took a lot of time for training. So what I did was to develop a mini-ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) system for martial arts studios that I offered as a SaaS (Software as a Service) product. I ultimately had about 4,000 customers.
HostAdvice: Before we talk about your company – NativeAds.com – let’s make sure our readers know what are native ads.
I like to break up the definition of native ads into two parts:
- Before the Click – A native ad fits the form and function of where it is placed. It “looks like it belongs.”
- After the Click – A native ad has standalone value – either educational or entertainment. The actual content offered can be either on-page or off-page.
Native ads offer advantages over both search and display ads. Search ads are only inbound and only relevant to users who are interested in your product right now. We’ve become almost totally blind to display ads. Native ads, however, allow you to cast a larger net and to either pull new users into your funnel (to be followed up with retargeting or email campaigns) or to even convert them immediately.
HostAdvice: OK – what is NativeAds.com?
NativeAds.com is an aggregator and exchange for native advertisers and publishers, offering both self-service and managed advertiser accounts. I co-founded the company with leading industry veteran Charlo Barbosa.
Since NativeAds.com is an aggregator of other native ad networks – including top tier networks such as Outbrain and Yahoo Gemini – in addition to having our own approved publishers, we can offer “big league” opportunities to companies of any size. We are able to get advertiser’s ads placed where they’d want them to be placed, without the advertiser having to pay minimum funding fees on each individual network.
As a network aggregator, we are able to solve many of the issues currently faced by media buyers, including:
- Locating and registering 5-8 different native ad networks.
- Funding each one of them individually.
- Learning how each platform works.
- Dropping a lot of pixels to track conversions.
- Spending a lot of time tracking/analyzing campaign results.
The NativeAds.com platform addresses these issues in the following ways:
- A single interface to access all of the leading native ad networks.
- Additional features, such as day-parting, bulk uploading, and Google Analytics integration.
- A great team of account managers that really cares about your success.
HostAdvice: Did you have to pay a lot to get such a generic and perfect domain name?
At a certain point, Charlo decided to go “all in” on the platform and was able to acquire the NativeAds.com domain. It was not cheap – you could get a really nice car for what we paid.
HostAdvice: As an exchange, you actually have two audiences that you need to attract – publishers and advertisers. Where do you focus more of your recruiting efforts – on advertisers or on publishers? How do you go about attracting them?
That is correct. Right now, we are focusing mainly on acquiring advertisers, especially since we offer a lot of clear added value for them, as I described previously.
In terms of publishers, we get a lot of them organically and don’t really have to do much recruiting. I see two main groups of publishers. You have the rising stars, who are great at researching and will therefore naturally discover us and our reputation. Then you have those who have been involved in internet marketing for many, many years, and will only work with a new network based on a referral from someone else in their “guild.” So they will get to us via referrals and word of mouth.
HostAdvice: How many active publishers do you have today? Where are they mainly located?
Obviously, I cannot give you detailed data regarding our aggregated partner networks, but I can share with you some data on our own publishers.
- 15% – 25% of the ads served by NativeAds.com are served by our own publishers. The rest are served by our partner networks.
- Our publishers serve 700M – 900M page views per day for CPC (Cost Per Click) ads, with similar numbers for CPM (Cost Per 1,000 impressions) ads.
- Since we currently focus on English-speaking countries, most of our publishers are in the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, and Canada, although we do have some publishers in Latin America and India.
HostAdvice: How would you describe your typical publisher?
Most of our publishers are seasoned internet veterans, although we do have some newer players.
HostAdvice: Who are some of your biggest publishers?
Our largest publisher is Diply.com, but we are happy to work with smaller sites such as SpoiledNYC.com. If you are a quality publisher, we want to talk to you.
HostAdvice: How many active advertisers do you have today?
We currently have well over 5,000 advertisers signed up and approved on our platform. On a typical day we will have 3,000 running campaigns targeting all types of opportunities.
We put a lot of effort into our advertiser approval process, analyzing advertisers’ landing pages to make sure that they are legitimate and compliant. I’ll also mention that beyond that, our widgets also take steps to ensure that the ads are FTC (Federal Trade Commission) compliant. Certain fields, such as the title, can be customized, but other fields and elements of the ad are hard-coded by us.
HostAdvice: Native ads are a relatively new form of online advertising. What are some of the new issues or techniques that both experienced publishers and advertisers need to learn for this type of advertising?
Probably the biggest mistake that advertisers make is trying only one combination of creative and content. You really need to test all of the elements involved, including:
- Landing Page Design
One of the things that I decided to do early on, and still continue with today, was to build a bunch of my own web sites and use them to advertise and publish native ads. This is the best way to really understand what works and what doesn’t work. I look at it as a cash flow positive Research and Development department.
HostAdvice: Who do you see as your main competitors?
We are not an OR solution, we are an AND solution. Meaning that you can use us in addition to other platforms. If you are currently advertising successfully on another network – let’s say Outbrain for example – then keep running those campaigns over there! They try running some campaigns on NativeAds.com and see how they perform.
But if you want me to name competitors I will say search and display ad platforms.
HostAdvice: How do you see your offering as different and/or better than theirs?
Simply put: on NativeAds.com you can easily access everybody – not just a single network.
HostAdvice: How many employees do you have today? Where are they located?
We currently have more than 50 employees, most of whom are located in our New York City and Vancouver, Canada offices. We also have employees in the Ukraine, Costa Rica, and India.
HostAdvice: How do you see online advertising in general, and native advertising in particular, evolving in the coming years?
We must continually pay attention to the actions of users. First of all, you can no longer sell online – you can only educate. Also, users today just skim the articles, which are the standard editorial content on web sites today. They actually pay more attention to the comments than to the articles themselves. The same will be true in the future with advertorial content, i.e. native ads.
The big change I see coming in online advertising is interactive ad units. This will be some sort of virtual/augmented reality which will essentially place the user inside the advertiser’s story.
HostAdvice: What are your future plans for NativeAds.com?
Besides taking over the world? [laughs] We are looking to bring on more great traffic partners and to make it easier for mainstream advertisers to buy that traffic. We are also planning to develop mobile products.
HostAdvice: How many hours a day do you normally work? What do you like to do when you are not working?
I probably average working 12 hours a day.
When I am not working, I love to take my two boys (ages 6 and 3) and teach them karate. I am also still involved in martial arts myself.
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