On September 15, 2009, the Rubicon Project announced the acquisition of Others Online, a company I founded in 2006, the 3rd company I've founded, and the 4th startup I've built up.
Others Online was founded on the vision of advertisers being able to reach people, not pages. When I had looked at the revenue growth of Internet advertising revenues from 1997-2007, I noticed two clear growth trends. The first growth trend, from 1997 through 2000 (v1.0), was primarily fueled by content targeting -- Web sites and content were the proxy by which advertisers reached people.
The second growth trend, starting in roughly 2002 (v2.0) was primarily fueled by keyword targeting -- search and context keywords were the proxy by which advertisers reached people.
My belief, and the bet we made with Others Online, was that the evolution of the Web would result in a third growth trend (v3.0) -- the ability for advertisers to reach specific audiences directly, thereby supplanting the use of proxies. Indeed, the industry is seeing tremendous growth in the area of audience targeting. However, the ability to correctly identify specific audiences is dependent on two things:
- Lots of audience attention data, representing what we're devoting our precious attention span to online.
- Technology to aggregate, process, score and summarize the audience attention data.
Audience attention data is everywhere. Every online media company has a fragment of attention data, and we've seen a number of companies form in the data space, each offering valuable data for sale to advertisers. Not just "behavioral" data either -- contextual, demographic, purchase intent, location, search keywords, etc. But that's the problem; no one has a complete picture, merely fragments. The true market growth opportunity can't be realized unless/until there's an aggregation point for audience data, coupled with media inventory, and the mechanism by which advertisements can be targeted based on the multiple facets that define us as people, at scale.
Others Online built a powerful technology platform to aggregate, process, score and summarize audience attention data, with services that helped publishers better understand, segment and target audiences. In our discussions with the Rubicon Project, we quickly realized the power of combining their global reach and scale (45B monthly impressions to 500M users, across 30K Web sites) with our technology to not only provide incremental value to everyone connected to the Rubicon Project platform, but also to fuel the next growth trend in audience-targeted online advertising.
As with all announcements though, there are bound to be misconceptions. Though future press releases will certainly add clarification, I thought I'd at least try to dispel a few potential misconceptions upfront!
- This acquisition does NOT make the Rubicon Project a "data exchange". We do not resell publisher or 3rd party data, nor will we. We provide a platform through which 3rd party data providers are developing an incremental distribution and sales channel.
- The Rubicon Project (still) does NOT sell media directly to advertisers. We remain 100% focused on providing value to premium Web publishers, helping them make more money, protect their brand and save time.
The Others Online team couldn't be more excited to be a part of the Rubicon Project. But mostly, we look forward to adding value to their publisher partners and in doing so, hopefully realize the market opportunity at hand.