The Future of Displays Ads with Eric Hochberger, Mediavine Co-founder

Niche Pursuits Eric Hockberger 1

Today’s guest on the Niche Pursuits podcast is Eric Hochberger, one of the co-founders of the ad-management company — Mediavine. 

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.

The topic of conversation during the chat is the worrying future of the Ad Revenue industry for content creators and Ad sellers.

By the end of 2023, Google will follow Safari and Firefox by banning third-party cookies.

No third-party cookies would result in a significant drop in income for almost all content creators who used ads as a monetization method.

Eric shares some choking and worrying revenue numbers regarding an estimated revenue-loss test carried out by the guys at Mediavine and what they are doing to combat it.

“It’s not all doom and gloom, but we need to be aware of the changes” is one of the stand-out statements during the interview.

We discuss the strategies Mediavine has in place and the new tools and ideas to make the transition as smooth as possible.

Some of the topics we discuss are:

  • Why third-party cookies are going away
  • Google led initiative (the privacy sandbox) and why it’s important for adverts and content creators
  • The future of websites regarding privacy data and the way we build our websites
  • Mediavine’s Grow Tool’ and how it can help website owners and Ad sellers
  • Why authentic traffic is the way forward
  • First-party and authentic data
  • How to monetize moving forward
  • Plus much more

Content creators and Ad sellers have challenges ahead, and Eric hits them head-on in this information-packed podcast episode.

Resources and Links Mentioned In The Podcast:

Watch the full interview:

Read the full Transcription:

Jared: Welcome to the niche pursuits podcast. And today we have the co-founder and CEO of media vine, Eric Hochberger.

Eric: Thank you for having me.

Jared: Yeah. Yeah. Really excited about, uh, this, uh, this interview today, frankly, I’ve been looking forward to this one for awhile. Why don’t before we kind of dive into the meat and potatoes of today and really where we’re going.

Why don’t you tell us about media vine? Um, and give us a little backstory. I mean, you’re one of the co-founders. I, I, a lot of people here, entrepreneurs that would love to hear your backstory. Yeah.

Eric: Yeah. No, absolutely. So I’ll try to give the most, a bridge backstory I can, because it is a, we’ve been around since 2004.

You can believe that. So I’ll try to summarize, I guess, how it’s 17 years.

Jared: Wow. Congratulations. Yeah. Thank

Eric: you. Yeah. So we started off actually as an SEO for hire company. That was my background at SEO. We had a few clients, uh, we learned what a lot of people learn when you work with clients is that, um, you know, they don’t always listen to your advice.

And so it made it very tough to deal with. Uh, or at least they would listen to your advice and then kind of stop after a certain point. So we decided to try it on her own. We did it with the Hollywood gossip and it turns out, uh, three dudes, you know, nothing about celebrity gossip could still build one of the largest entertainment websites, just using SEO at the time.

Uh, that was before all the social media kind of traffic sources that we all have to do. So that is actually where we got started with media. Vine was the Hollywood gossip as a publisher first, uh, we would use the ad solutions that were available at the time. Uh, this was actually, I think, even predated a lot of the ad sense or Google offering.

So we would use a blog ads and all of these names, you probably have never heard of, you got to a point companies that are probably no longer business. Uh, and then one day, uh, we noticed that our income drops was dropping in. Frantically and we couldn’t support ourselves. So I researched what it would be like to do our ads ourselves.

And then overnight, when a computer engineer looks at how programmatic ads should be done, uh, we completely changed the game for ourselves, uh, quadrupled our revenue overnight. And there were no real options like media vine at the time, uh, for our ad management. Uh, and so we quickly grew to become an ad management company while we’re still a publisher.

Uh, first, uh, we are also an ad management company, so that’s how I joined everything. And the main difference I would say. Media vine and, and kind of our secret sauce of what makes media minds so unique, uh, is really that programmatic first approach that we took since the get go. So we decided to solve everything with technology.

Again, I’m a computer engineer. Uh, so compare us to something that can add sense of offering. Uh, and when media vine does is we introduce competition from a lot of different advertisers and what’s called the open marketplace. So we bring in a ton of people that compete for every ad spot on your site, rather than it just.

Google or someone you may work with a condition that we work directly with a ton of advertisers, just due to the size of media vine, how we have great relationships with some of the top advertisers in exchanges. So media vine brings you a lot of unique demand that you would not be able to get on your own and optimizes the demand that’s out there in the open market.

Jared: So that was going to be, that was gonna be where I was gonna, what I was gonna ask next. I mean, I think a lot of people are going to be familiar with media vine. They’re going to understand the nature of what, what you do with it. You, you, you work with media vine to serve the ads, um, on your content and then you get paid.

And typically speaking, we’re talking in terms of RPMs, which is a revenue per million. In reality, it’s how much money you get paid per thousand visitors. And traditionally, if we look back 10 years kind of like what you alluded to, no one in, in this industry really looked to ads as a primary source of income, right?

Like it just, it paid so little per thousand visitors. Now with, with what you guys are doing. It’s it’s pain so much that people are building sites with exclusively ad revenue in mind. Right. Um, and so what you’re saying is it’s based on this program at programmic, um, that my saying that right, programmic advertising programmatic, programmatic advertising.

Is this happening in real time or is it something where you guys look at the nature of the content with our website? And then, and then bid it, bid it out a kind of third party. How does that, how does that happen?

Eric: Yeah, so this is actually real time. I think a lot of people like to compare it to the stock exchange.

So every time you have an ad impression on your site, we send that out to, I think we work with something like 25 to 30 different partners or 30 different exchanges that then work with a whole bunch of advertisers, millions of advertisers, and everyone is bidding on that one spot in real time. Is that.

Fractions of a second, a hundred, 200 milliseconds. Uh, so we’re not necessarily using the content of your site at media vine though. We are, when it comes to what are called a private marketplace deal or a deal where we’re selling direct to an advertiser, but for the most part, it’s the open marketplace.

That’s what wins a majority of ad impressions and the open marketplace. It’s up to the average. They’re given the URL. A lot of them will have knowledge about the URL, especially someone like Google is one of our main buyers. They’ll do a ton of contextual when it’s called it, uh, research about your page.

They store all that. Google’s pretty good at that. Right. Uh, and so they’re going to bid based upon the content, but a ton of them are just bidding based upon the user. And that’s where third-party cookies, which is going to be obviously a lot of our topic today come into account. So they that’s how an advertiser knows about a user and is bidding on the individual user.

And that’s actually the most. I kind of advertising bought

Jared: today. Let me ask you one more question on that. And then we’ll, we’ll dive into the topic really we’re talking about, which is kind of the future, the third party cookies and what what’s happening with them. Um, in our space, a lot of people talk about different niches.

In other words, like the home improvement niche, the, um, the fashion niche, the, the technology niche, and then they talk about the types of ad revenue or RPMs that are associated with that niche. Is that the right way to look at it? Is it really. Um, and you touched on a little bit already, but I guess I’m diving a little deeper.

Is it as much based on the type of content you have or is it more about the type of user that you’re attracting and maybe they’re all related anyways,

Eric: right, exactly. I wouldn’t say it’s most of that latter point, like they’re all kind of intertwined, right? If you’re going to write a food blog, you’re going to attract probably a different audience than a home improvement blog or any of these various niches.

So it’s really going to depend on. The users that come to your site. That’s not to say that the type of site doesn’t also have an influence as well. So there might be certain sites like the Hollywood gossip, arts entertainment or news, uh, generally are a little bit harder to sell because there’s a lot of brand safety issues.

So a lot of advertisers will kind of stay away from, uh, some of those topics versus food or home improvement, which might be a little bit safer than advertisements advertisers, eyes. So your content can help or hurt. Uh, but I would say majority of it’s going to be based on the audience that browsers.

Jared: Awesome. Okay, cool. Well, let’s talk about third party cookies and what they are. I mean, if you’ve been, if you’re someone who’s maybe, you know, makes a significant income off of advertising through a media vine type platform, you probably know a lot about this topic that things are changing. It’s related to privacy.

Uh, obviously the future of ads is going to be changing. We’re going to be diving into that. What let’s start by talking about third-party cookies, why they matter and, and you know, and anything else that’s important for us to know.

Eric: Yeah. I mean, it’s tough to dive too much into a third party cookie without giving like a specific definition of them.

So I’m going to try my best. So a third-party cookie is what powers I like to say Facebook comments. So when you show up on a website and you’re automatically logged into Facebook when you’re on a different website. So when you go to the Hollywood gossip, how do we identify who you were or show you as logged into Facebook or discuss for our comments down below?

That’s the magic of third party cookies. Third party cookies basically allow you to talk to a different site than you’re on. When you get rid of third-party cookies, uh, you won’t be able to have that concept of I’m logged into Facebook. As I comment on your page, I have to re log in to Facebook in order to comment on every single different site.

Cause third-party cookies are what power that. Uh, third party cookies, also power. The ability for advertisements, uh, to be able to, or advertisers to be able to learn about you, because same concept. Again, they can go across multiple pages. So if a browser went to the Hollywood gossip and then went to food fanatic, an advertiser could tell that the same person using a third-party cookie, when third-party cookies go away, everyone is a new user to that advertiser.

They will only know that user on the Hollywood gossip, or they will only know that user on. They can’t link them anymore. And that kind of destroys a lot of that value because nobody can learn about audiences or build those audience profiles.

Jared: So at its core, why are these going on?

Eric: Yeah. I mean, you touched on it before.

It’s basically privacy concerns. I think a lot of it happened with obviously everything that happened with Facebook or now Metta when they were in the news. Uh, it really brought a lot of attention, I think, to users about how much of their data was being shared, uh, in non transparently. Concerned a lot of users across the globe.

Uh, we see what happened with GDPR and the EU, uh, CCPA here in, uh, or in the states and California. And we have other states that are doing the same thing. So this is just kind of a global movement. We’re seeing where users are concerning themselves more with their data or their. Um, so this is just a natural evolution.

So safari or apple have been big staunch supporters of privacy. They actually block third party cookies and any cross site, traffic years and years ago. So your safari traffic already has no third party cookies Firefox actually joined, joined, and did, and did the same. Uh, and then you have a lot of new browsers that are coming up that all have that same kind of promise.

They’re not launching with third party cookies. So slowly Chrome is looking like the only browser that has. Third-party cookies or these tracking capabilities. So what’s going to happen to users. Are they gonna continue to use Chrome if that’s known as the browser where you get tracked or are they gonna all start moving to Safaria?

So Chrome is by far and away the best browser in terms of technology, but it’s not going to matter because users are going to migrate away from it. If they don’t feel their data is secure. So this is just a natural thing that Google has to do to keep up with the changing demands of users.

Jared: So in essence, Well, how does this boil down for content creators?

What effect does it have on them? What’s what’s the impact going to be? If, if nothing else has done with, with the way that third-party cookies are, are going to.

Eric: Right. I mean, I want to preface it with the exact same things will be done. So what I’m about to describe will not actually happen exactly this way, because there will be mitigation efforts done by companies like media, vine, the industry, as a whole.

There’s a lot of different things happening. Uh, but the prediction right now is that revenue will drop by upwards of 60% in an hour test, we saw closer to 70% drops when you don’t have a third party. Present on a user. So if you only have those first party cookies and again, no fixes in place for this, you would see a 60 to 70% drop.

Uh, and again, important to note, this is only on Chrome because safari it’s already gone. So for a lot of publishers that have us centric, uh, audiences, they might see upwards of 50% of their traffic is on iOS device. It might not even have third-party cookies already. So your, your results will vary. You won’t necessarily even drop 60 to 70.

Um, so maybe closer to 30% for some of our publishers, but again, that’s no efforts are made to mitigate those

Jared: losses. Okay. That’s a good point. It’s interesting. I have no idea on, on my website, how many of my users come from safari versus Chrome versus Firefox versus duck, duck go versus whatever the flavor of the week is.

Right. But that’s it, regardless, those are some alarming numbers, you know, I think that that’s, uh, that’s, that’ll get everyone’s attention. So, okay. Let’s, let’s obviously you guys are doing something about this. Um, and, uh, and you know, I don’t want to bury the lead here, but we got rid of the worst case scenario, I guess, before we move on from that, when are these changes coming?

When are the third-party cookie changes coming on the.

Eric: I mean, so that’s tough to say because Google, I mean, they have a timeline right now and anyone can go and look at it. I believe it’s end of 20, 23 is when they’re being phased out. But that timeline is flexible. I think it’s one of the ways that Google is looking at it because they do want to make sure the content creators can continue.

Power the web. So they want to make sure the solutions are all in place. So assuming that timeline hits it’s end of 2023, it was originally going to be end of 2021. Uh, but then they realized the solutions were not even close. And so they had to delay things. Uh, I think this one’s going to be a closer, uh, to actual reality in 2023.

Uh, but it’s tough to know a definitive timeline, but that’s what we’re going off of that the current group.

Jared: Okay. So without any technological advancements that anything, you know, forthcoming, what are the current, uh, what are the current possibilities for replacing third-party?

Eric: So first I’m going to go with the Google led initiatives, which is known as the privacy sandbox.

So it’s, it’s a bigger part of the web. It’s a W3C. It’s not just Google, but Google is certainly the ones leading the way on this. And a lot of that is because Chrome is one of the few browsers that actually wants to get rid of third-party cookies, but still sell it for advertisements. And that’s cause that’s where a majority of Google’s money comes from versus someone like apple, who most of their money comes from.

You know, hardware or subscriptions or things that they don’t have to worry about advertisements. So, so far he has no problem killing third-party cookies, not necessarily thinking what is the impact of this to content creators. Google doesn’t have that luxury because it doesn’t just impact content creators.

It would hurt their bottom line. So Google is trying to come up with the fixes and they’re trying to do it with the industry at large. So hopefully companies like apple, Microsoft. Uh, everyone else that owns a browser will be able to use an adopt the same standards. And those standards are known as the privacy sandbox.

And those are basically giving limited kind of tracking abilities to advertisers. Uh, certainly not in the way that they had it with third-party cookies, uh, but giving them more privacy centric, ways of being able to reach their audiences. And so privacy sandbox is just a rethinking of what third party.

Could have been. Uh, and so it’s still the idea. We can run everything in the open auction. We can continue to operate as status quo. We’ll make a little bit less money because we won’t have that same level of data or granularity that advertisers had in the past. So that’s the privacy sandbox.

Jared: Okay. And. If nothing were to change, what type of impact and by nothing were to change.

I mean, if there were no other developments or improvements or anything else brought to light, like what type of impact on revenue would something like that happen, uh, have on, on, on revenue is that same media vine would adopt or is that, is that the right way to even ask that?

Eric: Yeah, so I think a ton of the privacy sandbox is just going to be.

Everyone gets adopted into. So they’re trying to create standards that whether you’re running AdSense or media vine, ad management, uh, privacy sandbox stuff is going to be pretty easy to implement. That’s the idea and definitely media fine. We’ll take care of that for our publishers. It’s not a thing they’re going to have to worry about.

Uh, initial testing looked pretty decent. According to Google, when they were initially testing, what’s known as. Uh, everything in the privacy sandbox has bird acronyms. Don’t ask why. Perfect. So flock originally when they were testing it, they saw, uh, only about a 5% drop. So 95% as close as third-party cookies.

However that was met with, uh, privacy advocates still didn’t love the way that block was looking. So there’s a new version of flock coming. So we don’t have the updated stats of what things are going to look like yet until Google search releasing more of that. But I’m hoping, uh, you know, you might only see.

Let’s say a 10 or 20% drop, maybe. Uh, we’re hoping they’re still going to come up with things that will give advertisers a little. A lot of the targeting, not the exact same level of targeting, but again, being privacy

Jared: center. See, I liked what you did there because the 10 to 20% drop doesn’t feel so bad.

When five to 10 minutes ago, we said 60 to 70. So I like how you led with that, because that doesn’t feel too bad to me right now coming in. But if he’d started with that, I probably would have been bummed. So I was researching for, uh, today, do a little bit of homework. I was reading a lot. You guys have talked about authenticated traffic.

Can you talk a little bit about authenticated traffic and how it’s going to be part of the solution going forward?

Eric: Yeah. So you have things like authenticated traffic, which is the idea of a user logs into your website. Uh, that’s just a fancy way of saying, you know, who this user is, you’ve verified. It’s that user, they logged in.

They create an account, you know, who they are. Um, and then in a privacy safe way, you can then say, not necessarily say, this is Jared on my way. But I know that this is X anonymous user that may be tied to Jared and then on their other end, uh, they can also then target if they seen you before. Uh, and so it’s tough to describe it without it sounding a little bit creepy.

Uh, but the idea is it’s much better than third-party cookies are today. And most importantly, it has user consent because the user logged into that website, they’re aware or should be made aware at that time, uh, that they’re going to be. Uh, tracked on that website. And so they don’t want that experience.

They can log it out. So the way that we’ll typically phrase that is you’re logging in to get personalized ads versus unpersonalized or non-personalized ads. So it becomes the user’s choice at that point. And that traffic is actually. Uh, just a ton more, uh, even today, when we see a user log into a website, uh, we see anywhere between 70 to like a hundred and something percent increase and what that user will make you, and that’s today with third party cookies.

Uh, and so even on Chrome, if you’ve got a user to log in, they’re worth more and that’s just because it is a more exact way of knowing. This user logged in versus third-party cookies, which I, the end of the day, advertisers are kind of best guessing about you. So I thought the case traffic will be the cream of the crop, the most valuable traffic, uh, today and in the future, it’s going to be even more so when they continue to lose their ability to kind of target their advertisements.


Jared: interesting. That almost makes you kind of rethink the way that you approach delivering content on your site to some degree.

Eric: Absolutely. And you’re seeing this a lot from a lot of the news sites that you’re going to now probably have noticed an increase in what are called a free walls. So historically we were paywalls that you had to pay.

Now. They just want you to log in, log in to get five free articles. Now you have to create an account. And a lot of that is because they want that authentic, get a traffic. They want to start building up this user base.

Jared: That’s interesting. Okay. And so would we be liking that to basically first party?

Eric: Uh, so that’s what, uh, would call first party relationships or first party data.

And that’s a little bit of a misnomer because, uh, in this case, if it’s authenticated traffic, it’s, everyone can bring their own data. It’s not just your data at that point or not just first party data. And I can talk a little bit more about first party data in a second, but I tend to get traffic. Again, means if I’ve seen you as a user and an advertiser seen you as a user, we can both match that in a privacy safe way with authenticated.

Uh, when it comes to something like first party data that would mean media vine, or you as a publisher are actually saying, I know this user is 18 to 34 and a male who’s interested in cars. Would you like to buy this particular user? So you’re trusting in my data or the first party data and not the advertisers data.

So authenticated traffic is a form of getting advertisers back, the data that they love, which is their own data, which they trust the most. And then you also have first party data, which is something that you can collect as a publisher or media. I can help you collect that large, uh, where you Mo necessarily even need a user to log in.

Cause there’s other ways obviously to collect.

Jared: Uh, let’s talk about those ways. I’m curious to hear, I mean, I would be curious to hear you talk about it maybe later. Maybe we come back to that. Um, if you’re really actually, you know, suggesting that in the future as content creators, we should look to create a log-in type experience or.

You alluded to earlier technology from companies like a media vine, bigger companies that can come together and come up with solutions that maybe alleviate that, uh, that burden on a publisher. So take that whichever way you want to go. I mean, is that something we’re going to need to do or are there going to be solutions maybe, or you guys working on solutions that make that easier and easier burden on content?

Eric: Yeah. So I think publishers can certainly go themselves. Uh, but I think you’re going to start to see is it becomes a scale issue. One of the reasons why media buying is so successful is because we’ve combined now 8,500 publishers. So we go to reach a top advertiser in the world who previously wouldn’t have worked with probably any of our individual 8,500 publishers on their own.

Even the Hollywood gossip, which is massive, 30 to 60 million pages. Nothing to one of these large advertisers they want to work with what are known as the comm store, top 100 or the biggest name brands, uh, whether they’re Meredith or hers, her names, you might not know, but you would definitely know the properties they own.

That’s your New York times maybe a better example. They want to use, go to a household name that they know. And that’s really what media vine has solved for. Right. We’re able to take smaller publishers, combine them into one offering. So that combined we’re actually bigger than I would say, Pinterest or Spotify, or a lot of these people.

When you go to look at the comScore top 100, that’s the power of all of us together. And we’re looking at first party data is the same way. It would be tough to go to an advertiser. Every one of the 8,500. Do our own first party data in our own way. And then we come to them and say, you should trust all 8,500 people and how we’re generating the first party data.

Trust me. They’re cool. And advertisers not going to go for that. So by going with a partner like media vine in a tool that we’re building called grow, we can build first party data. On behalf of all of our publishers. And now it’s a trusted source of data because we can explain to an advertiser, this is how grow is collecting the data.

Uh, this is where it came from the way we were able to figure it out that this user is a male, 18 to 34 is because they told us, uh, through a survey or maybe the way we found out there were a car enthusiasts is cause they visited three car blogs across media. Uh, there’s going to be different ways in which everyone establishes their first party data.

But as long as you’re represented in kind of this. Uh, it’ll be a lot easier to be able to convince the advertiser. You should trust this. This is an audience segment you should buy against and see if it works

Jared: fascinating. Okay. That makes sense. So basically in essence, a user is going to join a pool of 8,500 website and content creators worth of, of users, and then tick up together collectively first party data in some way, shape or form, we’ll get, we’ll get passed through to the, uh, to the African.

Eric: Exactly. So you’re going to look at, I mean, in the industry without trying to drop too many acronyms, you have what are called a DMP or a data data management platform. And so essence media vine becomes your data management platform and that is your sending all of the data here. And then it connects it with the advertisers so that they can buy.

These audience segments. Uh, so this is pretty commonly done in programmatic advertising today. Uh, but again, most advertisers are just happy to use their own data, rather than having to trust in a publisher’s data because historically their data has worked with third-party cookies. Uh, and whoever sold them, their data, that’s who they happen to trust.

Uh, but in the future, they’re going to have to look to first party data because it’s the only thing that survives when there’s no third party cookies.

Jared: So it makes sense from an advertiser standpoint, what about from a user standpoint? What type of buy-in do they need to have, or are they going to have to have, and then what is the, you know, potential uptake you guys think it could be coming from.

Eric: Um, so you mean from the reader’s

Jared: perspective? Yeah. Sorry. I should have clarified from a visitor to my website or to one of the 8,500 publishers website.

Eric: So remember when third-party cookies are God, there is no way. Even if a user is logged in to grow on a different website and then they come to yours, they have to re log in.

That’s an important distinction when third-party cookies go away. So if you want logged in users, you are going to have to create reasons. For those readers to want to log in what is the value exchange you’re giving to that reader to encourage them to log in. So that would be the authenticated traffic model that we talked about before.

So maybe you’re offering them exclusive content. Maybe you put up that same free Wallace and then the larger news sites. If you have content that is, you know, enough value to the reader that they’re going to be willing to log in, that is going to be a bit of a stretch to get a majority of your readers to do.

That’s what I felt like.

Jared: I,

Eric: yeah. We have done tests on even the Hollywood gossip and the numbers will scare you. What a low percentage of people are willing to give you that email address for content like the Hollywood gossip, uh, maybe your sites will do better. Uh, and I hope so because they did not do volunteer and shake, but when it comes to first party data, we don’t need the user to fully log in because again, we’re generating the information about them.

So instead thinking of that more as like a GDPR where they have to agreed to have. Uh, tracked across multiple sites. And if they’re okay with that and what we’re calling more of a anonymous type way of browsing our site. So not actually logging in as yourself. Consenting to allow personalized ads, the cross between these sites.

And as long as we’re up front with the users, this time around, we showed them the information. We have show what we’re sharing, and it’s all been given to us by the reader. Uh, this time it can be a lot safer for. So the reader could log into, let’s say, uh, grow and they could see, oh, you put me into the following different interests.

I’m certainly not in the market to buy a car. I live in New York city and I’ll never drive a car. I could remove myself. You incorrectly put me there. Or why did you possibly think, you know, I’m a male, 18 to 34, I’m a woman who’s 46 years old, whatever it may be, you’re going to know this data and you can decide what you’re comfortable sharing.

And you can say, I don’t want to share. Age at all. Uh, why are you asking about my age? Um, and so now it’s going to become the reader’s control as opposed to it being previously, these kind of, uh, black boxes that the advertisers are using. That

Jared: makes a lot of sense. And I think that is in the name of the transparency card that this, this kinda kind of bore this, uh, from the beginning.

Um, you know, is it. Is it w what is the actual use case of that look like? So, um, you know, you, you referenced GDPR, which we’ve all kind of become familiar with what that could look like. Right. It’s like a pop-up from the bottom, and it talks about the way cookies are. What does a, an experience through grow, which is, which is what you just referenced.

What does that look like in brass tacks for you? Or reader, sorry, I keep saying user but

Eric: reader. I just like to use reader and publisher. Otherwise I’ll get confused. No, I appreciate

Jared: it. Yeah. It’s good to stay consistent.

Eric: I have to do it all the time with our own internal meetings and talking to partners or anyone, or throws me off.

So when we talk about our reader, what it’s going to look like, what it looks like today is going to look very different from two years, because remember, this is. This is a journey for all readers and a journey for all websites. Everybody is making changes over the next two years. So we’re testing a ton of stuff on grow.

Um, if you are curious, I dunno, you could probably visit the Hollywood gossip. If you’re in the right hours, when we’re testing something, you might see one of these weird popups and be like, wow, okay. I don’t want that on my side. Or you might see another one. I’d be like, this looks great. And so that’s what we’re testing these different, uh, experiences for readers.

Do you want it to be a very aggressive where they can’t read any of the article and you just snap them in front of them, which is typically what we do for a GDPR. When you arrive on a site leader, Uh, readers are used to that. You go anyone EDU, you’re going to get invited with something that says you have to go.

And so did it protect their privacy? Not entirely sure, because I’m going to guess a majority of people at this point, don’t even read those things just to, except please let me get to my content, uh, that experience you couldn’t really do in the U S today, you would upset your readers. They would hit the back button because they’re not used to that experience.

So the beginning of this journey, I think they’re going to be a lot less aggressive, right? When we first start launching these features in the grow, they’re going to look more like a kind of that little banner at the bottom, uh, asking, you know, Uh, we’re not going to get aggressive at the beginning because you can’t, because that’s not what readers are expecting.

I think at the end of the two year journey, uh, things might look a little bit different, but it’s very tough for.

Jared: So why, why, why, why worry about this? Now, if it’s getting kicked down the road, you know, is this something that, um, is this something as a publisher where that we should be concerned about? Um, is it something that is on the chopping block or could change so significantly, um, from policy or from all the different testing?

I’m just curious how, how pertinent this topic is for a publisher, right?

Eric: Yeah, no, I actually think it’s super important. Thank you for asking that question, because I think a lot of publishers, when they hear that this got delayed two years are like, okay, that’s a problem for future name. I don’t have to deal with this today, but it’s not, that’s not really how it works.


Jared: you’re kind of reading my mind there. I got enough problems right now with two years from now. My goodness. But yeah.

Eric: No. If we wait for what we call the 11th hour, when we were doing this with GDPR, and that necessarily asked the industry as a whole didn’t respond to GDPR until the 11th hour media vine literally was changing its CMP that we had built to standards, uh, constantly as the standards were changing because the industry was figuring it out at the last second.

Uh, and so we were ready, but, uh, this model is going to be a little bit different because this isn’t just a matter of slapping up a little. Uh, personally, like, do you want personalized ads? What’s your really trying to do is grow your relationship with your readers. And that takes time. At this point. You really still want that authenticated traffic.

You want as many users to log in. You want users to start to know, and we can talk about growing a little bit, but no, that little grow log-in and feel safe. When growth shows up on your. Knowing that it’s privacy centric, knowing that this is only going to improve their experience, not make it worse. And we can’t do that overnight, right?

That is a, that is a learning curve for your readers and they are your readers. They’re not media mind readers. They’re not grown readers, they’re your readers. And so we have to get them to learn, grow on your site. Uh, so it takes time and you’d much rather start that journey now and work with us and your readers.

And so in two years, when this happens, it’s not a steep drop. Uh, it’s going to be, if anything, probably an increase for you. And it’s important to note authenticate users, again, are worth more today. And as we’re building up more of this first party data and trust and advertisers that traffic’s going to be worth more.

Today, even while we have third-party cookies. So running grow can make you more money now, but most importantly, it’s going to allow you to build up that relationship so that in two years, you’re hopefully making more money as a result of these changes. Not less.

Jared: Yeah. Yeah. Talk, talk about grow. I mean, let’s, let’s get into.

Uh, I, I have, uh, I’m a media vine user myself, so I’ve heard it tossed around and talked about obviously, but, um, we’ve been talking about it as the solution here. Go into some depth on grow and how you guys are connected.

Eric: Yeah. What is the solution? What’s talked about it for a little bit. Thank you. Um, grow is grows a lot of things.

So that’s one of the issues why it gets a little complex. So grow is basically a user engagement framework, I think is the term we use for the idea is every site is different. Everyone’s readers are different. So we want to do is provide tools to our publishers, to be able to do those value exchanges we were talking about before.

How do you get a reader to log into your. And again, every site is different. So grow is really going to be a toolkit and you’re going to pick which parts of grow you want to use, and it’s going to natively integrate into your site and really cool ways. Uh, so the main one that publishers, I think right now are raving about is spotlight subscribe or the subscribe features.

And that is something that replace what you may use for growing your news. So instead of running a newsletter, opt in and paying a lot of money for it as a media vine publisher, you get grow for free. Uh, but one of the things that subscribed does is it doesn’t just help you grow your newsletter. It’s helping you encourage users to log in because after they sign up for your newsletter, they gave us their email address.

It’s a perfect chance to help them create the rest of their. So you can think of a subscriber as kind of a teaser for helping people grow, uh, build, grow accounts. So really good way to start using growth today and get a lot of value out of it. A ton of our publishers are reporting unbelievable conversions off of spotlights of Stripe.

And it does not use a popup. I’m not sure how you feel about pop-ups. I’m not a fan. Uh, so it allows you to grow your subscription base without having to again, result resort to those kinds of, uh, horrible user experiences.

Jared: Yeah. Well, it hadn’t does that tie with, like, let’s say, uh, one of my sites, for example, we can just use it as the example.

I am, uh, trying to get people onto a newsletter onto an email list. How does can grow, integrate into that? So it’s a, it’s a seamless experience or how does that, how does that.

Eric: Yeah, so you can take down a lot of your existing, uh, email opt-ins and you can switch them over, uh, to grow. And so grow will. I mean, they look beautiful.

I mean, you should try it out and turn on your site. You can customize them putting your own images, your own texts, uh, and then after they complete that, uh, you can tie in with Zapier to hook into whatever email provider ESP you have. Uh, so it all becomes exactly the same as what you might’ve gotten. I’m not going to mention names, but other opt-in solutions.

Uh, but again, for media publishers grow is going to be free. And part of that is because it’s helping us build up again, this first party data so that we can all do better together. So that’s why we’re giving away for

Jared: free. Wow. And so if I am a part of grow, I’m basically tapping into all these other publishers and, uh, the type of data that can be shared across those publishers, assuming the opt-in and assuming that the subscriber takes.

Eric: Yeah, no, absolutely. And again, that’s the same great concept. We’re all going to rising ships together. If we can all do this together, it’s a lot easier. And also you got to think of it from the reader’s perspective. Do they want to have 8,500 different logins or tens of thousands as the web expands? Or do they want to have a hand.

Uh, and so the idea is we want grow to be not just even on media, mine sites in the future, it’s going to expand to non-media mine sites grow to become synonymous with, okay, this is going to improve my experience on this website. I want to log in. I know this name. I have an account it’s low friction. I just click log and.

Um, and on the site and I get all the benefits of grow.

Jared: Are there any other benefits to publishers? Uh, you talked about spotlight subscribe to any other, you know, kind of highlights, uh, that that publishers can have with grow.

Eric: Yeah. So right now there’s a, there’s a handful of features. We’re testing actually, a cool one that I love, which is exclusive content and exclusive content is idea of you can lock down certain portions of your site, uh, and require a reader to subscribe to your newsletter in order to get access to that.

Uh, so we’re using that in a lot of cool ways in our testing. Uh, can’t wait to see how publishers are using it, but something like the Hollywood gossip, we have an exclusive story. Uh, we can slap exclusive content over it. You must log in to read it, and we know you can’t get this anywhere else. Uh, on food fanatic, we’re, we’re testing it with some of the, some of the recipes you just, you know, you can read the whole recipe at the top, or if you want to get the card, you have to log in to grow and subscribe to my newsletter.

So that’s exclusive content that should be coming hopefully pretty soon. Cause it’s in testing. Uh, and then other very cool features that we offer again to media vine publishers today is related content. Um, so when you get to the bottom of a post or actually sometimes inside the post, we can recommend the next article for you.

And if you’re on. Mobile, you can use our future. What’s next, the little slider in the bottom, right? They’ll preview the next article they can click on and all those things just help increase your page views, but it’s also helping you generate first party data because it’s helping us learn about those readers.

What things are they likely to click on? So long-term, you can see what related content can really heavily weigh into first party data. Um, but for now it’s not generating that because we have to still remember and get those users to consent or like, Uh, so that’s part of the longterm strategy, but publishers love it today because they get a two to 3% increase to their pages are really depends on, on how your site performance would relate to.

That’s probably, I would guess it gets like a 10% increase. It’s crazy how well it works on the, wow.

Jared: I did not know about some of these features. That’s amazing. I have to admit again, I have a cider too on media by myself, so I should, uh, I should brush up on some of these features. Um, Take a step back.

What, and this can come, you can come at this from the third party conversation with third party data conversation that we’ve been having, or just from the fact that you see 8,500 websites. Um, but in the context of today’s conversation, what advice and what tips can you share with. Content creators and publishers, uh, in general, things that you’re seeing work again, whether it’s relating to how to better monetize their sites in the current climate or in general for traffic and for.

Eric: Yeah. So, I mean, I will always be an SEO guy, so I will love anything that you’re building an SEL, but what excites me the most is the idea of getting users to come back to your site, right. And not losing control of that traffic. So if there’s a Google algorithm change, we lose our traffic. Right. If there is a change to Pinterest or Facebook, depending on what social media sends us the most.

Uh, you can plumb it overnight. I’ve seen companies go out of business from a Facebook algorithm change. And so my advice to content creators is always try diversify your traffic, right? We don’t want, and this is our most successful sites. Never have all of their traffic from just one source. So that’s super important.

That’s why I love newsletters and why I’m excited by, I think that feature the most. And something we’re trying to build out more, even on our own sites, the Hollywood gossip has a daily newsletter. We’re building up similar on food fanatic, where we do twice a week and it starts off small, but it takes time right.

To build up anything. But that’s something you control. It’s your newsletter. Uh, granted, you know, Gmail might add a filter to block out certain users from y’all to see it, but overall it’s you, you control when you send them out who you’re sending them out to. There’s no algorithm to worry about. Uh, and so I really like to see our users that are our most successful.

Again, our publishers are ones that diversify traffic and ones that are looking to things like newsletters, where they’re taking control.

Jared: A conversation that happens a lot in this circle of the world, which probably is a very small circle, but when you’re in it, it feels like, you know, kind of the world, but this world of content creation and using SEO to drive the majority of the traffic, um, and you kind of touched on it really nicely, but a conversation that’s always happening is, uh, Hey, we’ve got media vine, we’ve got these other publishers that are these other ad publishers or ad companies I can partner up with, but this is my site.

And. In a lot of the conversations, there’s a lot of confusion or mystery around what separates each one. What would you say in today’s environment? We’ve talked about where you’re going with grow and certainly that will be a separator for you guys going forward, but in today’s environment, what is it that makes media vine unique compared to another partner that a content creator could compare?

Eric: Yeah, no, I think it’s a good question because grow is going to be, I think one of the biggest differentiators in a couple of years, but again, our plan is really grow to the world. So I guess I won’t be able to use that as a unique part of media vine. Um, but the thing that media vine, I think does so differently as our.

We are an engineering first company. A lot of that is just by the nature of it was started by an engineer. Uh, and so more than half our largest department is actually engineering actually switches off between support and engineering. Uh, but we have just a ton of engineers that are constantly working on the best solution.

Again, trying to squeeze out every penny we can for you from your site and doing so in a user friendly way. Um, so we take user experience very seriously. We have not added really a new ad placement on this. In years, our goal is always, what can we do to improve out of the existing placements on your site?

And so technology is one of the biggest things that differentiate us. We have what’s called surplus server. Uh, so we directly integrate, uh, with all of these different, uh, buyers, uh, on our own server. The way it works with most of the competition is they do what’s called client side. Honestly, if you’re not familiar the way that works, if someone visits your site and they send out, remember I was saying, we sent out the bid requests at 25 or 30 partners when it happens with them, it actually happens in the user’s browser.

So as a reader goes to their site, if you view the network tab, you’ll see on those sites, uh, hundreds of requests will go out to go get those. Yeah. And so immediate, fine. All it does is it hits our server and then our server sends out those requests. And part of that is because we are nuts for page speed.

And then also, because it opens up a lot of flexibility in who we can work. Well, I’m going to have kind of these direct relationships with really big name advertisers that would not normally be getting involved in something like a header bidding, because they’re not going to hop in as a 25th partnering or stack.

Uh, but that’s something we can do because of that technology. So things like server to server, which as far as I know, only media vine of any of the major ad management companies is, uh, Mo it’s almost exclusively a server to server. Uh, there’s a lot of other cool tech. Uh, we have the universal player, which is our, uh, player.

That means that you don’t have to create video as a publisher in order to take advantage of video earnings. Uh, so you really, when you wait all this technology together, there’s a reason why media buy and publishing. R R out earning, uh, other management companies. Uh, but it’s not just about, uh, technology.

We also have an unbelievable sales staff. As I mentioned, the relationships that we work directly with all the top advertisers, uh, big names at Kennesaw we share, but names you would, you would definitely know, or that spend the most money on the internet are basically the companies that we work with directly.

So the top 100 advertise. We have relationships with all of them. Uh, and then of course our support, uh, I can’t ever not tout our amazing support team. If you don’t take advantage of them and you are a media buying publisher, you should always email into publishers at media, Ask, ask for questions.

How can I make more money? Am I doing everything right here? Um, we give you a lot of choices at media vine in the dashboard, or a lot of different settings and not everyone always necessarily run. Uh, and the most optimized way for their site. So reach out our support team is award-winning for a reason, this is what they do all day in and out.

So between our support education technology, and just pure performance, I think maybe vine is pretty different.

Jared: I will throw in. You mentioned universal player, which is, um, a solution that I believe you guys launched this year, or at least I think I’m aware of it this year. And I was very skeptical about it because, um, you know, one of, uh, the site I have that, that is on media vine, uh, we have a YouTube channel.

And so I thought, how could a universal player where, like you said, you guys surface video. Uh, well, how could it outperform video? I created and I, I I’m here to say it does. And so I guess that speaks a little bit too much about the type of video I created, but I think what it really speaks to is the way that you guys are monetizing and have found a way to deliver, uh, an experience to the user that is monetized bubble in a way that everyone.

Eric: Yeah, I think it’s not definitely, definitely not a knock on your video content. It might be, but that’s a different story. It could be. I actually personally seen your video content, but I don’t think

Jared: it’s going to stay, hold your tongue until you’ve seen it, but fair enough.

Eric: But yeah, no, that is really just a Testament to things like again, server to server.

So that player hooks up to our server, which is able to call. 30 different. What’s called Alex string. The name of that unit is outstream. Uh, it’s called in-stream. If it plays with a video content outstream, if there’s no video content, the point is most people can’t find 30 partners to work with for outright, but they probably have like three or some people just give it exclusively to one spot.

We have 30 company. And that one little spot. And remember there’s no video content needs to play between the ads. So you’re getting top dollar and you’re getting, and it’s a better experience to users because it’s a much smaller player than the traditional video player, because it’s not confined by all the same rules as a regular video player.

So the universal player is awesome. And again, that’s just a Testament to that kind of technology that I’m talking about. That really differentiates me.

Jared: Let’s close by if I can’t bring it back full circle so that people who are listening, because people who are listening here are going to have sites, um, that have a variety of traffic, right.

They’re going to have, they’re going to be in the startup phase where they’re still building the SEO components and the traffic is coming all the way up to big publishers that have a significant amount of. What are, um, as of today as a recording, what are the qualifiers for someone to think about applying to be a media vine partner with their website?

Eric: Yeah. So currently with media vine, uh, we require 50,000 sessions a month and long form content. That’s the other big one, uh, that not everyone realizes. We’re looking for people that generate content that keeps users engaged on the page for awhile. So we’re not necessarily the best place if you have. I will call short form content, or maybe you’re a great tool.

And as a lot of people come to your site, but it’s just a map tool. There’s not long form content. You’re not going to do well with media vine. So it’s not just about always your traffic, but also the type of content you create. And we just want to make sure both are good. Uh, so those are requirements today to work with us.

Jared: Okay. Okay, great. Um, any final words or anything I didn’t ask you about, um, in terms of third party, uh, cookies, uh, the future, uh, and trying to just kind of recap a few of the things we talked about, anything I didn’t mention, or I didn’t ask you about, do you think it’s really important for people to hear.

Eric: No. I just think the most important thing is what we touched on it at the beginning. And that is, it’s not as scary as the 60 to 70% that you hear. Uh, there’s a great future in content creation. And I want everyone to know that I think the small, independent web, which is what we are, uh, is here to stay.

And that is what media vine is here to make sure of and what keeps me up at night and makes me come to work the next day is making sure that that 70% does not impact. Uh, independent thing again, I think we all band together this time around for first party data, we can come out stronger. This doesn’t have to be a bad thing for the small, independent publisher.

First party that it doesn’t just belong to the largest websites on the internet. I’m really

Jared: glad that you came onto to kind of not only share about the current state of how, um, ad revenues generated, but also talk about the future and then how each of us can understand better how we play a role in it.

You know, we get a lot of, uh, information tossed our way easier for it’d be easy for a publisher to. Skip over the latest grow announcement for media vine or bypass some of these, um, some of this information, but what you’ve, I, I’m just really glad that we’re here learning about it because then we can be a part of the solution going forward.

So thank you for joining us. Thank you for coming on. I appreciate you, um, sharing so much great knowledge, so thank you. Yeah. Thank you for having me again. All right. We’ll talk soon. Alright. .

the future of displays ads with eric hochberger mediavine co founder