Tuesday, January 18, 2011
Julie Schoenfeld On Perfect Market's New Funding
Story by Benjamin F. Kuo
This morning, Pasadena-based Perfect Market (www.perfectmarket.com) announced a new, $9M round of funding for the firm's technology, which is used to help publishers monetize their content. We caught up with Julie Schoenfeld, the firm's CEO, to hear about how the firm's offerings have evolved, an interesting comparison of the firm's software to what Demand Media is doing, and what this new funding will go towards.
Congrats on funding. It's been awhile since we last talked, I wonder if you might describe what you are now offering to publishers?
Julie Schoenfeld: When we talked last, we were focusing primarily on helping publisher monetize their archived content. In the process of doing that, we discovered some things. What that did, is it helped us to expand the service to help publishers do the following: identify what content to write, how to distribute that content to various mediums, and how to monetize that content. It's not just archive content, it's helping newsroom to move into digital in a different way. The first thing we do, is we start with great content. What we work with, is the best, branded publishers. Our tagline is "content matters". The Internet is a noisy place, and the best way to pick content is by brand. We believe that a brand is a proxy for great content. When you see a story from the LA Times, you know there is a certain level of quality, and that it's written by a news publication you know about. So, we start with that. When you create content, that's an asset that you put into a vault and can reuse again and again. An example of that is when the BP oil spill occurred, people started to search for information about old oil spills, like the Exxon Valdez. We make sure that content is available, and linked to current news stores. What we also try to do, is understand what the value of those stories are. What we've been able to do, on an ECPM basis, is tell publishers: this story will earn this much money. It's some of the kinds of things Demand Media does, except, for the newsroom.
Journalists are notorious for not wanting to write based on revenues or commercial intersts, or having anyone tell them what to write. How has your reception been by those journalists?
Julie Schoenfeld: We are just providing tools. As one journalist professor says, we are arming the newsroom with the tools of the insurgency. We give newsrooms the ability to understand what they're doing. Right now, news organizations write off the news cycle. Their content is pretty much event based. But, once you write a story, knowing what to put in a headline matters. We can tell them how this headline worked versus how that headline worked, and if this drive certain traffic, what that was worth. We allow them to know that in advance, so they know where they might want to devote time to follow up on a story.
So you're now helping publishers focus on stories that might drive interest on the Internet?
Julie Schoenfeld: That's one piece of the total solution. The first piece is identifying and packaging content around demand. We know what people are looking for. The second piece, is we distribute that across search engines and social networks. The third piece, is monetizing content. On page performance of advertising on a page is linked to the context and intent of a user. For example, we've learned that if you are going to the front page of the LA Times, you're most likely browsing. If you're coming through a social network, you're most likely sharing, a different experience. If you're coming from search, you're researching information. What we have figured out, is a way of presenting that content and advertising that maximizes the monetization based on what a user is doing.
Your customers--newspaper publishers--are struggling to redefine themselves in the era of the Internet, and have had some financial issues. How do you convince them to implement and adopt your systems?
Julie Schoenfeld: Intersting, the Los Angeles Times was one of our first customers. The result of what we did for them was so good, we rolled out to the rest of the Tribune News properties. In our last round of funding, Tribune led the round. Here, we have a customer which has not only implemented us, but also invested in us. That's what we are finding. When those publishers see things that work, they're willing to step in. Having said that, the newspaper business model has had to change radically, particularly with regard to cost structure. The problem is, that has cut down on the staff those publishers have, and they don't have extra resources to try out new things. One thing that Perfect Market has done, is we've made it so they can implement this without forcing them to put lots of resources into it. We take care of the whole solution for them.
So what are your plans for the new funding?
Julie Schoenfeld: Right now, we are sitting on a very large backlog of opportunity. We'll be using much of the funding to expand our sales organization, and are hoping to bring on as many new customers as we can in coming year. It's to speed up our growth.