There’s a big problem with obtrusive online advertising: most people hate it. But what if it turns into your gateway to sought-after content without paying for it? Most seasoned business development managers would probably agree that that’s a pretty nifty concept – and it’s the driving force behind New York-based advertising startup Genesis Media, which has just announced that it’s bagged a handsome $6 million in Series B funding.
The soft paywall – a business development manager’s dream concept
The startup was borne of the fusion of two other ad firms – TVGenesis and AdGenesis – back in November 2011. Its CEO, Mark Yackanich, describes it somewhat cryptically as “a data-driven decisioning platform that intercepts users with media.” That may leave the average business development manager feeling distinctly baffled, but basically its ContentUnlock platform operates a ‘soft’ paywall for publishers, who let users access their content provided they view targeted and timed ads (most of them in video form).
In exchange for free content, people need to watch the ads in their entirety. But the immediate exchange of content for ad viewing rather brilliantly brings to user attention the role of online advertising in maintaining a free Web. The ads become a good deal less irritating as a result. So this is a kind of paywall which doesn’t require money: the currency instead is just a little time and attention.
According to Yackanich, Genesis “contextualizes” ads. Viewers are made aware that they’re not going to be bombarded – they just watch the targeted ad and ContentUnlock ensures that they won’t see another one for another seven articles, or for 24 or 48 hours, or even for a week.
The technology recognizes that “different consumers have different values to different publishers”, Yackanich says, meaning that the number and kind of ads will shift from reader to reader. Those who publishers consider high value viewers because they’ve visited the site directly, for example, generally don’t immediately get served with an ad. But those who are less likely to stay around for long (because, say, they’ve arrived at the site via a link on Twitter) will get a different experience. As Yackanich puts it, for these viewers, ContentUnlock lets publishers pursue “more aggressive monetization.”
Publisher’s currently on the Genesis client roster include The Smithsonian, USA Today Sports, Bonnier and American Media.