Adly, a startup that connects advertisers with celebrities willing to post promoted messages on social networks, recently raised $2 million in additional funding.
The new funding came from previous backer GRP Partners and new investor Siemer Ventures. Adly has now raised a total of $7.5 million.
The company also launched a new product this week. It’s the first thing you’ll see if you go to the Adly website — a button that says “Match Me Up!” which allows Adly to analyze a business’ existing content and followers, then find publishers who are a good match to “amplify” their content.
For example, when I signed in with my personal Twitter account, Adly said it found six celebrity publishers who, collectively, could increase my reach 61x and my engagement 31x. They include a blogger/entrepreneur with 103,000 followers, an analyst with 180,000 followers, and a podcaster with 199,000 followers. (I also tried to analyze TechCrunch’s account, but we have too many followers.) Who are these people? Well, you don’t actually get to find out until you actually start a campaign with Adly.
Walter Delph, who became Adly’s CEO a little more than a year ago, said this is part of his larger strategy. One of Adly’s big selling points is the fact that advertisers aren’t just getting access to a lot of eyeballs. By enlisting celebrity endorsers, they’re hopefully prompting lots of conversation and engagement, i.e. reach that’s “earned” rather than paid for. The company’s next step is building more tools to ensure that the conversation and engagement is happening.
To that end, Adly has been adding analytics to track the results of each campaign — the full reach of the message, the replies, the shares and the clicks. That dashboard, however, is really about looking back at a campaign (though customers get the data in real time, so they could adjust their spending accordingly). On the other hand, Delph said the celebrity matching tool is all about looking forward — it’s a way to get people started with Adly campaigns. He added that we can expect more features to come that take advantage of the company’s “reams and reams of data.”
By the way, even though Adly is known as a celebrity endorsement network, it’s actually broader than that. The company has relationships with 75,000 influencers, and Delph estimated that only about 2,000 of them are celebrities in the traditional sense — “By celebrity, what I mean is, if you walked down the street you would recognize them.” The other 73,000 aren’t at that level, but they have influence that’s valuable to advertisers (at least when it comes to certain topics).
Imonomy, an Israeli startup which makes software that analyses webpages and automatically inserts relevant, copyright-free images to accompany the content, has closed a $400,000 seed round from a group of angel investors. Investors include Inon Axel, former CEO of Kasamba (acquired by LivePerson for $40m), Liron Rose, cofounder of AfterDownload (acquired by ironSource for $28m), and Itai Levitan and Tal Shaked, partners at AfterDownload.
Imonomy said it will be using the new seed funding for product development and initial marketing and sales activities.
The startup was founded in the middle of last year by Oren Dror and Amit Halawa who previously held senior R&D and engineering positions at Yedda, an online Q&A service that was acquired by TechCrunch’s parent company AOL, back in 2007.
Imonomy targets its software at smaller-sized web publishers who have a pool of online content but don’t necessarily have the means to spice it up with illustrations — either lacking the production staff to spend the time hunting down royalty free images or the licensing money to pay to display copyrighted images. Imonomy says its semantic software is being used by more than 500 medium-sized websites (with up to 10 million monthly impressions) at present, including AOL Answers and Articles Base.
Imonomy’s software scans web content to figure out relevant images to serve up from its database of copyright-free images, and also determines the optimal place to position them on the page to improve user engagement. Inserted images support hover over links to other articles and also displaying ads, giving publishers (and Imonomy) a way to monetise the added eyecandy. It’s effectively a more aesthetic version of inline text link ads.
“The idea behind Imonomy is that publishers of content-heavy web sites need to tools to help their sites be visibly attractive,” the startup tells TechCrunch. “High quality copyright-free images are hard to come by and the time and effort required to locate such pictures is a hassle. Imonomy created its content enrichment and monetization system to automate this process in order to help publishers save time, improve user engagement and create monetization opportunities.”
Here’s how it describes its system on its website:
Our database contains millions of images that cover every possible topic. Our system scans your webpage, finds the best fitting image and automatically insert them into the published page. Thus making content more interesting and informative. Our technology brings our customers greater user engagement and lower bounce rates, which has been in proven to result in significantly increased revenues. imonomy also creates intelligent links between pages, which encourages visitors to easily navigate to additional relevant content. The visual semantic engine can be implemented easily on any website, and we also provide a free API that expands the functionality and the systems abilities.
In terms of competition, Imonomy concedes there are “numerous content enrichment tools” out there — name-checking the likes of OutBrain, Zemanta and GumGum — but argues that its approach is unique because it’s bundling “content enrichment and monetization opportunities in a single automated process to publishers for free”.
It’s not charging for use of its technology, instead it has a freemium model, tied to the ads that are inserted along with the images — sharing this revenue with its publisher customers so also taking a cut itself. Its revenue-sharing percentage depends on the size of the publisher and the volume of traffic on its website. But for larger sites with more impressions it takes a lower percentage than for smaller, less well visited sites. The startup added that it expects to be profitable by the end of the year.
An example of an added image plus ad powered by Imonomy’s engine is shown below:
Twitter today made the latest push in its bid to cozy up to Madison Avenue and the world of big-budget advertising, by tapping more into the kind of mainstream mediums where advertisers like to spend their money. Today the big focus is TV and your living room. In New York, the company announced Twitter Amplify, a way of bringing real-time video into the site, with initial partners including the broadcasters BBC America, FOX, Fuse and The Weather Channel. And it also announced TV ad targeting, one of the first fruits of the company’s acquisition of BlueFin Labs.
Twitter ad targeting works like this: an advertiser or media buyer uses a special dashboard that Twitter has created for the service, which lets a brand monitor when an ad has aired on TV. Through this, the campaign manager can then send out Promoted Tweets that coordinate with them. They synchronise, Twitter says, using “video fingerprinting technology to automatically detect when and where a brand’s commercials are running on TV, without requiring that advertiser to do any manual tracking or upload media plan details,” Michael Fleischman, one of the co-founders of BlueFin Labs, and now a product manager for Twitter, notes in a blog post.
Through this, the advertiser is able to measure how socially responsive people are to the TV campaigns and vice versa. Using Twitter handles and hashtags on the TV ads will be how those advertisers shuttle people to the social network.
Twitter says it will be able to determine where and when an ad ran on TV, as well as track those who have subsequently tweeted about the ad and the TV program that it ran against. “We believe a user engaged enough with a TV show to tweet about it very likely saw the commercials as well,” the company notes on its blog.
The company is banking on a crucial stat as the leap of faith that this will all work: it says 64 percent of mobile-centric users on Twitter use it in front of the TV at home.
For now Twitter’s targeting service will be available only in the U.S.
Meanwhile, the instream broadcasting clips that are part of Twitter Amplify, starting with BBC America, FOX, Fuse and The Weather Channel, will be very closely tied to ads and video directly on the platform. This is something that Twitter has already been doing with partnerships with, for example, the NBA, where a video also features a link to an ad:
What’s interesting is that it looks like Twitter will be limiting use of this new kind of Twitter card to paying users, with Glenn Brown, director of promoted content and sponsorships, noting that they will be “powered by Promoted Tweets.” The idea appears to be that rather than replacing the TV experience (not yet at least!) these in-stream videos will be used as “spectacular, timely content that rounds out their TV experience or reminds them to tune in.” In other words, ways of getting people to the TV with teaser clips rather than simply offering them a way of seeing what they want on Twitter and cutting out the tube altogether.
Speaking at the New York event, CEO Dick Costolo talked about how the company has made advertising a more “frictionless” experience because of its emphasis of real-time updates. It’s clear that adding more broadcasting-like experiences into Twitter will further that concept.
The company during its event also threw in some fun ad-land perks: a Q&A session with Glee actress Jane Lynch and a Tweeting vending machine churning out swag.
Twitter has been making increasingly strong moves this year to get its platform to be more ad-friendly (and revenue-friendly). That kicked off in February with the launch of an advertising API so that larger advertisers can better manage their campaigns on Twitter; an improved advertising analytics dashboard; and Google AdWords-style keyword targeting (TC coverage here, here and here). Just earlier this week the company also unveiled the official launch of Lead Generation Cards, something Twitter had been testing for a while already, which lets advertisers include actions like requests for more information that users can get automatically by clicking a button in an advertising tweet. (You can see how this last one also sets the stage for Twitter making the leap into commerce, with one-click purchasing.)
While Twitter has not provided any official public guidance on how much it expects to make in advertising this year or in the future, there has been a lot of speculation about the number because many expect Twitter to go public, with a likely date in late 2013 or 2014, according to observers. A report from eMarketer in March noted that it was raising forecasts for the company to $583 million in 2013 and $950 million in ad sales in 2014, 60% coming from mobile.
The stats that Twitter’s president of global revenue, Adam Bain, provided last year shows just how much the company has grown over the last year. Bain noted at the time that Twitter had 140M+ active users; now that figure is estimated to be closer to 300 million.
Bain also had noted that 55% of users access Twitter on mobile, with 40% growth quarter over quarter, and that among Twitter’s active users, only some 60% actually tweet, but all of them “listen.” And in a sign that Twitter was always going to figure out a better way of leveraging ads on the platform, even a year ago, some 79% of people on the site were already following brands.
More to come.
Image: Jim Prosser
HasOffers, a startup that helps mobile app developers see which ad efforts are actually paying off, is announcing that it has raised a $9.4 million round of funding led by Accel Partners.
The company was founded in 2009 — the product that it initially built, and the one that’s still highlighted on the HasOffers website, is a system that helps ad networks and agencies manage their performance-based programs. (Those agencies and ad networks include Bucksense, Tapjoy, and Sponsorpay.)
However, CEO Peter Hamilton said the team realized that mobile advertisers were facing a similar problem, so it built a product called MobileAppTracking, allowing developers to see where app installs, engagement, and purchases actually come from. So as publishers run ad campaigns, they can see which social networks, publishers, and ad networks are giving them the best results, and they can adjust their efforts accordingly.
Rich Wong, the Accel partner who’s joining the HasOffers board, definitely sounded more excited about the mobile side of the business when I spoke to him today. (Wong’s past investments include Google-acquired AdMob and Angry Birds-maker Rovio.) He said “some of the biggest spenders in the Accel portfolio, people who are on the cutting edge of doing customer acquisition,” such as HotelTonight, Spotify, and Trulia, were already using MobileAppTracking. (Other customers include Yahoo, Zynga, Pandora, and Square.)
Wong also argued that the company is part of towards a broader shift in mobile advertising. He said the industry’s first phase, was the early “walled garden” period, followed by a second stage dominated by ad networks like AdMob, Quattro (acquired by Apple), and Millennial (now public). The third, current phase is all about the shift to programmatic buying — in Wong’s words, “the machines are taking over.” In this phase, developers are running campaigns with a wide range of different sources, so they need a better attribution system.
And that system needs to be independent of any of the existing ad networks, so it can measure all sources of traffic effectively. After all, Wong said, many networks have their own attribution systems, and while they might work fine, publishers probably don’t feel entirely confident that AdMob’s can report accurately about one of its competitors, or vice versa. That point about independence came up repeatedly during our conversation, with Wong emphasizing that HasOffers is a software business, not a company that’s selling ads.
“One of the reasons we’re able to do what we do with over 150 ad networks and publishers is that we’re not competitive with them,” Hamilton added.
Until now, Hamitlon said HasOffers has been bootstrapped and profitable, with 79 employees, so it didn’t necessarily need the money. At the same time, he said the mobile ad tracking product has really taken off: “We saw an opportunity to put our stake in the ground as the attribution analytics platform, and we didn’t want it to pass us by.” For now, that means continuing to invest heavily on the technology and product side of the business.
In addition to Accel, RealNetworks founder Rob Glaser and Founder’s Co-op partner Chris Devore also invested. (Glaser and Devore are both based in Seattle, as is HasOffers.) Even though HasOffers is a bit older than your normal Series A company, and even though Accel has a separate fund for investing in bootstrapped, mature companies, this specific investment came from Accel’s early-stage fund: “Even though it has characteristics of a ‘growth-stage business’, we looked at it as an early-stage Series A.”
After announcing its deal to acquire Tumblr for $1.1 billion, mostly in cash, Yahoo today started to lay out some of the details for how it intends to make use of the property while trying to stick to its promise “not to screw it up.” Expect more advertising by next year as well as more Tumblr content on Yahoo properties, but more of a cautious step as to how Yahoo will deal with some of Tumblr’s more NSFW content.
Here are some of the more interesting details revealed in the call:
What are Tumblr ads going to look like? Tumblr apparently made only $13 million in revenues last year but CEO David Karp apparently thinks the site is “ready” to make more now that it understands its users, according to Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer. But she also noted that they will be working from a challenged position, not just because of user resistance but because Karp himself has been “skeptical” about online ads.
In the conference call, Mayer made an early reference to how Tumblr would be able to make good use of Yahoo’s advertising technology, in ways that fit Tumblr’s so-far successful, image-based, quick-blogging, youth-oriented format — what she called “native advertising formats.”
As one example, she pointed to an ad format that Yahoo launched at the end of April, in-stream ads that it runs on its news pages. “On Tumblr we feel we can monetize in ways that are meaningful and add to user experience,” she said. She cited the Tumblr dashboard, or as she called it, the inbox for the blogs you follow. “Today Tumblr already does some ads in that feed. We would like to look at that and understand how to introduce more ads where the ads fit the expectations and follow that form and function.” She also noted that Yahoo may possibly work with bloggers to provide ads that will be run with their permission.
On top of this, expect to see more search ads: there are also plans to integrate Yahoo’s search functionality into the site as well. “We think there is a complelling search story,” said Mayer. “Their body is 50b posts and 5 billion posts of original content so search is already vast. We see an opportunity to integrate with search and provide that. That’s one area we are excited by the acquisition.”
Throughout this, a focus on trying to be Tumblr-centric about whatever Yahoo tries to do there. “It’s not a choice between creativity and monetization,” insisted Mayer.
So when are those ads coming? CFO Ken Goldman said that ad revenues from Tumblr will be “modest” this year — the acquisition is not expected to close until the second of of 2013 — but that they will “ramp up” in 2014 “and beyond.” “We do think those revenues will start monetizing materially [and] will contribute to revevenues in 2014 and beyond,” he said on the call, “not just standalone for Tumblr but also incrementally, helping Yahoo to growth.”
Porn? The NSFW, notorious part of Tumblr was never referred to by name, but an analyst did ask about what Yahoo, while courting mainstream brands to market to that attractive Tumblr audience, would do about content that is not “brand safe”. “The richness and breadth of the content… is what makes it more exciting,” enthused Mayer. “In terms of addressing concerns around brand safety we need to have good tools for retargeting.” [Another acquisition, methinks? In any case, no outright announcement that Yahoo intends to get rid of all those sites that Tumblr has more or less accepted into the fold.]
Mayer continued: “Tumblr is now at the point that they do know what it is and what makes sense to monetize in way that is tasteful.” She also mentioned due diligence but also something else, effectively implying that Yahoo will figure out a way of getting around the NSFW content and serving ads where they want them to go, because that’s what the advertisers want: “There are a lot of marketers eager to participate in Tumblr platform and the demographics,” she said.
What does the $1.1 billion “substantially in cash” mean? Goldman noted that it’s effectively an all-cash deal, save for some shares in Yahoo for David Karp. He also noted that Yahoo still has “ample cash” for more acquisitions and investments, to the tune of about $6.2 billion. These will not likely be along the lines of Tumblr in terms of size. “This is an exceptional company and team,” she said of Tumblr. At 300 million monthly unique users, Yahoo is paying about $3.67 per user for the acquisition.
Complementary properties. Mayer made a lot of the fact that Tumblr and Yahoo actually fit “really beautifully together,” like South America and Africa, in her words. In addition to Yahoo skewing older and Tumblr skewing younger, “We are strong on sports, finance and news; Tumblr’s strong on architeture, travel and fashion. We need great tools for content publishing and creation. They have them. Tumblr prides itself as a home for brands. Yahoo is all about brands.”
Tumblr comes to Yahoo. While a lot of the expectation so far has been about how Yahoo may mess up or spiff up or monetize up Tumblr, another theme that emerged during the call was the idea of Tumblr content going out to Yahoo properties — a way of attracting users to Yahoo that may not have gone there before.
“Our strategy is to let Tumblr be Tumblr,” said Mayer. “There are some who will always prefer Tumblr and will never come to Yahoo. [But] as we pull Tumblr content into our news feed and media experiences it will cause them to become that much more interesting and richer and will cause more to come to Yahoo. I imagine engagement will improve as we incorporate that content.”
Flickr. There is a separate news conference today that will likely concentrate on updates to Flickr, but today Mayer appeared to douse out speculation that it will be a move to begin integrating its online photo site with Tumblr in any way: “In terms of how the content of Tumblr evolves it depends on the creators,” Mayer said in answer to a question of what this acquisition will mean for Flickr. “It’s something that we will turn our attention to in the future. It will provide great storage, but we will see how those two cousins should relate to each other.
Image: Tumblr (where else)