Rubicon evp John Thomas Batson (27) has thrown a lifeline to some online publishers with a system that matches ad inventory to high bids on ad networks and advertising exchanges in which web publishers and advertisers buy and sell space.
In just two months Batson has convinced thirty of the web's larger digital publishers to form a digital consortium where they aim to sell online advertising at rates 60% to 300% higher than at present.
Batson describes his role as that of a 'scarcity referee', ensuring that no publisher under his watch will continue to sell large amounts of cheap digital ad space. (He deflects concerns about antitrust liability by explaining that publishers will all decide their own prices just as they do now.)
Instead, media outlets will sell the premium ads themselves, transferring what's left over to Rubicon. The latter will meld the inventory, infuse it with consumer data that news outlets collect from their readers [e-mail addresses, gender, income and hobbies] and sell it to marketers with a need to reach carefully defined audiences. "Everybody wins," says Batson.
Participating web publishers include such gold-plated names as Time Inc, Tribune, Hearst and Media News Group.
If Rubicon nosedives, more media outlets could fold for lack of ad revenue. Or they'll come up with new business models, which would mean consumers could be paying for the news they read online.
But if Rubicon succeeds it will help publishers challenge Google-owned DoubleClick, the largest online ad seller which handles 50% of ad network inventory and controls 23% of the world's $65 billion internet ad market.
Observes Rubicon ceo Frank Addante: "That's huge, but it means there's a fragmented 77% still out there. We're going to bring that together and be the platform that helps people compete against Google."
But there's no shortage of competition from other firms that repackage or resell web ad slots. They include AdMeld, Pubmatic and Yahoo's Rightmedia.
Publishers are motivated to work with Rubicon by a survival instinct, Batson says.
Whereas he is motivated by the nobler desire to keep news and information free. "I don't want to see the day when people have less access to online information - when only the wealthy can afford to read news," says Batson. "But with what we're doing, that day won't come."
In addition to Batson's selfless ambition, Rubicon might well pick up a few billion dollars en route!