Purch’s Greg Mason: Performance marketing is taking over media

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Purch is the big digital media company you haven’t heard of. The company has 25 digital media brands, $100 million in revenue, and is profitable.

The company has done this by focusing on content that is near a purchase decision — think review sites like Tom’s Guide and Top Ten Reviews — allowing Purch to mostly make money off performance marketing as opposed to brand advertising.

“We’ve gone through a couple generations where brand is over-weighted in the marketing mix,” said Greg Mason, CEO of Purch, on the Digiday Podcast. We’re now going through this period that for many publishers is a difficult cycle where that rebalancing act where that brand marketing is more direct marketing and affiliate marketing. The internet has facilitated that transition.”

Below are highlights from the episode, lightly edited for clarity.

CPM is dying
“Any digital publishing business that thinks the future is going to be predicated on CPM-based advertising sales is kidding themselves. Marketers have never had more choice. There’s more supply than there’s ever been. It’s never been harder to differentiate an audience. What drove the CPM-based marketplace was scale audience, special demographics. Name your demographic target as a marketer where 10 years ago you had a hundred ways, now you have 1,000.”

Content and commerce is hard to make work
“Most publishers come at it with no idea how to connect content and commerce. Most publishers have attempted the model from the perspective of slapping up buy links and using affiliate models. They have gone too far. We’re a publisher more like a Bankrate, more like a TripAdvisor, in attracting a consumer with a problem to solve.”

The New York Times can do commerce, but is held back by legacy
“They just have so many challenges with print. That’s true of a lot of publishers that have legacy businesses. It’s right there in front of them but trying to support those legacy streams, at the same time when it comes to developing commerce capabilities like side-by-side product reviews or offer other services you often don’t have the expertise within those organizations.”

Purch has put money into monetization, not a CMS
“We have a very sophisticated way to drive yield by creating competition of all the different means we can monetize a session. Programmatic is important but not more important than any other source. We invested in programmatic because we didn’t like the idea of outsourcing that to the ad tech ecosystem. We wanted to control our own destiny. We were the first publisher that I know that built a header bidding solution two and a half years ago. We since killed that. It’s all server-to-server connections. We have in excess of 25 bidders competing for our excess inventory. We’ve more than doubled the value of that inventory.”


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