Revcontent Exec: ‘Stop Looking At Diversity As A Problem That Needs To Be Solved’
A late-comer to the content recommendation market, Sarasota-based Revcontent pulled off what many thought would be impossible.
It bypassed industry dominators Outbrain and Taboola, this year claiming the spot as the world’s largest content recommendation network in terms of reach.
How did it accomplish this? Partly by being different.
Revcontent focuses on quality and is picky about the publishers it chooses to allow on its network, says Walter Dublin, director of publisher development. “By choosing not to work with thousands of no-name, low-quality blogs and websites, we have gained much more control over every aspect of your native advertising performance.”
Revcontent reaches 97 percent of U.S. households, according to audience measurement company Quantcast. Its publisher partners include Forbes, Newsweek, The Atlantic, and International Business Times.
Revcontent does not create content, but rather aggregates content and recommends it based on algorithms designed to determine user preferences. It lives in the “you may like” or “recommended content” links found at the bottom of news stories or blog posts.
Advertising networking companies like Revcontent serve another purpose. They allow websites and bloggers to buy or sell web traffic on a cost-per-click basis.
“Native advertising means a different kind of advertising than display, banner ads, etc.,” said Katherine Saviola, brand manager for Revcontent, in a Bradenton Herald report. “Native ads should look and feel like they are naturally part of the site.”
Buzzfeed claims more than 60 websites publishing “fake news” are earning revenue from advertising networks like Content.ad, Google AdSense, Taboola, and Revcontent.
Moguldom.com asked Dublin to talk about diversity — among other things — at Revcontent and in the tech industry in general.
“People need to stop looking at diversity as a problem that needs to be solved and focus on the benefits that a diverse workforce provide to every organization.” — Walter Dublin, director of publisher development at Revcontent
Moguldom.com: Some of the larger Silicon Valley tech firms are becoming more transparent about diversity on their staff or lack of it. What does this mean for a high-profile, mid-sized tech firm like Revcontent that’s far from Silicon Valley?
Walter Dublin: I think that it’s great that this industry is starting to pay more attention to diversity in hiring and making that information transparent is a great first step. Diversity is definitely a focus in our recruiting requirements, and we are developing several programs to work with local schools to foster talent and educate.
Moguldom.com: What is the demographic make-up of Revcontent staff in terms of diversity?
Walter Dublin: We have a fairly diverse organization, made up of individuals from all walks of life, age groups and ethnic backgrounds. What I find most impressive is how cohesive our company is. Our recruiting team does a great job of identifying individuals from around the globe that share the same core ideals that make this company so special.
Moguldom.com: Revcontent was ranked No. 1 Midsized Company to work for in Southwest Florida by Florida Trend Magazine and The Tampa Bay Business Journal for 2014, 2015 and 2016. Why?
Walter Dublin: Our CEO, John Lemp has done a phenomenal job of fostering a culture of openness, collaboration, opportunity, and fun! All you have to do is take a tour around our office and you will see why – from our themed meeting rooms, our fitness center, to collaborative work spaces filled with bean bags and music playing. Employees here feel empowered to succeed and contribute to the growth of the company as a whole because Revcontent’s growth is our growth as well.
Moguldom.com: Revcontent claims to deny 98 percent of sites that apply. That must make a lot of people unhappy. Where does diversity fit into that?
Walter Dublin: That stat has actually changed to 94 percent now. We’ve worked tirelessly to build our reputation as the premium content recommendation network through focusing on quality rather than quantity. We work with publishers from every corner of the globe and are very focused on continuing our trend of rapid international growth, but at the same time, we have to make sure that we do it the right way. By working with high quality publishers, it gives our advertisers the confidence they need to continue reaching highly engaged audiences around the world.
Moguldom.com: What should tech companies be doing to increase the number of black and minority staff in technical and leadership jobs?
Walter Dublin: I believe there are a lot of tech companies out there working hard to create solutions that tackle the diversity issues the industry has faced over the years. For example, Google created computer science and internship programs specifically for HBCUs that provide minority students with additional educational opportunities and exposure to companies in Silicon Valley. At the end of the day, I believe that people need to stop looking at diversity as a problem that needs to be solved and focus on the benefits that a diverse workforce provide to every organization.
Moguldom.com: In its recent diversity report, Uber said, “By being transparent about what we look like today, we can start to change how we look tomorrow.” How do you feel about that?
Walter Dublin: Again, I do believe that placing a spotlight on the lack of diversity in the industry was a great step in the right direction. How companies take on the responsibility of implementing change is something completely different, but it is a great start.
Moguldom.com: Please say anything you’d like to say about diversity in digital media.
Walter Dublin: If you look throughout the history of media in general, diversity has always played a huge role in the growth of the industry. Dating back to the 1960s when newspapers hired black journalists en masse to cover racial unrest and sensitive topics in their communities, it had a huge impact on readership, which had a substantial impact on revenue. Diversity leads to the expansion of ideas and the expansion of opportunities. Diversity is something that should be embraced, not just because it is right, but because it just makes sense.
Moguldom.com: Are you working with African American/urban-focused publishers? If so which ones?
Walter Dublin: We do work exclusively with several of the largest African American/urban-focused publishers in the world including Moguldom Media Group, WorldStar Hip Hop and Electronic Urban Report. We are also in negotiations with several other large African American-focused media companies as well.
Moguldom.com: What’s it like being an African American in digital media?
Walter Dublin: Fortunately over the past few years at Revcontent, that isn’t really something that I’ve had to give much thought to. I work with a great group of open-minded and thoughtful individuals every single day. I can say that being in this industry has definitely given me a sense of purpose in educating young people on the opportunities that exist in the digital media space. I do spend some time visiting with local high schools and speaking to the students about having a plan post-graduation and working in this industry is definitely one of the topics I spend a lot of time chatting with them about.
Moguldom.com: What makes Revcontent better than Outbrain and Taboola?
Walter Dublin: As a relative newcomer in the space, I always tell prospective publishers that we would not exist today, let alone be growing as quickly as we have been, having come into the market well after Taboola and Outbrain if we did not offer something better than what was already available. Our vision has always been to empower publishers through better technology, data transparency, and of course, better performance. Publishers weren’t going to switch to us over a 20-30-percent increase. We typically outperform Outbrain and Taboola by 2-3X RPMs and our testimonials speak for themselves. The CEO of Newsweek quoted us as 3X Taboola in an article on AdExchanger.
Moguldom.com: BuzzFeed collected the names of the ad networks on 107 websites that use fake news stories. Revcontent was the most common ad network (found on 22 fake news sites) followed by Google (17 sites). How does Revcontent handle a distinction like this? How is fake news going to affect your business?
Walter Dublin: Our main mission is to empower a web of open ideas, where people are free to write and share what they choose. We are very selective in the publishers that we choose to work with, but that selectivity is rooted in maintaining high traffic quality and engagement for our advertising partners.
Our main goal is also to protect consumers, and we know as an industry, we need to get better at this. We are 100-percent against deceiving consumers and have some of the most stringent compliance policies out there on the topic. You can read them here.
However, we also fear the tide of censorship and worry about when one platform becomes the controller of ideas. We believe instead of calling for censorship, we should be calling for transparency.
Sign up for the Moguldom newsletter — the most compelling business news you need to know about reversing inequality in tech, delivered straight to your inbox.