ADOTAS EXCLUSIVE — If Jason Feffer was a preacher, the former MySpace executive would have a following as large as any evangelist out there. As it is, Feffer, along with childhood friend Michael Glazer, found his calling in the social media market.
In 2007, they started SodaHead, an opinion-driven site where users can be anonymous. I met both in New York recently to talk about the advertising issues with social media marketing. They said they were working on deals with major media brands, though they wouldn’t divulge which ones.
ADOTAS: Advertising-wise, what are the challenges Facebook, MySpace, Bebo face?
Jason: (Working at MySpace) I realized that it doesn’t matter how much you move around. If you are serving 150 ads per person per day, supply outweighs demand. Unless you get results from that 150, no one is going to pay for it. So how do we make it better?
The higher frequency pages for MySpace, Facebook, Bebo, all have the same problem. What (users) are there for is to engage already existing friendships, to send private messages back and forth or to look at pictures of other people. You don’t want to interrupt the relationship between those two people in a conversation with an ad. They’re not going to click it.
If I go to an image gallery like on Facebook, I see these pictures. Then you have advertisers, like Victoria Secret with these great looking models and lingerie in these expensive photo shoots. But the users are looking at the picture gallery because it’s sexier, it’s more interesting, more outlandish. So if you are Victoria Secret, and you can’t compete against user generated content, then how is anybody else going to interrupt that message? They won’t.
ADOTAS: So how is SodaHead different?
Jason: It’s funny, I wanted to build a predictive marketplace, but Mike wanted to make it social, make it open, so people can comment, give opinions, put photos. Because the way the site is designed, people talk about an issue that is publicly displayed where their content is readable. It’s really like the Web 1.0 days.
Those ads had a lot better rates than social networking because this is reading content. A lot of people, hard core people, are contributing content, but a lot are reading it.
So you get that free user generated content, stimulating conversation, and keeping it going because we don’t have an editorial staff, and we have all the readers. It’s not private messages; it’s not pictures and distractions; it’s not noise, slideshows music and videos. It’s very clean editorial content, Web 1.0, that is better for advertising.
ADOTAS: So how did SodaHead evolve?
Michael: When we built this, we said let’s keep this an inch deep and a mile wide. And at first we focused on music and entertainment. When we did that, our users went to music and entertainment then to politics. Then we said let’s rein them in again, but we couldn’t control it. They forced us to open the site.
ADOTAS: But aren’t users going to niche sites for what they want?
Michael: (Users) told us that ‘I don’t want to go to a forum for hardcore fanatics. I care, but I don’t care all that much about it. I have an opinion on it. I’m not fanatical about it.’
If you are a hard care automotive guy, you’re going to go to that hard care automotive forum, but most of America is not a hard core anything. Most of our users aren’t the most sophisticated, tehnologically advanced, but our users have interests in sports, politics. They are interested in a lot of different subjects.
Jason: Our youngest users are tecnologically savvy, but they are not the *hybrid-driving, Silicon Valley, white guys who use Twitter.
ADOTAS: How is advertising going right now? (They use Google AdSense)
Jason: What’s been really fun is the ads. Without any sales team, without any ad server costs, so net, net, net,net, we’re doing about 10 times what most social networks do on a rate basis. Because of the content, people are talking about the day’s issues. I answered a question the other day, do you drink energy drinks? Well what ad did Google decide to put there? An energy drink.
But what we also add is that we’re collecting all this demographic information. We have probably the deepest, richest profiles on the Internet. On the back end, we are keeping track of what people are voting on like keywords and categories and so we can feed that back to target ads better.
ADOTAS: So why are publishers interested in working with you outside of your users? (Which Jason said was at more than 1 million users and 2 million monthly visits)
Jason: We built a flash widget that embeds any way. As a poll, it’s the best poll in the world. It lets you play video, pictures. It’s interactive, change sizes, same question, long test, short test. We spent a lot of money on that. People think it’s easy polling. When you do a polling of this size that is capable of meeting the requirements of those partners we have, you can syndicate it. You can put it on my blog, to your blog. What media publishers like about it is that they can syndicate the widget, have others put it anywhere.
ADOTAS: So who are your users?
Jason: We’re going after the people who won’t go to social networks and stay there and watch someone update their status every five minutes. That’s not the people we get. We get the people who want to talk about an issue, share their opinion and read other people’s opinions. We get the people who want to be engaged.
*Corrected from an earlier version.
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