Summary:

Six months after former Time Inc. (NYSE: TWX) digital news exec Vivek Shah became the owner of tech publisher Ziff Davis, the company has do…

Vivek Shah
photo: Joseph Moran

Six months after former Time Inc. (NYSE: TWX) digital news exec Vivek Shah became the owner of tech publisher Ziff Davis, the company has done its first acquisition and is now one of the first major publishers to run its own ad targeting platform. In an interview with paidContent, Shah spoke about how the new additions, which includes the purchase of tech deals site LogicBuy, help ZD advance into areas that are increasingly important to publishers.

The acquisition is about finding a way to tie e-commerce, content and display advertising closer together, while helping it manage advertisers’ demands to “buy audiences” on the publishers’ terms.

With the purchase of LogicBuy, ZD’s websites, such as its flagship PCMag.com, will now be able to present deals and online coupons on tech items like laptops, smartphones digital cameras and other products to their audience of in-market buyers. At the same time, LogicBuy.com will tap Ziff Davis’ long-running relationships with tech manufacturers and retailers to bring even more high-quality deals to its audience. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

At the same time, ZD is launching Ziff Davis BuyerBase, an ad targeting platform that analyzes real-time, audience data every month from more than 40 million buyers seeking tech products and services. While the ad targeting space is attracting more and more ad dollars, it’s also drawing more regulatory and legal heat.

Shah was quick to point out that the data in its targeting platform is all non-personally identifiable and offers a clear way for consumers to opt-out. In addition, ZD is working with Better Advertising, the behavioral ad regulation startup co-founded by former About.com CEO Scott Meyer, that has the Digital Advertising Alliance opt-out icon.

In the case of integrating LogicBuy, a kind of Groupon for tech deals, and audience targeting with BuyerBase, Shah said it dovetails perfectly with ZD’s approach to content. “The content piece we have is very much focused on buying guides and reviews,” Shah said. “We monetize that content with display ads and contextual sponsorships. We’re not shifting away from that, but broadening our scope to include data and commerce.”

While most publishers rely mostly on contextual ads within their sites — roughly 90 percent of their ad revenues are derived from those ad sales — some have been selling a small part of their inventory to ad networks and targeting marketplaces. Many also find themselves the unwitting victim of companies that surreptitiously mine publishers audience data and sell it to advertisers or other third parties, cutting the publisher out of the revenue and leaving them to blame when users find that their site movements have been tracked.

With BuyerBase, ZD will also track the publisher’s tech audience as they go to other sites, a rare move by publishers, who tend to sell those targeted ads and don’t bother to manage the platforms they run on. For Shah, that was an early goal. It was also one of the reasons ZD signed on with audience data manage Demdex. Shah rattled off a set of stats that show the potential of offering up tech buyers to advertisers directly, whether or not they visit ZD’s properties.

“There are about 40 million tech buyers online each month, and 85 percent of them research a planned purchase online,” he said. Only 7.9 sites are typically used by the average online consumer. “We can determine who is ready to make a purchase and with that info, work with DSPs to target those people who are in-market,” Shah added. “In addition to e-commerce, this is an area publishers are going to have to be more active in. We want to encourage that.”

While three-year-old LogicBuy will be a key part of ZD’s offerings, it will remain a standalone brand and will continue to work with outside publishers.

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