Yahoo’s Right Media Goes Premium; Founder Walrath Leaves

Yahoo (NSDQ: YHOO) is taking its Right Media ad exchange up market. In a blog post, Yahoo GM Bill Wise says the ad community wants an “upscale, high-quality marketplace” and therefore Right Media “has refined its strategy to become a premium exchange focused on being transparent, differentiated and interoperable.” The move comes as Right Media, which was the first ad exchange when it was started in 2005, is trying to stand out in an increasingly crowded market. Yahoo also confirmed today that Right Media founder Michael Walrath, who had served as Yahoo’s SVP of advertising strategy, is leaving the company.

AdAge, which first reported on the strategy shift, says that Yahoo plans to get rid of some ad networks on the exchange that “aren’t adding value” and also try to bring on board additional premium publishers. Wise draws a parallel to eBay (NSDQ: EBAY), which he says has transformed itself from an online garage sale of sorts to a site where cars and other upscale goods can be bought (Not quite sure if the analogy works since there’s certainly still quite a bit of junk available on eBay).

Still, it’s a notable shift for Right Media, which has been quiet newswise for much of the last year. AdAge says a main goal is to win over ad agencies to the exchange. On that front, the exchange has already rung in WPP, which announced a partnership with Right Media in May 2008.

As for Walrath, his role at Yahoo had already been adjusted earlier this year and he no longer directly oversaw Right Media. He tells the WSJ that he wanted to “move on” and hopes to work with “small innovative companies.”