An Audience Exchange For Publishers: A Conversation With LinkSmart's Pete Sheinbaum

In one of the more surprising exchange-based developments, traffic lead generator LinkSmart has launched what it's calling a “marketplace” for publishers to trade links that refer and drive audience traffic between them. In the following conversation, Founder and CEO Pete Sheinbaum explains the logic of utilizing an exchange model for publishers to bid for and swap audiences.

By "sharing reader traffic," you mean the actual behavior, not the data, right?

PETE SHEINBAUM: Correct. Our marketplace enables reader audiences to be grown by publishers who need them directly from other publishers in our network who are opted-in to share them. We do this all through in-content links inserted within the publisher’s article content. 

RTMD: And how specifically is it executed? By publishers embedding links that drive traffic to another publisher, right? 

SHEINBAUM: The publishers install our code (Javascript in their global footer is all they need, so it’s a simple installation), and our platform ingests their content, their keyword and phrases. From there, we analyze reader interactions to determine many things like effectiveness of certain words for click-through. Then, at scale, our platform will insert the appropriate amount of links within articles...again, carefully balancing the appropriate link-to-text-ratio, as well as ensuring accuracy to follow the site’s editorial standards and style (e.g. we follow the style sheet so the links are natural to the article – no pop-ups, etc.). 

RTMD: How is that different from what LinkSmart and others do now?

SHEINBAUM: To date, we’ve focused on helping our individual publishers with their internal or 'on site' reader traffic shaping and recirculation. We enable these publishers to engage their readers longer and ensure they are directed to their high-value content or help them meet other strategic business needs (e.g. driving readers to sign-ups, downloads, purchase flows...or to high-value content like video, slide shows, etc). Now, with LinkSmart Marketplace, we are literally integrating these great publishers to help satisfy their insatiable need for growing audiences. So, through this same linking, some of our publisher partners will share their audiences for periods of time with those that need them. 

The main difference in the market is that no one is a) focusing on the needs of the publisher (many are ad-focused) and b) no one is concentrating on what goes on natively within the article. It's traditionally been about the rails or widgets below the fold to hope for this type of engagement. But, we are literally where the readers are most engaged and have earned our trust by the great publishers we work with to be in the content.   

RTMD: How does it work as an exchange platform? And how is that different?

SHEINBAUM: The exchange aspect of our marketplace traces familiar systems in the industry – many industries, in fact. There are those that need and will pay, and there are those that can share and will receive money. We facilitate the exchange. 

RTMD: And how does the exchange work, specifically? How does one publisher offer/bid for another publisher's reader traffic, and how is that offer and/or bid realized? 

SHEINBAUM: Our marketplace consists of a simple user interface. For those who want to release and share traffic at certain times, they merely opt in and LinkSmart manages everything in the background. For those that need readers, they walk through a simple UX flow...reader selection criteria, bidding settings, campaign creation and finally payment, and then they are set. Again, nothing more for them to do, as LinkSmart's platform handles the rest. 

RTMD: Is it based on the actual incremental traffic yield from readers clicking from publisher A to B?

SHEINBAUM: Yes, it is a yield-based approach, however it is many-to-one (not just site-to-site) in that we call upon all of the websites in our growing network to drive traffic to a singular 'requestor'. 

RTMD: What's the pricing mechanism for that?

SHEINBAUM: It is a bidding-based approach where the publisher will input their budget and caps and general PPC range. Ultimately, the exchange will surface what the market will bear to acquire traffic at the scale in which we will be delivering it. 

RTMD: How does LinkSmart profit from that?

SHEINBAUM: The exchange facilitates the receipt of funds and the payment of funds between participating publishers. LinkSmart will retain a portion of the proceeds received.  



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