Thursday, April 19, 2012
Interview with Brian Lovett, Prosperent
As a web publisher, how do you make the most of your affiliate marketing efforts, without spending lots of time developing tools to link into the right products at your partners? Colorado Springs-based Prosperent (www.prosperent.com) is developing tools to help those marketers, by automating much of the work to help tie into brand name, affiliate programs at the product level. We spoke with Brian Lovett, the company's CEO and co-founder, to learn more about the company.
What is Prosperant all about?
Brian Lovett: We're based in Colorado Springs, and were founded back in November of 2009. We were founded by myself, acting CEO and CMO, and we also have Andrew Keller and Mike Christensen, who were also founders of the company. Our vision has really been to help web developers and content creators to maximize their earnings online. Our focus is on product data. There is a mountain of product data out there, available in various forms from online retailers. Our job is to take that data, and crunch that into a usable format, and get that out to people, to help maximize earnings on a website.
Can you explain how you're different from an ad network, and how your system works?
Brian Lovett: We work with 200 merchants currently, representing about 50 million products. We are working with brands like Zappos, Overstock.com, REI, and Best Buy. We take all of that data and put it into our system, and on the developer side, we give them access to an API. Developers trying to build rich web application, mobile apps, or social apps can come in and query against our database to get products that match their query. That's saving a developer hundreds of hours right there. On the publisher site, we help web site owners, content publishers, blog owners, and those sorts of things. We're all familiar with traditional banner ads, but what we wanted to do was create something more profitable, and add value to pages. We work differently, in that we blend into the content automatically. Because we're designed to be integral to a website, users are more enticed by them, and more interested in interacting than with a traditional banner ad. Finally, we have ProsperLinks, and what we do here is analyze your page content, and figure out what people are talking about. For example, that might be in a message forum, where we figure out that people are talking about soccer, and we can actually find references to soccer products in the text and link them to relevant products. That's relaly our core technology and focus, on those back end algorithms.
What was your background and how did you start doing this?
Brian Lovett: We started out as affiliate marketers. We'd been doing that for about 10 years. As an affiliate marketer, you struggle with the lack of tools and resources available to you. So, we started developing relationships with merchants, who were giving us hundreds of gigabytes of data. If you're not working as a developer or programmer, you get stuck as an affiliate marketer without tools. What we did, is we started slowly developing tools, which we decided to give out to the mass market, and share with other people doing things like we were.
What's the performance difference between your ads and something like Google Adsense?
Brian Lovett: Google, with AdSense, is obviously the largest in the industry in terms of banner ads. They recently put out a report, saying that in 2010, the average click rate was .09 percent. That's essentially because you can go to a web site, and know that there's a banner ad there, and most of the times when it's a banner people won't click on it. However, because we've integrated our ads into the actual content, we see a two percent clickthrough rate, the highest in the industry.
What are these new products you guys are launching soon?
Brian Lovett: That's our performance ads and ProsperLinks I touched on earlier. For the performance ads themselves, you sign up for our site, put a small piece of code on a web page, and it automatically analyzes your content and displays products from a catalog of 50 million products. We figure out what your users are interested in, in real time, by analyzing their behavior. That's what sets us apart. We get the right product in front of the right people, very quickly. With the ProsperLinks, if you've ever seen on a website how they'll hyperlink a section of content or a phrase to an ad, that's essentially what we're doing. Whereas, they're really broadly targeting things--on an automotive site, you see a generic Toyota ad--we're actually figuring out that users are talking about a 2006 Acura RSX, ad we'll display relevant product ads for that vehicle. We're much more targeted than anyone else out there.
What's the biggest project for you over the next year?
Brian Lovett: We're taking all of our data, and making it more accessible. We'd like to make it more accessible to mobile users, to tablet users, and folks like that. We'll also keep doing what we do, but honing it so our tools can reach a broader market.