BuySellAds is known widely in the design and technology blogosphere as one of the leading, largest ad networks in the business. Tonight, in our first ever Stemmings Interview, I talk to BuySellAds’ founder, Todd Garland:
DF: Hi Todd. Please introduce yourself to our readers.
TG: Thanks for the interview, Daniel! I’m 31, originally grew up in Southern Maine, and now live in Boston with my wife and chocolate lab Rusty. I’m more-so a user interface kind of guy than a developer, and I love everything about front-end design and development.
DF: Tell me a bit about your computing setup.
TG: I got my first Mac the summer of 2009. Before that, I was a diehard Sony Vaio guy. For me, the switch from PC to Mac was all about software. I kept seeing how many really nice looking apps there were for Mac and I was jealous. I think it’s pretty accurate to say that there’s a much larger app economy for Macs, and the Mac app developers are a pretty passionate bunch when it comes to the UI. Being a user interface focused guy that I am, I’m actually surprised that it took me so long to convert.
DF: How did you get into design?
TG: Let’s see, I think my first interaction with Photoshop was in high school creating some posters for a band that I was in. Back then, I was just happy to be playing around on a computer, and none of my other band mates really wanted to deal with creating the posters, and so I was the guy. Beyond that first interaction with Photoshop, I started building my first “websites” around 2000, when I returned from a year abroad in Brazil. I was 19 at the time. I started what was called an “ezine” back then, titled The International Exchange Student News. Self-teaching web design and development is a lot like putting together a big puzzle. I mean, I’m not sure how others teach themselves, but for me it was a lot of trial and error; hence the puzzle analogy. From there, what grabbed my passion with building stuff online is really the creative freedom. There isn’t a *right* way to do stuff per-se, and each time you build something you always work to build it better, learn new techniques, and improve.
DF: You have been a designer, developer, marketing specialist, and a CEO. That’s a lot! If given the choice, which would you be doing now?
TG: Hey, you know, if you want to achieve your goals sometimes you have to wear all the hats at times! My passion is in designing experiences, as cheesy as that sounds. What I enjoy is figuring out what stuff should look like, feel like, and how it should work and flow together. Fitting the puzzle pieces together in a way that leads to lots of happy users is the ultimate challenge in my mind.
DF: Being where you are and having attended the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, do you feel that college helped you and what are your thoughts on college for designers, journalists and artists?
College didn’t really have a profound impact on what I’m doing right now, no. I was a Portuguese major. However, I do think that college was very important for me personally. I made some great friends, and I think the experience overall was well worth it. It really depends how serious you take college and how you expect it to help you in the future. For me, college actually afforded me the time to work more on my design and development skills. I was building websites in college, honing my skills, and enjoying life in general. So, if your priority is to become a designer, blogger, or artist, I still think that you can get good value form the college experience overall. Maybe “the college experience” isn’t something you want from life, but if it is I don’t think you should skip just to start working. You can still work quite a bit while in college, especially if earning straight A’s isn’t your priority.
DF: How was the journey to become the CEO and Founder of BuySellAds?
To be honest I think the CEO title is a bit silly these days, especially considering the stage we’re at with BuySellAds right now. I prefer to call myself “Founder”, since we don’t really have a need for the traditional hierarchy at BuySellAds yet. I like to think that everyone at BSA really has the title of “Doer”. We all have our specialties, but all-in-all we’re all part of this company right now because we get shit done. There’s very little red tape, and we’re in a heavy building phase right now, and likely will be for the next 2-3 years. No micro-managers, just a bunch of “doers”.
DF: What does your day-to-day job at BuySellAds consist of?
TG: My day-to-day varies greatly. I tend to have 3 different modes: building, organizational, and maintenance mode. My building mode is my favorite, and that is when I’m knee deep writing code with the team as we build out our new products. My organizational mode is usually a couple days every 2-3 weeks where I am meeting with individual team members to help them move along with their projects. I also do a lot of “housekeeping” type stuff during my organizational times. My maintenance mode is when my inbox is really overloaded from being deep within a building or organizational mode. It usually takes me a day or so to dig out.
DF: What is the future of online advertising and where does BuySellAds plan to be in the picture?
TG: That is a great question. I wish I had an exact answer for you. The truth is that it’s always changing. I think the future of online advertising is very bright, despite the constant bad rap advertising gets in general. It’s important to remember that the internet as a whole is still very young, and online advertising is even younger. We’re in a special time when we have the opportunity to innovate and work toward whatever the future of online advertising will turn out to be. In the short term, I think we will start to see more and more “custom” ad units. Advertisers are generally looking for one of two things: incredible scale, or something that’s never been done before. So, I believe we will see a period of time where there is a blend of what we consider to be traditional display advertising, and custom ads.
At BuySellAds we’re placing a few big bets:
- That traditional display isn’t going to go away any time soon, and will continue to be an important piece of publisher monetization.
- That there will continue to be a trend toward custom (or what some have been calling “native) advertising.
- That more and more advertisers and marketers will adopt self-serve advertising as they see the efficiency gained from automated systems.
So, with that, I think it’s safe to say that you will continue to see us building more and more software centered around helping advertisers and publishers get from Point A to Point B in whatever it is they are doing when it comes to buying and selling ads.
DF: BuySellAds now allows its publishers to sell actual Tweets. Where does social networking fit in online advertising today?
TG: Social definitely plays into the whole custom/native movement. Brands want to get their messages spread, and the way to do that is through piggybacking on people who have existing distribution (i.e. celebrities and general influencers). Sponsored Tweets are a way for brands to buy their way in to the natural flow of social.
DF: Most people are unaware BuySellAds also owns Fusion, Ad Packs, and Yoggrt, all of which are 1-ad per page ads. How have these networks done compared to the more traditional ad options?
TG: The whole one-ad-per-page game is fun. We love those networks, and many of the publishers in those networks we are good friends with. However, if someone is looking to make the most money from their site, one-ad-per-page is not the way to go. These types of networks work really well in the design/dev space where publishers don’t want to have ads cluttering their site, and where their site isn’t their primary source of income. Each one-ad-per-page network is seen in BuySellAds eyes as being another “big” publisher within our overall network. So, they are important to us from that perspective, plus the fact that we see them as being a worthwhile piece of the community. They are a way for us to help spread advertiser dollars to more people, since individually many of these sites aren’t large enough to attract specific advertiser attention.
DF: What can people expect from BuySellAds in the future?
TG: People should expect to see us continue to innovate on our software and the overall ad buying and selling process online. So much of the software in the ad space is absolutely archaic, and we’re looking forward to continuing to breathe some fresh air into things. We love building products, working hard for our loyal users, and online advertising is an area we strongly believe we will have a profound impact over time. My guess is that you will still see us around, 10 years from now, innovating just as we’re doing now, albeit on a larger scale.
DF: Where do you see yourself in the future?
TG: I won’t lie, I see us continuing to innovate on our products and new products in the advertising space. We have a very short term focus when it comes to what we’re building; however, the approach is a long term approach. We don’t believe in building to flip or trying to search for the next Instagram. We believe in building real, sustainable business that is built on a few basic principles: good business, great software, and relationships. We work hard every day to achieve all three, and if we can continue to do that year in year out, we will still be around 5-10 years from now, without a doubt.
DF: Thanks so much for taking the time to talk with me, Todd.
TG: Thanks for having me, I really appreciate you taking the time to conduct this interview! And, for the readers, thanks for spending your valuable time reading what I had to say!