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Category: Content Monetization

StackCommerce Welcomes Ben Gafni, VP of Publisher & Business Development, to the Executive Team

StackCommerce Welcomes Ben Gafni, VP of Publisher & Business Development, to the Executive Team

We’re thrilled to announce the addition of Ben Gafni to the StackCommerce team! With an expansive publisher network currently reaching over 1 billion monthly visitors across more than 750 publisher partners worldwide, we are always searching for new ways to better serve our ecosystem.

We couldn’t be happier to have Ben leading the charge on the growth and evolution of our publisher network as our new VP of Publisher and Business Development. Ben joined us from Google where he provided incredible leadership to the publisher-facing development team for over 12 years. Today, we are picking his brain on everything from his time at Google to his vision for the future of StackCommerece’s publisher network.

Liz: You recently joined StackCommerce after a long tenure at Google. Can you describe the evolution of your time there?

Ben: After starting my career in strategy consulting in New York, I joined a startup here in LA called Applied Semantics, which launched my career working with publishers. Applied Semantics created AdSense, one of the first contextual ad targeting technologies designed to help publishers monetize in a new way with text ads. When Google acquired the company in 2003, I joined Google’s publisher-facing business development team and worked to sign search and content syndication deals across multiple verticals. My role evolved over time, as Google acquired Doubleclick and began to work with partners in a much more multifaceted way led by ad platform technology and programmatic monetization across display, mobile and video. Most recently, I led a team in LA focused on Google’s largest partners in the entertainment and media space.

Liz: What excited you about the opportunity at Stack?

Ben: In looking towards my next role, I focused on high-growth start-ups in the LA area that aligned with my goals on several fronts — industry, culture, and leadership opportunities being paramount. The more I got to know the StackCommerce team, the more it became clear there was a true synergy on both sides. At Stack, I am able to leverage my experience with publishers but in a novel way: helping partners navigate the emerging sphere of native commerce. I have the opportunity to lead a fantastic team, and absolutely love the open, team-oriented, and dynamic culture.  

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Liz: What are some of your top priorities as our VP of Publisher and Business Development? What type of impact do you hope to make?

Ben: It has been great to dive in, learn the ins and outs of the StackCommerce model, and build a strategic plan for 2017.  Native commerce powered by Stack has become such an important part of our core partners’ businesses that I am focusing on building out our newer verticals such as Women’s Lifestyle and News — with the goal of having a tailored storefront offering for publishers of all shapes and sizes. I am also ramping our PR efforts to ensure our media presence reflects the impact we have been able to drive in the marketplace. Overall, I am aiming to apply rigor and strategic focus to what we do in order to drive revenue growth across the organization.

Liz: What is your favorite thing about Stack so far?

Ben: I have been super impressed with the spirit of collaboration and high energy that permeates the culture here at Stack. There is a constant flow of ideas and nobody hesitates to share thoughts on how we can make the company more successful. As a new member of the team, I have a ton of ideas about where we might take the business and have been encouraged by the collective willingness to entertain new approaches and challenge existing assumptions. Plus, everyone is just plain fun to be around – and working right on Venice Beach doesn’t hurt!

Liz: At Stack, we stress the importance of work-life balance. What do you do to live a balanced life?

Ben: Balance is something I’m constantly trying to achieve across many aspects of my life, most notably between work and family. I have 3 amazing daughters that throw me immediately into “dad mode” once I walk through the door each evening. Being able to toss work aside and focus on my family is something I value immensely. To that end, I try to separate from electronics until after the kids are asleep and avoid distractions as much as possible.
One thing I do for fun, exercise, and general sanity is play basketball. I’ve organized a twice-a-week game with a group of friends for the past 10+ years, which accounts for nearly 100% of my cardio and keeps the competitive juices flowing in a (mostly) friendly environment.

Announcing Our Expansion into the Lifestyle Vertical & Introducing Citizen Goods

Announcing Our Expansion into the Lifestyle Vertical & Introducing Citizen Goods

After four years of focusing exclusively on tech products and publishers, we are thrilled to share that StackCommerce will now be offering our native commerce solution to lifestyle publishers, launching with a stellar list of partners including AskMen, theCHIVE, Digg, Rant, The Awesomer, Everyday Carry, and over a dozen others. These new partnerships expand our reach to more than 200 million unique visitors per month, and open an entirely fresh commerce opportunity to current and future partners.

We would also like to officially introduce Citizen Goods, our brand new lifestyle marketplace featuring curated modern products across home, outdoor, grooming, everyday carry, and apparel categories. Citizen Goods is the destination site for our lifestyle-focused partners that prefer an affiliate solution rather than an integrated Shop. To support Citizen Goods, we’ve also launched amazing new product features that allow for further customization of Shops with adjustable homepage heros, content modules, fonts, and navigation. With more advancements in the pipeline, we will continue to deliver innovative ways for our partners to truly personalize the look and feel of their Shops.

Native commerce is clearly resonating with tech and lifestyle audiences, as our member community within our network of Shops grew by 250% to more than 2.5 million members over the past year alone. The overall effectiveness of Shops is also increasing, and we’re proud to see publishers averaging six-figures of gross sales annually, and top partners generating well into the seven figures. This demonstrates the proven success online media sites have found with native commerce as a new and incremental way to monetize their content.

We believe this expansion comes at an ideal time for lifestyle publishers given the rise of ad blockers and decreasing effectiveness of banner ads. The key factor is that truly native commerce works not only from a financial standpoint as an alternative to ads, but also adds brand value by turning readers into loyal buyers who appreciate access to exclusive commerce content. With native commerce, we also eliminate the need for publishers to manage operations, shipping, sourcing, and customer service so they can focus on creating impactful content for their readers. We will continue to expand further into new verticals in 2016, pursuing our mission to revolutionize content and commerce across all online media categories.

These 4 Brands Are Absolutely Nailing Native Commerce

These 4 Brands Are Absolutely Nailing Native Commerce

Native commerce is a cutting edge concept in content monetization, and, as with anything new, it comes with its own learning curve, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t companies who are already executing it to an almost scientific level. These three companies are doing native commerce right, and each in their own unique way.

Thrillist Media Group

The 10-year-old media company began as simply a guy-centric online guide to New York City and has since expanded to several dozen cities and become a prominent men’s lifestyle brand, culminating in the establishment of Thrillist Media Group and a $13 million round of fundraising in 2012. In addition to the core Thrillist property, the company operates Supercompressor, a tech and lifestyle portal, and JackThreads, an online commerce destination for men’s style that it acquired in 2010.

Since the acquisition, Thrillist has positioned JackThreads as the platform to purchase the kind of lifestyle products covered in Thrillist’s content, expanding Thrillist’s role as a destination for everything related to men’s lifestyle. Now, instead of having its readers go out-of-network to buy products, Thrillist provides an easy way for them to buy products relevant to their interests and  adds further value by running exclusive deals and promotions. The numbers speak for themselves — JackThreads generates 80% of its revenue from commerce — and the effect on Thrillist’s editorial process has been negligible — content drives the commerce, not the other way around.

Evernote

Whoa…what’s the deal with this one? Evernote is, obviously, not a content site, but rather a cloud-based app focused on organization, note-taking, etc. However, Evernote’s business model can easily be compared to some publishers — both generally follow the freemium model, with “upgrades” being Evernote’s paid subscription and some publishers’ premium content options.

In addition to driving significant lead generation for its paid product, Evernote has used its core free product to build a strong brand and loyal user base, to which it can market events, other apps and, now, products through the Evernote Market. Users can easily jump over to the Market to subscribe to Evernote’s premium plan and buy Evernote-branded gear, items related to Evernote’s core function of note-taking (pens, notebooks, post-it notes, etc.), and even “Business Socks.” Evernote Market generated over $1 million in revenue in the first month of launch and accounts for ~30% of Evernote’s revenue.

The Next Web

Important note: The Next Web (TNW) is a StackCommerce client, so we may be a little biased here, but based on results, this list would be incomplete without them.

TNW is one of the world’s largest online destinations for the tech industry, holding a sizable audience of digitally-focused tech enthusiasts. Using the StackCommerce platform, TNW has added a catalog of tech products to augment its product-oriented editorial segments. Since the site sits right on the pulse of all things tech, TNW’s staff can provide seamless access to in-demand products to its users when they want them most. By focusing on quality rather than quantity, TNW has kept its audience experience essentially the same while adding the ability to generate thousands of dollars per commerce post when it wants to promote a product.

 Grandex (Total Frat Move)

Austin-based Grandex, Inc., operator of popular Southern/fraternity culture brand Total Frat Move (also known as TFM), has turned its targeted hybrid editorial/user-generated content (UGC) model into a shining example of native commerce executed to a T.

After building up an extremely loyal, engaged community around it’s quasi-message board-style TFMs and augmenting that with original articles about fraternity culture and its own take on current events (and launching sister site Total Sorority Move), Grandex launched commerce brand Rowdy Gentleman to sell clothing and accessories tailor-made for the TFM audience. Shirts, hats and koozies emblazoned with sayings like “America: Back to Back World War Champs” have helped drive the commerce side of Grandex’s business to be the primary revenue generator for the company.