Join 9,000+ Readers

Interview with Todd Garland of Buy Sell Ads

by Grant Friedman

on April 16, 2009

in Interviews

This week I had the opportunity to interview Todd Garland of Buy Sell Ads.  I’ve been using Buy Sell Ads for several  months and I have come to really love their service.  When I had some technical issues pop up last week while updating the design for this website, Buy Sell Ads responded to my requests within a few hours.  Needless to say I was quite impressed with the service I received.  This promted me to contact Todd and ask him a few questions.  I hope you enjoy this interview.  Todd offered some really interesting insight into the inner workings of an online start up.

Todd, thank you so much for participating in this interview. I’ve been using your product for several months now and I have come to really appreciate the time it saves me.  Can you start off my telling us a little about yourself? Where are you from? How did you get involved in the online advertising industry?

Sure thing, I’m 27, happily married, and live in Boston, Massachusetts. I originally grew up in southern Maine and once lived in Brazil for a year when I was 18.  I’ve been building websites and applications for roughly 10 years now and have a strong passion for front-end design and code.  I got started in online advertising through buying and selling ads for a couple design related websites I ran as a hobby.

Tell us a little about Buy Sell Ads. Why did you start Buy Sell Ads? What makes Buy Sell Ads different from other online advertising marketplaces? Why should a website use your product?

I started BuySellAds.com because I was frustrated.  There just wasn’t anything like it for me when I was buying and selling ads for two of my websites.  Don’t get me wrong, there are definitely other ad marketplaces similar to BSA, but none of them were *exactly* what I was looking for.  I got tired of having to keep track of when to put ads up and when to take ads down, collecting payment, finding potential advertisers, etc.  So, the idea was to simply create a company that could solve my problems as both an advertiser and a publisher.  Luckily, I wasn’t the only one with this problem.

How BSA is different… I don’t know we just are ;)  Many ad networks just feel so archaic – the way they do business, they are a pain to work with, they have crappy support, etc.  I think that there is a new generation of companies online that have an organic, honest, and transparent feel to them (because they are) and that is the type of company I’m trying to build with BSA.  I’m out to do good business, help advertisers get results, and help publishers make more money.  Our technology isn’t all that innovative; we’re just trying to do it better than the other guys.

The main reasons why a website should use BSA vs. selling ads direct are:

  • We’re going to sell more ads for you since we’re able to get your site in front of more advertisers that trust our judgment.
  • You’re going to save yourself so much time by using BSA.  The time you would spend managing advertisers is better spent creating new content for your site.
  • We don’t get in the way; BSA can live nearly transparent on your site.

I am always interested in how people come up with brilliant ideas for new businesses. In your experience, what advice would you give to some one who just had a brilliant idea for a business but isn’t quite sure how to pull it off?

Well, if you have the skills to get something out there and working by all means just get it done, launch, and see what happens.  If you don’t have the skills to get it done yourself then find someone to team up with that can help you realize your idea.  There is nothing better than simply getting your idea/product out there and in front of potential customers.  Getting feedback from those customers and then continuously iterating on your idea is key.  I think this is great advice – it is one of the most important lessons I learned while working at HubSpot.  BSA would still be in development if I hadn’t learned this valuable lesson from the team at HubSpot.

I have found that there are 2 types of startups; self-funded startups that literally scratch and claw their way to the top; and startups funded through venture capital.  How would you classify Buy Sell Ads?  Which method do you believe is the most effective?

Right now, BuySellAds.com is of the first type that doesn’t have a penny of outside funding and is trying to scratch and claw its way to the top.  Which method is the right choice or most effective totally depends on the business, what stage it is at, and what its goals are.  Right now, I’m not even thinking about funding for BSA, I see it as a big distraction for us at this point.  I’m focused on trying to keep the company as lean and efficient as possible while still adding great value for our users.  With all of the skeptics and doom and gloom stories about the ad industry I’m not sure anyone would want to invest in an ad network like us right now anyway ;)

A lot of startups fail early on. What do you believe has been the key to your success as an online business?

Well, I’m flattered that you think BSA is successful – and in some ways we are, but we have a long long way to go before we are a *real* company ;)  I think what has helped BSA to date is that we’re a breath of fresh air for many people.  I’m very hands on with the company and I’m not much different than many of our advertisers and publishers.  In a lot of ways I’m in the same shoes as our users and it’s really easy to connect and relate to them and how they use BSA.  In addition, the company is pretty efficient from a financial and operations perspective which has helped keep things simple early on.

What are your future goals for Buy Sell Ads? Anything new in the works?

Honestly, the main goal is to just continue to get more advertisers results which in turn will make our publishers more money.  We actually just launched a new version of the website earlier this week which is really exciting.  Once we get the new version under our feet we will continue to improve upon functionality, features, etc. and start to innovate on some additional monetization opportunities.  I always like to say that “I have a few tricks up my sleeve”, and while I hate to be so ambiguous, I do have a few tricks up my sleve… there is some cool new stuff that’s in between the brainstorm/spec stage right now that I’ll be blogging about and/or launching once we get past the new release next week.  So, the future goal is to keep pushing and keeping finding ways to add value for our users.

bsa-cb

With the collapse of print advertising, there has been a lot of talk about the collapse of advertising as a whole. First of all, do you buy any of the speculation that the advertising industry is on the verge of collapse? What do you think is the future of advertising; either online or in general.

I love this question and I love reading those speculative blog posts about the gloom and doom of the online ad world.  I’d like to approach this question with a numbered list if you don’t mind:

  1. People who think advertising is going to die aren’t very smart, and the majority of these blog posts are to spark discussion.
  2. As long as marketers are trying to sell and promote their brand, products, and services, advertising will exist (period).
  3. Online advertising will continue to grow without a doubt.  Numbers will be skewed for a while until the world figures a way out of the current economic situation.
  4. Just as many other industries have being “trimming the fat” so-to-speak, so is the online ad industry.  The days of bloated CPM’s and inefficient and non-transparent ad campaigns are coming to an end.
  5. The ad industry is in need of some innovation (as are many industries right now), and the gloom and doom perception should help fuel this effort.

All in all, I think that some of the gloom and doom posts about the ad industry are good in a way because it gets people thinking, debating, and trying to figure out new and innovative ways to connect with their target audience.  Consumers and marketers alike are getting more and more sophisticated each and every day.  People will always be annoyed by crappy ads and ads promoting crappy products, but a good ad for a good product targeted at the right audience positioned properly will always be able to find success.

What tips would you give to anyone who is considering monetizing their website?

If you are planning to monetize your site via advertising my absolute best advice is to just build something useful.  Don’t put any ads on the site until you’ve got some real traffic.  Don’t use AdSense or any of those ad networks that immediately put ads on your site when you first sign-up.  Chances are these ads aren’t going to be very well targeted.  Un-targeted ads do not help you; they’re going to cost you more money than they will make you.  Build a great site with useful content/tools, and once you have built up come credibility THEN put ads on your site.

Finally, do you own a mobile device? If so, which one? How do you use it to improve your productivity?

Yes, I have a Blackberry Pearl.  For me, it keeps me productive because I am always in tune with what is going on with BuySellAds.com.  I know about each and every order, every support request, etc.  So, once I am back in front of a computer I have a plan of attack and know what I need to get to first.

Visit Buy Sell Ads’ Website.

Follow Buy Sell Ads on Twitter.

About Grant Friedman

Grant Friedman is a graphic design, blogger, and author. In addition to being the founder of this website, Grant is also the editor of Psdtuts, one of the world's most popular tutorial websites.