Why I Built Scrypter

Scrypter LogoThe year was 2008. Social media was just ramping up. Twitter was an infant and people were still wondering why Google bought YouTube. MySpace was starting to wither under News Corp and Facebook was on the rise to supplant it.

I was in the email business back then, but already looking for something else. Our email platform allowed us to schedule email deployments down to the minute. On a Monday we could tee up our correspondence to our subscribers for the week. Conceptually, we could have just sat back and just watched the mail go out. (That never happened, of course; we managed it very closely.)

Thoughts of the great American novel were bouncing around in my head as well. I had a story that I wanted to get out to the public, and I began to wonder if the web, the Internet, the cloud, the whatever-we-call-it-these-days could be used to deliver it.

What if I could write my story – even create videos for parts of it – and deploy it on a schedule? What if I could use social media accounts as characters in my story? I could let the characters tell the story via posts, and if I could schedule the posts, they could tell the story in real-time.

Over the years I held on to my idea, and even started writing that book. The book is only half-written, but it’s coming along. (I’ll probably finish it by 2020.) In any case, I circled back and saw platforms out there that came close to the tool I envisioned to tell my story on social media. They came close, but they missed the mark (and, as it happens, the Mark).

In 2012, I asked for help building a deployment platform for stories. Two friends volunteered, and a third joined us soon after. The market for authors who want to deploy stories as scheduled media posts was not very big. The market for marketers who want to schedule brand media posts is much, much bigger. So, while we didn’t completely pivot the idea, we did nudge it a little.

This move puts us in competition with some big players. We believe that those other companies are missing the mark with their scheduling functionality. It’s our aim to fix that.

(To be honest, I would have been happy if one of them copied our interface idea. I really just wanted this thing to exist because I think it’s a better way. Since they didn’t, we had no choice but build it ourselves.)

Digital Advertising Predictions for 2015

The marketing department at Signal asked several people at the company to make digital advertising predictions for 2015. With their blessing, I’m publishing my predictions right here. I also added a couple of additional topics at the bottom.

Advertising Predictions - 2015

The Ecosystem

2015 will be a big year for IPOs and consolidation. Startups will form in nascent categories, but not so much in established ones. Luma will produce a new set of Lumascapes to accommodate the rise of new categories. This is hardly a shocking prediction.


Cross-channel will be the rule in 2015. Companies with a single channel solution will be the exception (and the Dodo).


We’ll see the rise of the Meta-DSP where Agency systems will be plugging into DSP stacks via APIs. Smarter systems will be able to segment users across DSP buying systems and regain control of Frequency and Reach.

Native advertising

Native Normalization: Native ads will begin to follow responsive design techniques. “Standardized Native Ads” will become the biggest oxymoron of 2015. Native ad specifications are already working their way into the OpenRTB API Specification. The road to standardization is very short from that point on. Read more

Data Leakage is still a concern among publishers

Does connecting website X to an RTB exchange enable all potential bidders to track all traffic and users in such website X?

In other words, can bidders build full user behavior history of what the users do inside website X on a pageview by pageview basis?

This question was asked on quora, below is my answer.

The short answer is yes. Connecting your site to an SSP, or RTB exchange opens your inventory and your users up to being tracked by as many DSP buying platforms as are enabled on your inventory.

Data Leakage

Data LeakageEvery impression is put out to bid, along with that a user identifier is passed. This gives the buyers the information they need to make a decision, “Do they buy or not?” If the buying platform decides to track the user and build a profile on that user’s behavior, there’s little the publisher can do from a technology perspective. The shorthand for this misappropriation of information is Data Leakage.

Sell side platforms and exchanges generally have contracts that restrict buy side platforms (DSPs) from taking advantage of this situation. Data leakage was a serious concern in the early days of RTB and publishers were quick to ask for assurances from their SSP partners.

It’s a two-sided issue, though. The publisher is concerned about their user population being profiled, tracked and then purchased on cheaper inventory. The buyers have concerns about their advertiser intent data being tracked. The publisher can use this data to raise prices on the inventory or cut the buy side platform out of the deal.

Private Exchange

Both buy side platform companies and sell side platform companies are striving to introduce more controls over inventory and ad deals in RTB. The concern over data leakage has largely been subdued. Higher valued inventory and advertising is being sold privately using enhancements made on the RTB ecosystem. These private exchanges limit the exposure of high-value inventory to a subset of buyers and vice-versa.

Alternative to the CPM

Online advertising transactions are all CPM based. You might think my wild assertion is out of line. You might think you’re buying ads on a CPC or a CPA basis. But when a publisher is looking to sell ad inventory, they’re thinking about the CPM. “How many dollars can I get for every thousand ad views?” And when that CPA deal or that CPC deal comes in the publisher’s doing the math to convert that number into a CPM.

Blowing up the CPMFor a CPA deal they’re estimating how many acquisitions they can send to the buyer for every thousand ad views. For CPC, how many clicks per thousand ad views. They’re boiling it down to a CPM because that’s how they can compare the deals. It works like this all the way up and down the funnel.

The CPM has been around for a long time. With the advent of the RTB auction model, the CPM is very dynamic. Each impression up for auction is individually valued based on countless bits of information about the user, the page, the size, the date, the historical performance and a variety of other variables. Even though a separate auction is run for each impression, the bid prices are still in the form of a CPM. It’s in our blood. It is the end result of normalizing the value of an ad impression so that it can be compared to its peers.

Some Problems

I want to point out a couple of problems with the CPM. First and foremost, it’s a single number. This aspect causes a couple of secondary problems that put the buyers at risk. One of the big ones is that there’s no guarantee that the ad will actually show on the page. Steps have been taken to address this by several companies. The result of this problem is a topic near and dear to my heart: discrepancy. Read more

Buying the (Blueberry) Farm

One of the more interesting decisions I’ve made was buying into the blueberry farm. It came about “innocently” enough. My brother and father conspired to pitch an investment opportunity in the form of blueberries.

From Email to Farm

Blueberry FarmersIt was 2006 and I was reaping the benefits of the email business I started with a partner back in 2002. We, of course, starved and scrambled to find work for the first two years, but then something hit. One of our clients, a good friend from before the bubble burst, got us pointed at an email platform. We built it, and then managed to find another client who needed one. So we licensed it, and so began our email business.

By 2006 the business was humming along. We had several clients and were expanding into other opportunities. There was a substantial surplus of cash that we opted to take out of the business. This allowed me to pursue other ventures, like farming. Internet technology and farming go hand in hand, right? Read more

How is an RTB winner chosen in the case of identical bids?

When multiple advertisers are bidding for a certain (impression) and more than 1 enter the same bid amount, (each) being the highest, how does the RTB (auction) determine which ad should be displayed.
This question was asked on quora, below is my answer.

Identical BidsIdentical bids are not unheard of, but they are rare.  Bid prices are presented as a CPM value with up to five decimal places.  That means that the actual impression can bid upon with precision down to eight decimal places.  So in that rare event, when there are two or more matching top bids, the winner is chosen at random.  This is only the tip of the iceberg, though.

Features are being added to RTB systems that allow for preferential treatment of preferred DSPs, agencies, trading desks and even advertisers.   Deals that are struck between site owners and buyers are being executed through the RTB infrastructure.  Those deals can supersede standard auction mechanics, resulting in a winning ad from a preferred partner in the presence of matching (or higher) bids from other parties.

As time goes on and the RTB system is exploited for more and more features, having equal footing in an auction will be more rare, relatively speaking.  There will always be general auctions where no bids are given special consideration.  We are, however, entering an era where premium inventory is available to buyers through RTB.  With that inventory comes a more carefully crafted environment to buy and sell.

SEO: Simple Search Engine Optimization for Small Business

Search engine optimization should be used in conjunction with online advertising to drive more users to your site.  It can, in some cases, allow a small business to reduce the month-to-month costs of advertising by bringing “organic” (unpaid) traffic to their web site.

SEO for acupuncture in ChicagoSearch engine optimization (SEO) consists, at the simplest level, of three things: knowing your target keywords, optimizing your content around those keywords and building inbound links from relevant external pages.  That doesn’t sound so simple, does it.  I’ll break down these three points and expose my experience optimizing my wife’s site for her acupuncture practice in Chicago. Read more

Small business advertising

Rather than Small Business Advertising, I was going to title this post, “Eating your own dog food,” but I decided that a more descriptive title would get the benefit of SEO.  I recently took on the task of advertising for my wife’s small business, here’s our story.

Small Business Advertising for Leslie Smith MD

Leslie Smith MD

My wife’s acupuncture practice recently moved into a larger space; her patient capacity almost doubled overnight from one to two treatment rooms.  I say “almost” because she’s still just one practitioner.  With acupuncture, once the patient has been needled, they simply rest comfortably in pin-cushion mode.  The practitioner doesn’t need to be in the room.  That’s where my wife takes the opportunity to start treatment on a patient in room number two.

I took it upon myself to do some online advertising for her practice to fill up that second room as frequently as possible.  Now, my wife is not your typical acupuncturist.  She’s an herbalist, a holistic medicine practitioner and, most uniquely, an MD.  One would think that her résumé would do the marketing for her.  That’s not the case, obviously.  We have to let people know just how fabulous she is.  So, here’s the long story of how I used my background in advertising, my wits in video production and my fabulous wife’s personae to kick off her marketing push for the new office. Read more