BURST! Media

Everyone claims to hate advertising, but what they really mean is that they hate bad advertising. BURST! Media aims to get more of the good kind online.

Everyone claims to hate advertising, but what they really mean is that they hate bad advertising. BURST! Media aims to get more of the good kind online. CEO Jarvis Coffin chats about taxicabs, specialty content, and one dirty secret.

How did the company get started?

BURST! was just a moment of inspiration, in the back of a taxicab in New York. I had lost my job as director of national sales for The Los Angeles Times and needed to decide what to do next. At the time, 1995, the Internet was just appearing on the horizon–but, already it was populated by countless Web sites discoursing on every conceivable topic. Since launching a college magazine nearly 20 years earlier I had been a media junkie, especially print. The Internet represented a media explosion and I thought it was something worth being part of.

What does the company do?

We invest most of our ad sales energy into developing custom packages for advertisers that are interested in reaching the right person, in the right place, at the right time. This is the value of specialty content and what makes us different.

What got you interested in specialty content?

Specialty content was, and remains, the most obvious feature of the Internet. I mean, what distinguishes the Internet from other media, besides the computer, is all this new stuff. It’s a feast of information. I love the common touch of the Internet media marketplace. I love the sense of community. I love that specialty content is not “manufactured” in the same way as most offline media and that, as a result, it has done something to offset media cynicism, overall.

Advertising, both online and print, has suffered lately, especially for technology publications. Do you think this will eventually turn around?

I’m so sick of advertising downturns. In truth, I think I’ve been through three or four of them in my career. Historically, they come and historically, they go. But, over the years, the media organizations that I think have performed the best are the ones that have managed to stay the course through advertising recessions. They can weather the storms longer and provide better continuity to advertising planners and buyers, which helps with customer retention and acquisition coming out of the slump.

What are the challenges to developing ad-management technology?

The biggest challenge is picking your way through the bells and whistles out there. Ad management is a fairly straightforward proposition. But, the many attachments and accessories to ad management today can make your head spin. Experience matters in ad management today, and the ability to discriminate among numerous choices in order to understand the right tools and right level of service is critical.

Has the recent ire surrounding pop-ups and spam affected the company?

The dirty little secret about pop-ups is that they work, meaning that people who say they hate them keep responding to them. This leads advertisers, who really aren’t any more attached to pop-ups than the rest of us, keep buying them.

The real question in connection with pop-ups, or spam, or most advertising, is relevance. We don’t like advertising that invades our space that isn’t either personally relevant or interesting, online or off. In my view, the reaction of some large Internet players to “block” pop-ups and spam is really a reaction to the constant bombardment of pointless advertising. Otherwise, most rich media today, the kind that may feature a talking head or two, “pops.” But it is sensible. It makes an effort to reward consumers for their attention by appearing in editorial context and by being more creative and entertaining. That is a bargain I think we can live with, if it means unrestricted access to this extraordinary array of content.

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