I recently sat down with Avi Zimak, Outbrain’s National Sales Director, Publishers to discuss his new role and why he values content discovery.
What originally drew you to Outbrain?
The business model is revolutionary for the industry. It’s such a unique, yet sensible way for publishers to get their message in front of consumers without force feeding them a traditional ad. I respect that.
Tell me a little bit about your previous experience and how it pertains to what you’ll be doing at Outbrain.
I have fifteen years in the media business, specifically in advertising sales within the magazine publishing industry, working at companies such as Conde Nast, Time Inc. and Ziff-Davis. Most recently I worked in an entrepreneurial role at Hearst Corporation within a newly created department called Tablet Media, where I oversaw all ad initiatives across our 20 national magazine brands. To go back to your previous question, a lot of what we did at Hearst was presenting the end-user with an ad experience that was natural and not forced upon them. We insisted to our advertising partners that all ads had to be full-page creative, in a placement that was natural for reader discovery and that the reader could control, versus using the traditional web model of banners, pop-ups and other like disruptive ads that we know readers don’t want. What Outbrain does is essentially the same thing: allowing the user to control their own experience and selecting what content they want to consume.
Why is content discovery so important to you and to the industry in general?
The web has been such an important aspect of content discovery, but it has been all about search. Generally speaking, publishers were late to the game, so the only way they could monetize their business was by throwing all of their content onto the web for free and then hoping advertisers would pay for partial placement on their pages. This one-sided model is flawed — for publishers to be profitable they need both a consumer and advertiser revenue stream. Outbrains two-pronged strategy of “engage” and “amplify” is a much smarter approach for both publisher’s and their audiences. As a publisher, that’s the end game: to make sure your audience is having the best user experience possible in all facets so that they’ll return to you again and again.
What do you do for fun?
I have two-year-old twin daughters, so my primary hobby these days is going to the playground, museums and birthday parties. When I do have time to myself, I’m a huge fan of everything New York City has to offer, from the arts and sports to just walking around and enjoying all the wonderful restaurants and sights. I also enjoy music and travel, although my leisure travel has seriously declined since my daughters were born.
Where’s the most interesting place you’ve ever been?
Of course I’m going to say Israel, as I think it’s an amazing country with such rich history and culture. Thailand is also pretty amazing. My wife and I spent nearly a month touring the country. We got to explore the jungles, rice patties, cities and beaches. The hospitality in Thailand is second to none.
Where are you originally from and how did you get into media and advertising?
I’m from a relatively small town in Westchester County called Yorktown Heights. After college I immediately came to New York City. I chose media and advertising because I studied business economics and communications, so figured it was a pretty good fit. I always knew that would be the type of role I wanted to go into. I actually started off in real estate working for Donald Trump, but quickly realized that was not a business I wanted to be in. Don’t get me wrong, he’s an amazing salesman with brilliant business acumen, but I had some friends who were writers and they always told me their business-side counterparts seemed to have a lot of fun in what they do for a career. I decided to give publishing a try, starting off in ad sales and I immediately fell in love with the industry. It really stems back to the principles of why Yaron started Outbrain: it’s all about finding and discovering great content, whether via a print product or online. Working in magazines, I’ve been able to follow my passion-points, whether it’s been technology, fashion, epicurean or general lifestyle. All these categories, and experiences for that matter, have really come full circle for me working for a company that provides every possible vertical to the entire universe. Not everyone can say they work somewhere that is changing the world…and I love that about Outbrain.
Avi most recently served as advertising director for Hearst Tablet Media, where he oversaw all aspects of advertising and marketing within the tablet media department for Hearst’s 20 national magazine brands. Prior to that, he served as advertising manager for Town & Country where he managed the magazines advertising sales team. Avi has also held sales director positions at Business 2.0, Details and Gourmet magazines.