ShareThis, a widely used content sharing widget, has its sights on advertising dollars and has hired ad industry vet Kurt Abrahamson as CEO to lead the charge.
Cincinnati resident Tim Schigel has run the Palo Alto, Calif.-based startup since 2005; he’ll remain on as chairman. Schigel, who founded the company, is more of a launch guy, he said, whereas Abrahamson’s talents lie in scaling out an existing business.
Abrahamson cut his advertising teeth as director of the content media group within Google AdSense, and then as CEO of SocialMedia.com, a display advertising company recently acquired by LivingSocial. He has lofty plans to turn ShareThis, which readers use to easily share links to content on social networking sites, into an ad platform.
The company spent its early years building up distribution; the ubiquity of its sharing widgets on publisher websites earned ShareThis a top 10 spot on comScore’s Media Metrix ranking for advertising, alongside Google, Yahoo, and AOL. Beyond its widgets, ShareThis offers publishers analytics on the types of content being shared on their sites. The company operates on the idea that sharing is caring, and caring is engagement, and engagement, well, that’s the holy grail of digital brand advertising.
ShareThis found that users driven to a website from sharing engage with the content 50 percent more than people who arrive via search. Meanwhile, users who receive information on a product shared with them have a higher probability of converting into buyers than those who’ve searched for it, Schigel said. That, he claims, presents an opportunity for brand advertisers who haven’t found much luck in search advertising. “Sharing allows [marketers] to reach new audiences in a way search wasn’t able to,” Schigel said. “You have to know about something in order to search for it.”
Armed with that argument, ShareThis is working with its publishers to help them stand out from the “glut of content” online. The company assigns a quality score to published content based on how it’s shared and works with publishers to sell higher priced ads based on that value. ShareThis is already buying ad inventory from publishers for re-sale. Its revenues are in the tens of millions, quarter-over-quarter growth is topping 100 percent, and repeat business is high, Schigel claims. The company has signed seven of the top 10 digital brand advertisers. Now it just needs scale, he said.
To do that, ShareThis plans to build its own media buying platform as part of its land grab for digital branding dollars. ShareThis has raised $21 million in venture capital, its latest round a Series B in 2008. With a new CEO in place, the company will seek additional capital this year as it builds out its sales capabilities and platform, Schigel said.