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ShortTail Lives on After CEO Payne's Departure

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David Payne has a new job as svp and chief digital officer at Gannett Co. So what does that mean for ShortTail Media, the company that has been pushing the D30—an ad unit that could help the Web finally steal some TV brand dollars?

Last weekend, online ad tech firm AdGent Digital acquired ShortTail for an undisclosed amount, just as Payne, ShortTail's CEO, was set to announce his departure. Payne, the former president of CNN.com, said that AdGent's plan is to expand the D30 to more publishers across the globe, and that the timing of his departure didn’t signal any problems at the company.

“There were really two different threads,” said Payne. “We needed a bigger partner to help take the D30 to the next level, somebody like AdGent that sells a lot of services to publishers. And they could take it global. . . . They had the resources that would have been a challenge for us.”

While originally launched as an anti-ad network play for premium publishers, ShortTail made some noise in 2009 when the company introduced the D30, a full-page video interstitial specifically designed to be interruptive and even TV-like.

At that time, Payne was preaching that the online ad industry was failing to gain ground among brand advertisers who prefer TV to deliver their message because of lousy creative. Over the past few years, ShortTail managed to sign up several big publishers, including The Huffington Post, EW.com and Business Insider. But the unit never quite became ubiquitous.

That’s where AdGent’s footprint will help, said Payne. Meanwhile, he’s still figuring out his first priority at Gannett. “My style is to listen and evaluate,” he said. “The good news is this company is already doing well with digital. It’s 18 percent of our revenue.”