Is Yahoo Finally Fixing Its Deeply Flawed Ad Exchange?

Mayer's plans for Right Media

We all have blind spots, and Marissa Mayer’s is Right Media. Since she became Yahoo’s CEO a year ago, the ad exchange has languished, suffering from neglect and mismanagement, according to buyers and sellers familiar with the product. But that’s about to change, as the company has recently begun to roll out a revamped Right Media that borrows heavily from the top ad exchange in the industry, Google’s AdEx (something Mayer, as a former Google exec, is likely quite familiar with).

To hear industry insiders tell it, Right Media suffers from a slew of deficiencies. The technology is slow and old, the targeting options poor, the management team lacks tech experience, and outside of Yahoo sites, the exchange is littered with poor quality inventory—so much so that legit publishers stay far away from it.

“Right now, it’s a necessary evil,” said one buyer. “It’s cumbersome, work-intensive, nontransparent, lower quality and less targetable than we want.”

Another buyer, Andrew Pancer, COO of data-driven ad targeting firm m6d, said that a few years ago Right Media accounted for a huge share of m6d’s buys. Now, his company hardly touches it, and when it does, it’s only to buy Yahoo inventory cheaply. “Yahoo has fantastic inventory, and it makes Right Media a must buy for us,” he said. “If they had other good inventory, it would be as simple as a flick of a switch to turn it on.”

One top exchange buyer expressed frustration that, given Yahoo’s challenges in the display business, Right Media seems to have been completely ignored during the Mayer era. “There’s been no vision. They don’t have a strong management team, and Right Media has no credibility in the marketplace,” he said.

“It does feel like a little bit of a forgotten corner of the Yahoo universe,” said Emily Riley, vp, product and marketing at AudienceScience. “The engineering side hasn’t given it a lot of attention.”

To be fair, the CEO has had a lot going on. And Right Media’s image may be changing. Chris Hansen, president of Netmining, used to consider Right Media a “dying product.” But he said Yahoo just last week radically improved Right Media’s interface, workflow speed and importantly, its potential for real liquidity—once an ongoing problem for the product. “It looks exactly like Google’s,” he said.

Yahoo declined to comment, but did issue the following statement: "The Right Media exchange is one of the largest ad platforms in the world, and we will continue to invest in our programmatic capabilities. Our recent acquisition of Admovate is an example of this momentum. We're working to simplify our platform and make it easier for advertisers and publishers to do business with Yahoo. We’re always testing new capabilities that align with our customers' needs, and you will see more from Yahoo in the coming months."

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