Advertising Technology

Audience Fuel’s Al Silverstein Makes it Easy for Publishers to Trade Unsold Inventory

Al Silverstein is the CEO of AudienceFuel, a publisher-to-publisher, house inventory trading platform. Al has worked in media and advertising for 10+ years at companies including OgilvyOne and AtmosphereBBDO. We recently spoke with Al about his current role.

The Makegood: Al, you founded AudienceFuel in 2010, the publisher-to-publisher trading platform. What motivated you to do so and why was it the right time? 

AS: As Chief Innovation Officer at Active International, the global leader in corporate trade, I was constantly looking to help media companies improve performance, by helping create greater value for their unsold ad inventory assets. That’s Active’s business, after all — it exists to help companies leverage unsold or undervalued inventory to yield greater net revenue for their company. I noticed that even the best websites often fail to sell half of their available ad impressions at premium rates, and wondered what could be done about that, besides just liquidating them through 3rd party ad networks and exchanges for a fraction of the cost.

Talking with Jim Porcarelli and others at Active, I realized that if we could make it easy for publishers to trade that unsold inventory with other publishers — that is, if they exchanged house ads — then those publishers could achieve two important goals at once: (1) show relevant, interesting ads to their own audience; and (2) bring in new readers from other sites — at a marketing cost that would be effectively zero. Publishers like Ideas People Media told us that this is the right time. Ideas People Media had thought about developing its own system to do this just within their own network, and were relieved that we had already developed a working interface, one that enables sites like and The New Republic to draw new readers from each other.

The Makegood: Online media is a very fragmented landscape in terms of publishers: there are a few very large publishers and exponentially more medium and small publishers. How does Audience Fuel meet the needs of each different type of publisher? 

AS: Naturally we started with some of the largest publishers, both because they have the largest audiences and because they’re the most sensitive to the poor impression that ads from some remnant networks can make on their readers — and thus on their brands. But we’re already working with high-quality, small to mid-size publishers who see a greater value in using their inventory to drive traffic to their sites than in generating revenue with that inventory at CPMs lower than ten cents. As more publishers participate in AudienceFuel, we will become even better able to serve all publishers — who will always, by the way, retain full control over the sites with which they trade ads.

The Makegood: You have mentioned that many publishers “throw extra inventory away” without measuring the value that they can bring to an organization. How does AudienceFuel enable publishers to be less wasteful?

AS: Publishers throw extra inventory away by allocating it to house ads without paying attention to performance. These same publishers then spend thousands of dollars paying third parties to drive traffic back to their sites to grow traffic and revenue. AudienceFuel helps publishers optimize those house ads — often increasing performance by 500% — and usually with just half the inventory allocated. The other half is made available to other AudienceFuel publishers. This gives everyone the ability to drive additional traffic at almost no cost, increasing performance by additional 500%.

Publishers that use AudienceFuel save thousands of dollars by using their own inventory to drive traffic, rather than having to pay a third party for clicks and exposure.

The Makegood: Ideas People Media, a business unit of The Economist Group that manages three vertical ad networks, recently started to work with AudienceFuel. What offering does AudienceFuel provide, or provide better, than the competition?

AS: As Ideas People Media VP Stephane Pere explained recently, publishers have to ensure a steady stream of traffic in order to ensure that they can meet a campaign’s goals. And, as he noted, “the best proxy for a publisher to grow its audience is to source and acquire like-minded readers.” The quality publishers that make up Ideas People Media were calling Stephane for help: They wanted to easily buy ads on each others’ sites. Our platform offered something better and easier: a way to exchange ads easily and efficiently, even as each publisher retains full control. We haven’t heard of anyone else offering a similar approach.

The Makegood: Thanks, Al.