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Hello, Publisher Side Energy

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Publisher agencies emerge to help tackle day-to-day and strategic challenges.

Written by Brook Schaaf

Affiliate agencies (formerly known as outsourced program managers) are important players in the space, providing merchant programs with credibility, strategic services, technical consultation, thousands of relationships, and the day-to-day work of recruitment, activation, negotiations, compliance, and so on. As a former owner of one, I understand the value and support agencies provide in our ecosystem.

What I have never understood is why similar agencies don’t exist on the publisher side. They face similar challenges — technical implementation, access difficulties (especially if they’re new), time-consuming analytics, pricing and marketing challenges (as with paid placements), and any number of other struggles related to navigating the space and optimizing monetization. 

So it was with some delight that I caught up on Dustin Howes’ April podcast with Jennifer Goodwin. She partnered with her former Honey colleague Dexter Dethmers to launch Hi Energy, a publisher-side agency, which works with France-based JOKO, Dupe.com, and others.

It has all the vibes of a new agency taking off, complete with an incomplete website (the About section links to Walmart). This prompts the question: Why now? Why not 10 or 20 years ago? 

Others have tried this before. Paul Nichols, formerly of eBates (before it became Rakuten Rewards), had a consulting service called Publisher Focus but went full-time with a client then retired. Adam Weiss, the former General Manager of Rakuten Advertising, ran a successful consulting business for almost six years but never scaled it, then took the role of President, North America for Awin. 

I asked Adam if he thought this was an idea whose time had come or the right team had finally come to the idea. Weiss said that this was a “good question” but pointed out a couple things: One, there have always been experienced people in the space doing this as a side hustle, often between jobs; two, he made a point to stay strategic with his clients yet the need was clear to have someone with experience and relationships who can help navigate the industry to optimize and bring publishers to market at scale.

The lovable George “Geo” Yuhba, now Head of Publisher Development at (guess where?) Hi Energy, made similar points, noting that they do both strategic work — configuring monetization tracking, ensuring compliance, and setting business terms — and quotidian work, like corresponding with merchants and reviewing portfolios with networks. 

Both men see it as a viable, scalable business. It seems the right people have finally come into the niche, perhaps at the right time. If so, I hope they can move quickly because, before too long, they may have hundreds and hundreds of competitors. 

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