Digital Dealmakers: Ben Weinberger

Jul 8, 2007  •  Post A Comment

The player: Ben Weinberger, CEO of Digitalsmiths in Durham, N.C.
The play: Digitalsmiths wants to be Google AdSense, but for video. It’s even got a similar-sounding name for its software, VideoSense, which launched in the second quarter and matches online video with relevant ads. “It’s completely dynamic,” Mr. Weinberger said. “If you watch a Martha Stewart video about Thanksgiving, she might first talk about preparing the meal, so the ad would be for Butterball turkey, and then if she goes on to talk about decorating, there would be ads for Kmart and the ads would update.”
The pitch: VideoSense operates as a plug-in, so any media company can easily add the software to an existing video player. Digitalsmiths takes that video feed and can connect it to a broadband ad network to pair up contextually relevant ads with video content.
Backstory: Mr. Weinberger founded the company in 1998 while still in college. Digitalsmiths originally focused on Web design, then began indexing TV show content in 2002 to report to TV studio clients, for instance, how many times Kramer mentions Cuban cigars on “Seinfeld.” In 2005, the company began developing the fully automated and real-time VideoSense.
The money guys: Digitalsmiths has been operating profitably since its inception. However, it just landed $6 million in venture funding in late June from Aurora Funds and Chrysalis Ventures. That money is earmarked for engineering, sales and marketing. Mr. Weinberger does not have a new time frame for operating in the black again. The company makes money by licensing the software; it shares advertising revenue with content owners.
In the mix: Digitalsmiths currently counts TV studios and networks among its clients, but Mr. Weinberger declined to name specific companies. He’s continuing to reach out to content owners to strike licensing deals for VideoSense.
The pros: As advertising dollars flow to the Web, the time is ripe for targeted marketing plays like Digitalsmiths, especially as users grow frustrated with irrelevant online ads.
The cons: Competition comes from both big guys like Google and smaller players such as Adap.TV.
Background: Mr. Weinberger, 29, was born and raised in East Greenville, Pa. He studied radio and TV production at Southern Illinois University. He’s married and lives in Durham.
Who knew? Mr. Weinberger won a Texas Hold’em Poker Tournament on a Royal Caribbean Cruise to the Bahamas earlier this year.


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