This article first appeared on iMediaConnection.
In May, Peter Horan took the helm as the new CEO of Goodmail Systems. An industry veteran with decades of leadership experience, Horan joined the company following a 16-month stint as CEO of IAC Media and Advertising, where he oversaw big-name industry properties including Evite, Pronto, Citysearch and Ask.com.
Experienced in leading both start-ups and industry powerhouses, Horan previously served as president and CEO of AllBusiness.com. Prior to that, he was president and CEO of About.com Inc. — up until its $410 million sale to the New York Times Company in 2005 — and CEO of venture-funded DevX Inc.
In a presentation at IAB Mexico’s recent annual conference, Horan spoke about the lessons industry has learned from previous technological revolutions, as well as media business models that have no direct parallel in the old media world. Following the IAB Mexico event, Horan sat down with iMedia to discuss his recent job transition, Goodmail’s plans to merge email and video, and the steps his company is taking to restore trust in email marketing.
Joe Kutchera: You were at IAC for just over a year. What prompted you to leave, and what attracted you to the email marketing industry?
Peter Horan: As I related in my remarks at the IAB Connecta conference, I have always loved being on the leading edge of media and technology. The inbox is the next frontier for advertising. It’s at the bull’s-eye of two mega trends in advertising: marketers forming direct relationships with consumers, and marketers working to deliver better and more targeted messages to interested consumers. While I really enjoyed working at IAC and was doing interesting work, joining Goodmail gives me the opportunity to help build the next big internet marketing company while doing really innovative things.
Kutchera: While you headed IAC, what was the biggest challenge you faced? What accomplishment are you most proud of?
Horan: It was an action-packed year! At Ask.com, we made great progress with the 3-D search interface. We recruited wonderful new leaders into Citysearch and Evite and updated those businesses from both a strategy and technology perspective. Both are now doing phenomenally well. I am also very proud of the great ad sales operation that Rich Stalzer and I built. We got all of IAC onto one ad serving platform with sophisticated targeting capability. We also made great progress in building a mobile business last year. I could go on and on.
Kutchera: In your keynote at the IAB Mexico event, you presented a number of different media business models that you said weren’t possible before the internet. What models do you talk about the most at Goodmail? Which promise the most business growth in the future?
Horan: We are really focused on how the email inbox can be the future of advertising. The foundation of our business is consumer trust. By providing a blue-ribbon icon that assures the consumer of the authenticity of an email message, we improve the experience for both the consumer and the marketer. Working with our ISP partners, we are going to offer marketers increasingly powerful and sophisticated services via email. These will include video in email, stronger shopping functionality, and better analytics on the performance of email marketing campaigns.
Kutchera: On its site, Goodmail Systems says that it has 65 percent coverage for emails sent, with AOL, Comcast, Cox, Roadrunner, Verizon and Yahoo listed as certified partners. However, Microsoft/Hotmail and Gmail are not listed. Are you in talks with them? How about with other international email providers in the Far East or Europe?
Horan: Our goal is to give marketers comprehensive coverage of their customer lists. We are focused on optimizing our delivery with current partners right now, but we certainly look forward to working with Microsoft and Google in the future. We are in the early days of our international expansion. Those efforts will really ramp up in 2009.
Kutchera: It was recently reported that Goodmail Systems will launch video ads in email messages. When do you plan on launching the service, how will it work, and which clients have you signed up? How do you see this changing the email game?
Horan: To be clear, we are primarily offering marketers the ability to serve video content in email. Not surprisingly though, we expect that some of these companies will run pre-roll advertising with their content. We expect to make some definitive announcements over the next 90 days, including who our launch partners will be. We’ve had tremendous interest and already have several signed letters of intent. This will enable consumers to more easily see the video content that they are interested in and will give marketers the ability to more efficiently reach their best customers.
Kutchera: How will email marketing remain relevant as more and more consumers turn to SMS, IM and other forms of messaging to communicate?
Horan: These new messaging technologies are being used for personal communication. We haven’t seen, and don’t expect to see, them being used for business-to-consumer communications, which is our core business. Every analyst forecast that we have seen shows strong growth for email messaging in North America, Europe and Asia through the next five years.
Kutchera: You have had a rich career in interactive. What are the trends or innovations that excite you the most? Where do you think interactive will experience the most growth or change in the years to come — search, email, other platforms?
Horan: Staying on the edge of the edge of innovation is like taking a sled ride in the dark. It’s hard to see very far down the track. The key is to be alert and agile. What’s behind you is completely irrelevant. Right now, I am focused on targeting, personalization and delivery. Consumers want a content package — including marketing messages — that is tailored to their needs, interests and style. Marketers need to improve their ability to reach these consumers in context with messages that are both entertaining and persuasive. I also think we have barely begun to explore the power of mobile.