Interview with Linden Cook of Project Wonderful

Discussion in 'Interviews' started by karoshio, Sep 14, 2011.

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  1. karoshio Administrator

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    Today we welcome Linden Cook of Project Wonderful for a brief interview. I would like to say a big thank you to her for taking the time to answer these questions and I hope everyone enjoys reading.

    For anyone who has not heard of Project Wonderful it's an ad network that works off a bid per day basis.
    Here the link for anyone who wants to learn more:

    Can you tell us a little about who you are?

    Ah, the ever-popular open-ended question! :p I'm a 30-something chick with a husband and a cat, who is always curious and loves helping others figure stuff out, too.

    What do you like to do in your day to day life away from Project Wonderful?

    Away from Project Wonderful, I like to dabble in a lot of little hobbies. Most of my time is spent sketching, reading (mainly fantasy novels and webomics), listening to music (all kinds), and playing Flash games on Kongregate. I also dabble in language learning and reading about science and investing.

    Can you tell us about what you do for Project Wonderful on a day to day basis?

    Sure! We're a small team, so we each get to stay involved in a lot of the activities. My primary role is customer support, so my daily activities are mainly addressing questions that come into the service e-mail, helping larger clients manage their campaigns, following-up with potential terms of service violations, and helping review pending publisher sites. I'll also work with our developers in identifying aspects of the site functions or interface that could be updated, based on the feedback coming from our members.

    How did you get involved with Project Wonderful?

    I initially became familiar with PW through seeing the ads on my favourite sites. I'd been pleasantly surprised to see consistently interesting ads served and had clicked-through to learn a little more about what the caption meant. I was impressed to learn that this ad network was actually interested in treating people like people. Later, a friend I'd met at a volunteer position referred me to an opening. I was surprised to learn Project Wonderful was based in Toronto, and excited at the opportunity to help them pursue this mission.

    What are best and worst parts about your role at Project Wonderful?

    The best part is definitely helping our members work through the questions or problems that arise from time to time. The surface of the site is relatively straight-forward, but there are dozens of finer features that can get a bit confusing as you get started, and I love that I can help people bust through whatever's confusing them, saving them time and frustration. I especially love being able to surprise someone with a custom solution when they expected a useless auto-response that doesn't relate to the particular situation they're facing!

    The worst part is handling terms of service issues, mainly because most folks aren't doing things intentionally and it sucks to shake up their day with a heads-up about a problem. The good news is that most situations are resolved without booting anyone from the network and the member can carry forward with a better understanding of the spirit of our terms, but it can still drag down a good mood

    How long have you been with Project Wonderful?

    I've been working with Project Wonderful for 3 years, now.

    Where did the idea of Project Wonderful come from?

    The idea of Project Wonderful came about when the creator, Ryan North, sat down with a friend to imagine how they'd build a system for online advertising if they were to start from scratch, working to avoid some of the common frustrations that are faced.

    Why would you personally reccomend Project Wonderful over other ad networks?

    There's two sides to this, since we're a service for both advertisers and publishers. I would recommend Project Wonderful to advertisers who want to reach an audience of engaged readers who won't just randomly click whatever's in front of their faces. The advertisers pay for the time their ad is displayed on the site, instead of by click or visitor volume, so there's no incentive for temptation for unscrupulous or desperate publishers to generate false clicks that interfere with the ability to learn whether a particular advertising approach is effective. I think it's especially great for small and mid-sized operations that want to get the word out while maintaining some personalized control over how much they're spending.

    From the publisher side, I think PW's awesome great for publishers who want the ability to protect their readers from irrelevant or offensive advertising -- no matter what that means for them. And the publishers have customized controls for their ads (allowing them to individually screen ads if they like) and can reach a real person if they have concerns about something that comes up.

    Is there anything new coming for the future of Project Wonderful you can tell us about?

    We're frequently launching small updates while several major project move forward more slowly in the background, so I brought Ryan in on this question to help identify the next major launch.

    Here's his reply:
    We're going to be launching an affiliate program soon, which will reward members for referring other advertisers to the network by giving them a percentage of what the people they refer spend! We've always believed in building an advertising system in which everybody wins, and this is a new way we've come up with to make sure that when you say "Hey, this network is great, you should advertise there too!" you get a little something for your trouble.

    Have you ever had a similar role with any other ad networks?

    This is the first ad network I've ever worked with. I have held front-line customer service and clerical positions elsewhere, and so I draw on those experiences (and my own as a customer) when working with our members. The advertising knowledge I have has grown from watching the network, communicating with members, and reading. I've learned that no matter how much you've done before, there's always more to learn, or a new angle that hasn't been explored before!

    Do you ever see yourself leaving Project Wonderful for any reason?

    Where I stand now, I can't imagine leaving. I'd move on if PW drifted away from its values of transparency and respect that originally attracted me, but that doesn't seem likely to happen.

    Where do you see Project Wonderful in 10 years? Do you think it could ever compete with Google AdSense?

    Wow, 10 years! Well, we've been around for 5 years this November, and the internet is changing every day, so it's pretty hard to imagine what things will look like that far down the road.

    I'd personally like to see us become an advertising hub for all things creative. Right now we've got a nice selection in webcomics, handmade crafts and jewelry, and gaming, and the books and literature are building up. I'd like to see further expansion in the areas of independent music, video, and non-comic art. These areas naturally build up an audience of loyal readers, where the creator has a vested interest in avoiding alienation, and it would create a fantastic meeting point for creators and relevant companies to spread the word about their work. These feel like areas that are overlooked or underserviced by the major ad networks.

    I'd also love to see more companies and creators overseas taking advantage of our service. There are lots of readers outside of North America that would love to be able to find relevant creators or products, and the auction is still under-used in those areas. Some people argue that the US is the only place people are buying, but I'm always coming across comments by folks overseas complaints that shipping is so expensive and they wish there was something locally available. Non-US creators -- there are people desperately interested in supporting and being entertained by someone in their area!!

    The AdSense question even more slippery, because it depends so much on what you define as competing. Google is a HUGE corporation and offers brilliant search functionality that provides a lot of advertising opportunities. As such, it's readily recognizable around the world and everyone starting out knows about it, so from a volume perspective I don't think it's even wise try to compete.

    However, from a customized service perspective I think we're already competing very well with AdSense and other large ad networks. More and more people are tired of auto-reply walls and the feeling that they're just another dollar bill to a big company. We send you real answers, personally handle concerns about inappropriate advertising, and allow you access to your earnings at a low threshold. We can't guarantee that a small site will earn more money with us, but they've got a good chance at it and they'll certainly get access to those funds sooner.

  2. wjack2010 New Member

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    Nice interview, I'm hoping to be interviewed soon. :)

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