This story originally appeared in Business Insideron March 29, 2018.
Jim Heckman and Josh Jacobs continue to roll up partners as they attempt to build a digital platform for publishers burned by Facebook and, hopefully, advertisers looking for somewhere new to spend some ad dollars.
The pair of ex-Yahoo executives and digital ad veterans have recently launched Maven, which aspires to create a standard technology platform for small and mid-sized websites. In January Maven announced it was acquiring HubPages, a company that caters to niche publishers.
Now, the team is adding Say Media, a similar web publishing firm behind websites like GuitarWorld.com, CleanEating.com, and YogaJournal.com. Terms of the deal were not disclosed
Heckman - Maven's CEO - and company president Jacobs say that Maven is coming along at a time when many independent digital content producers feel ill-equipped to deal with a constantly changing landscape.
"You can't just set up a little website and go be a writer anymore," Jacobs said. "Now half your life is about debugging ad tech...or making sure your site works on Google AMP. To be a world class publisher you now need a world-class engineer team, and you can't make that investment as a small publisher."
Thus, the idea is that the Maven's technology will serve that role, so indy publishers can both deliver their content consistently and deliver ads in a standardized fashion.
It doesn't hurt that many small publishers are feeling whiplash from Facebook's recent algorithm changes, and are likely open to solutions that promise more empowerment.
The Facebook change "has definitely kicked off a wave of publishers examining their business," said Say Media founder Sanchez. "With a more scaled coalition, it helps them control their business more effectively."
Of course, challenging Facebook's dominance is no small task. And in many ways, Maven's model flies in the face of multiple ad industry trends, such as the growth of data-driven ad buying via programmatic exchanges and more advertisers spending with a small set of large partners.
Regardless, the ambitions of the expanding venture remain bold. Maven says it should be profitable by the fourth quarter of this year and should generate $30 million in annualized revenue.
"I'm not aware of any time in history where companies like this have banded together," said HubPages CEO Paul Edmonson i n a video announcing the deal.
As Heckman put it, media right now is facing a"fever pitch of a crisis," he said. "There is an entire species of journalist that is threatening to go extinct."