|We know him, but what
do you really know about him?
Bourland is the publisher of ClickZ and has written a few articles here and there. But
until today, most of us knew little about what led up to ClickZ's launch or where it goes
from here. Andy gives us the real reasons he started ClickZ and what his company's next
move will be.
Over the past year and a half, Andy has served as VP Online Business Development for
Andover Advanced Technologies, which he transformed from Software Publisher to Web Site
Publisher -- now boasting 15 technology sites and growing. Prior to Andover, Andy headed
up a small internet startup called InfoSpark, which developed an online reader service
magazine publishers. That technology tracked leads, and emailed them out nightly. His
technology roots date back to the early '80s, when he sold PCs retail in the greater
Boston area. He also served in sales and management roles at Farallon Communications (now
Netopia, Inc.) and Global Village Communications.
It was a seminar in 1995 on the World Wide Web which he attended at the Boston offices of
Apple Computer that convinced Andy to move on to the internet. He hasn't looked back.
Andy lives in Andover, Massachusetts, with his wife and three kids (ages 17, 9 and 3). He
claims his only vices are Bombay Martinis (extra dry with olives), watching pro football
on Sunday afternoons, and a bizarre fascination with professional wrestling.
Monday nights at 9, he can be found
stretched out on his sofa channel surfing between Monday Night Football, Monday Night Raw
(WWF) and Monday Night Nitro (WCW). Other than that, he appears normal to most people.
CLICKZ: So why are we
interviewing you this week? You're the Publisher of ClickZ. You can write a column any
time you want.
BOURLAND: Maybe I have a few items of interest for our friends and
CLICKZ: Let's talk about why you launched ClickZ in the first place.
BOURLAND: It goes back to the fall of '96. I had persuaded my employers
at Andover Advanced Technologies, which was then a software publisher, to do a
"skunkworks" with the web site publishing model. They gave me the green light to
go ahead with the project, and from that evolved Dave Central, which is one of the better
collections of internet-related software on the web.
In any case, for an emerging web site publisher looking to base their revenues on an
ad-supported business model, information was sparse. A couple of books, perhaps. Ralph
Wilson had his site. Mark Welch had a site. The best information came from my
participation in Richard Hoy's Online Advertising List. Not much else. I was starved for
information and couldn't find a good source for it anywhere. Most of what I found had some
sort of an angle to it -- someone was trying to sell me something.
Even without that resource, we were able to make a go of it with Dave Central, and by
January of '97 Andover decided to bail out of the software publishing business and become
a web site publisher. Andover is up to 15 technology sites now and growing like crazy.
CLICKZ: So how did that create ClickZ?
BOURLAND: It didn't really, but it provides the overall context. Truth be
told, the biggest motivator for the launch of ClickZ was the IRS. Last April, I got a huge
tax bill that I had no idea how to pay. Andover was in startup mode, so I couldn't exactly
ask the company for a raise. I considered working nights at the 7-11, but ultimately
decided to apply my site publishing skills in some way.
Mark Grimes of eyescream interactive and I kicked around some ideas for a site -- in fact,
it was Mark who suggested the name ClickZ. But I ended up taking it in a different
direction from what he and I discussed.
I noticed that on the Online Ads list, there were many well-informed and quite eloquent
voices within this industry. But most of what they were saying was in response to what
someone else said. "What if these guys could put the subject matter THEY specialized
into play?" I thought to myself. What if we could hear from people who are just like
me trying to make sense of this business, speaking from their own vantage point?
And so I decided that ClickZ should offer a new column every day written by the kind of
people who regularly participated in Online Ads. I wrote many of them, and subsequently
solicited a bunch of volunteers to write.
So within a two to three week time frame of getting my tax bill, I conceived, designed and
launched ClickZ without spending a dime. During that time, I was fortunate to recruit my
good friend and journalist Ann Handley, who has
managed the day-to-day editorial operations and freed me up to focus on building the
business. Ann and I had worked together sporadically on a variety of other projects --
sort of earlier generations of our current site.
CLICKZ: How many people receive ClickZ Today?
BOURLAND: Roughly 5000.
CLICKZ: Have you ever considered charging for subscriptions? Why haven't
you gone the subscription route?
BOURLAND: I am considering it. The problem is that there is so much that
is FREE on the internet, that people don't want to pay for anything, even though it's good
stuff. The HTML version of ClickZ Today is paid for by the sponsors. I either have to get
a sponsor or two for a text email version of ClickZ Today, or charge a subscription for
it. And when I talk about sponsoring, I am looking for someone who would commit to three
to six months at a time. I haven't noticed that level of commitment from the
sponsors at Online Ads or i-Advertising, which is why I've been hesitant to do an all-text
CLICKZ: So what's the next step for the company?
BOURLAND: ClickZ recently acquired Microscope,
one of the original sites on the net focused on internet advertising.
CLICKZ: What was it that attracted you to that site?
BOURLAND: It had personality. A quirkiness about it that I liked. Rich
Paschall -- Microscope's founder -- and I had
developed a friendship over the past six months, and he told me that he had decided he
couldn't handle Microscope and his job at Henderson Advertising. I couldn't imagine
letting it go by the wayside, so we talked about how ClickZ could buy it. We're both
CLICKZ: What are your specific plans for it? How will the Microscope
differ from when Rich managed it?
BOURLAND: Microscope has been doing weekly banner reviews. Right now, I
think the banner review space is well-handled by our friends over at ChannelSeven.com and
a few others. I saw Jane Weaver at MSNBC is now doing banner reviews. I don't think there
is much I can contribute that isn't already being done. And frankly, it's not my area of
Banners don't exist in a vacuum, either. It's one thing to judge a banner from a creative
standpoint, and that's useful to a certain extent. But I am more interested in the
execution of a banner campaign. How can a media buyer take a set of creative and execute a
campaign based on a particular set of objectives, whether that means branding, traffic
building, sales, etc. How do they select sites, targeting and filtering criteria, etc?
What is the decision- making process?
That's the area which the new Microscope will focus on: the art of the buy, excellence in
execution. We'll have a guest media buyer every week who will execute upon an actual ad
campaign. We'll tap their brains and find out how they make the decisions they do and see
what kind of results come of it. Visitors to the site can then discuss their thoughts
about how that campaign could or should have been conducted.
I hope to bring the art and science of interactive media buying and planning out of the
back room and into the forefront. And I hope to raise the overall knowledge and awareness
level of the entire industry as a result. Things that are "wowee zowee" today
will be standard operating procedure this time next year.
CLICKZ: And what's the launch date?
BOURLAND: We'll run the Top Ten Award issue next Monday (January 12th),
then have our inaugural issue for the new Microscope on January 19th.
CLICKZ: Still at PSCENTRAL.COM?
BOURLAND: No.... I also purchased the domain "microscope.com".
I figured it might be a bit more memorable for people than pscentral.
CLICKZ: What's the profile of the next ClickZ-affiliated site?
BOURLAND: I've got a few ideas I'm kicking around. You'll probably see
another one or two before the end of the quarter. I guess the profile would be great
information served up fresh on a regular basis. Irreverent. A bit of an attitude. And fun.
Ann and I try not to take ourselves too seriously. I frankly find myself hilarious.
(Editor's note: Then again, Andy, looks aren't everything!)
CLICKZ: Don't you consider a profile of yourself on a site you own to be
BOURLAND: Absolutely! I was just too lazy to write a press release....