Hal Bailey currently serves as chief revenue officer at LaterPay, a payment infrastructure allowing website visitors to pay for content after they view it. Prior to LaterPay, he was at Google for 12 years, where he was director of emerging business development, managing products including AdSense for domains, AdSense for content and Google's registrar. He has been an investor in various technology companies including Gradifi and PeerStreet.
How did you get into the industry?
I started at Google working on AdSense and helping to grow the program globally. What struck me then is that not only can large publishers make money with the right monetization platforms, but smaller publishers can as well. If you can scale with a user base, everyone can make money. The most interesting part of working on that program was seeing all of these smaller blogs and publishers that were local or had expertise in certain niche areas make a living and generate significant revenue simply by placing advertisements against their content.
Essentially, I had been involved in technology for most of my career, but Google AdSense led me into the publishing industry.
Any emerging industry trends?
Ads are becoming more aggressive, and you see people avoiding them. Users are backing out of videos, using ad blockers or various forms of incognito browsing. RPMs from ad revenue are getting squeezed for the most part. People are cherry picking content; the ordinary consumer is becoming more finicky and their expectations are increasing. In order to scale and monetize, I believe publishers are going to have to find a way to charge consumers directly for content in a way that is comfortable for the consumer.
Any industry opportunities or challenges?
The media business, in particular, has so much competition over limited eyeballs. People only have so much free time for content consumption and, with so much competition a click away, it's hard to get a captive audience that will come back to your site time and time again. This is certainly exacerbated by social media, platforms that are taking over the way news is found. When a publisher is on one of those platforms, they're not in control. The challenge for publishers is figuring out how to bring users back to their platform where they can offer users valuable content and manage the relationship directly.
Facebook and Google have tried to listen to what the publishers are interested in and have started making changes to their platforms. They offer more opportunity than before. The key is finding a way for publishers both to be compensated on those platforms and also have that compensation aligned with their own platforms. Only by taking control themselves will publishers make this happen on their terms.
Inspiration for the business idea, and your vision for the Business?
Cosmin Ene, our CEO, wanted to find better ways for people to pay for content. He saw that people wanted to know what they’re buying and didn’t want to be bothered with a cumbersome registration and payment process. He came up with a way to simplify this by founding LaterPay.
LaterPay enables content or service providers of all types – from traditional and video publishers to software providers and entertainment platforms – to easily and economically sell digital assets and services without forcing the user to register or pay upfront. Instead, consumers are only prompted to pay for content or a service after they hit the purchase threshold. In this way, we are saving users time, making it easier for them to access content and also helping companies increase sales conversions - whether that’s converting more people to subscribers or generating additional revenue off of their existing content. There are several ways to do that, but the end goal is to help them reach more users and make it easier for users to access their content and value it.
What's next for the Business in the near future?
We want to show how we can support publishers in getting more subscribers and generating revenue. We also want to make it easy for users to become subscribers. People have become accustomed to the concept of free content and, therefore, don’t value it appropriately. We are helping publishers demonstrate the value of their content and are also helping them collect on that value. We’re doing this in two ways - we are working with large publishers and platforms to help them achieve their economic goals, but we also want to help small publishers in the same way.
Your key initiatives for the success of the Business?
We recently launched in the U.S., which has helped us tremendously in terms of business development. We’re in active discussions with leading media companies and platforms based here, and we’re looking forward to helping them monetize their content.
Your most difficult moment at the Business? (and what did you learn?)
One of the bigger challenges I’ve had working at a startup is having to adapt your product based on what the market is showing. You have to have a vision of your goals and listen to the market to get through the noise and stay afloat.
Ideal experience for a customer/client?
Our customers appreciate the fact that we have designed LaterPay in a way that simultaneously supports their needs as well as those of the end user. Ease of use for both stakeholders ultimately leads to higher conversion rates and higher revenue. We have designed our entire product and company around that notion. We have also set up LaterPay in a manner that aligns incentives – their success is our success.
How do you motivate others?
Praise is the best technique. I specifically let employees know when they’re doing well and give them free rein to find solutions and come back with opportunities. Giving real-time feedback and and helping them think through things when they get stuck is key. This is the best support you can give to someone who wants to make a difference.
Career advice to those in your industry?
Learn everything that you can. Be there to help others. Through that process, you’ll learn a tremendous amount about your customers and your fellow employees. You make yourself useful by being supportive, and you advance really quickly. If you box yourself in, you’ll go nowhere.
For any industry, you should not only understand the bigger industry problems but also have viewpoints on how to solve them. You may have the best idea, but if it doesn’t fit within what people need to do for themselves then they’re not going to be as receptive. Always, always put the customer first.