Newly minted sovrn moves HQ to Boulder

BOULDER – San Francisco-based Federated Media Publishing on Tuesday announced that it has sold its name and the content marketing portion of its business to LIN Digital Media LLC.

What remains, the company’s online advertising and publisher platform business, is being rebranded as sovrn Holdings Inc., and moving its headquarters to Boulder.

Federated Media had built the advertising and publisher platform side of its business through the 2011 acquisition of Boulder-based Lijit Networks Inc. Former Lijit chief operating officer Walter Knapp, who had since become chief operating officer of Federated Media, has been appointed chief executive of sovrn. Former Federated Media chief executive John Battelle remains with sovrn as executive chairman.

The content marketing side of the business, under the name Federated Media, now becomes a portfolio company of Austin, Texas-based LIN Digital Media, a subsidiary of LIN Media (NYSE: LIN).

Terms of the sale were not disclosed.

Sovrn will retain offices in Boulder, San Francisco and New York. But with about 70 of the company’s 100 employees, including Knapp, based at its Twenty Ninth Street mall digs in Boulder, the new CEO said in a phone interview Tuesday that it made sense for the new headquarters to be here. Sovrn has 30 job openings, from engineering to publisher development to demand operations.

“It is exciting to have one of the world’s fastest-growing advertising technology businesses based in Boulder,” Knapp said.

In a press release from sovrn, the company said the deal will be mutually-beneficial, allowing both of Federated Media Publishing’s former divisions to thrive independently and grow more quickly.

“As an independent entity, sovrn can now fully pursue the dream of building a publisher-facing programmatic platform that leverages all the data and insights we’ve gained over the past few years,” Battelle said in the release.

Knapp likens Sovrn’s platform to a stock exchange of sorts. The company works with online publishers – newspapers, magazines, bloggers, etc. – to sell their unsold advertising inventory to major ad agencies that purchase the ad spaces through real-time auctions run by sovrn. In one day last week, Knapp said sovrn served 1 billion ads that reached 100 million unique readers.

Knapp declined to divulge sovrn revenue figures, saying only that the company, under Federated Media, had enjoyed 93 percent growth from 2012 to 2013. But he said the company has nearly 20,000 publishers in its network representing more than 2 million websites. He said sovrn pays out about $2 million per week in advertising fees to those publishers, of which sovrn then takes a percentage cut.

“As the new CEO of sovrn, it’s my mission to make sure that we are insanely focused on providing the tools, resources and services that enable independent and influential publishers to succeed,” Knapp said in the press release. “The proceeds from this sale will allow us to lean heavily into our platform-based programmatic ad services and to roll out an expanded set of offerings to engage audiences and drive monetization.”

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