What it is: First Yahoo invests in one, now DoubleClick creates one -- just as it is dressing itself up for a sale. What is a media exchange anyway? The idea, borrowed from Wall Street's stock market, where buyers and sellers use different brokerage firms but all trade in a central market, connects buyers and sellers in a transparent, real-time process. The goal is to more efficiently buy and sell online media.
Why the buzz? For one thing, online publishers have incredibly aggressive revenue goals, which means they need to get smarter about how they monetize their entire inventories. They need to milk not just the premium impressions, which mainly are sold face to face, but also remnant or noncommercial inventory, which is often where the exchange comes in.
How it works: Sellers, both site publishers and networks, put inventory into the exchange to be bought, most often by another site or publisher, which needs the impressions to fulfill an advertiser request. Buyers can gain access to a pool of online ad inventory that may not have been available through any one vendor.
The players: Right Media Exchange, founded by former DoubleClick executive Michael Walrath in 2003, was an early entrant into the space. DoubleClick, which is reportedly being courted by both Google and Microsoft, launched last week. A third exchange, AdECN, isn't as developed as Right Media and doesn't have the built-in relationships DoubleClick does, but has had success creating a network consortium in the U.K.
The market: A recent Forrester estimate suggests as much as 25% of publisher inventory goes unsold and 15% is sold at remnant or low rates. Mr. Walrath of Right Media Exchange said the market could be as big as 70% of the online impressions.