Many of the greatest disruptive technologies ever created involved the creation of marketplaces and exchanges to make industries more efficient. eBay Inc. (NASDAQ: EBAY) created an exchange for small merchants, Google Inc. (NASDAQ: GOOG) created an exchange for advertisers, Facebook Inc. (NASDAQ: FB) created an exchange for social interactions, and Alibaba.com Ltd. (OTC: ALBIY) created an exchange for exporters.
In all of these cases, technology companies targeted fragmented markets with a self-service, low-friction and high-margin software solution, generating strong and consistent revenues, high profit margins, and reliable cash flow for the companies themselves. Unfortunately, these same attributes have led to lofty valuations, including Google’s 24x multiple, eBay’s 28x multiple, and Facebook’s far loftier multiple, after its recent recovery.
Investors looking for opportunities in the sector should instead look towards smaller companies at the beginning of their growth curve that are available at attractive valuations.
Carving Out a Niche in Advertising
The online advertising industry is very attractive to customers, companies and investors alike, supporting both high returns on investments for customers and highly scalable business models for companies. In 2012, online advertising spending topped $100 billion for the first time, helping companies like Google net more than $10.7 billion on revenues of around $46 billion, while growing at a healthy 10.3% annual clip, despite the economic downturn.
Well, what if there were an untapped network consisting of 300 million users that were 3.5x more likely to recommend a particular purchase, 3.5x more likely to share links about new products, and 4x more likely to post online ratings and reviews? There is, and it’s not a brand new up-and-coming social media website rivaling Facebook, but rather one of the oldest forms of online social media – forums – and 96% of advertisers find them most effective.
So, why haven’t large companies or investors capitalized on forums?
Many forums are run by hobbyists and attract only modest audiences individually, making them very difficult for larger advertisers to effectively reach. After all, a large cosmetics company may be looking to spend some $25 million for online advertising, but doesn’t have the time to make individual media buys of $10,000 or less across thousands of forums. Fortunately, one small public company has recognized this opportunity, acquired over 90 forums, and developed an effective advertising solution designed to help connect the industry with advertisers.
Unlocking the Value in Forums
CrowdGather Inc. (OTCBB: CRWG) is a small $4.5 million company that has amassed an impressive network of forum properties over the past few years. Recently, the company also launched a patented marketplace called Adisn that enables advertisers to effectively target brand safe, niche verticals comprised of vibrant, enthusiast forum communities seeking to improve monetization, including its wholly-owned properties and third parties.
The new online marketplace enables advertisers to target forum audiences by category, age, gender and location, as well as target specific ad units within a page view, while ensuring ads don’t appear by unscrupulous content. For forum owners earning $0.10 to $0.30 CPM right now, the platform promises to unlock significant value by hopefully bringing rates up to $0.40 to $1.00 CPM in the near-term and between $2.00 and $5.00 CPM over the longer term.
These CPM improvements should be driven by the fact that many online advertisers pay upwards of $5.00 to $50.00 CPM rates to existing vertically targeted, online properties. Of course, the key difference between online forums and these properties is that the audience is better quantified and advertisers can make bulk purchases all at once – problems that Adisn aims to solve. And, looking ahead, the favorable demographics mentioned above could make forum users even more valuable.
CrowdGather’s Compelling Opportunity
CrowdGather has enormous growth potential given its strong network of wholly owned forums and recently launched revolutionary advertising platform. But, the company is also very solid financially, with 35% revenue growth in 2012, a 105% jump in gross profits and $15.1 million in net equity that yields a book value of $0.26 per share. With the stock trading at just $0.08 per share, investors can even buy shares at what should be below the company’s estimated liquidation value.
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