Evolve Media Bankruptcy Concerns

Amongst the recent concerns and speculations of Evolve Media’s financial health, we have undergone a thorough investigation to gauge the risk of the rumors of Evolve Media bankruptcy. As an obligation to our publisher readers, we must report on any ad network risks if we come across such information.

We received several claims of many rounds of layoffs. Just recently there was a claim that the fifth round of layoffs happened. After looking into this further, and checking out some of their very recent employee reviews from GlassDoor.com, this was consistent with what we were told.

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Evolve Media clarified, however, that there were only two rounds of layoffs that involved 21 – 22 employees and the total employee count is now 150. They added, “We had one in August that affected mostly Crave and evolve staff supporting Crave and then one in May that affected TotallyHer and it’s evolve support staff.  Our other Apex, Canada and Martini businesses are doing well and are unaffected.”

Below are the major focuses of the allegations we’ve received:

1 Employee Morale And Not Replacing Key Staff

Despite the layoffs, Evolve Media has allegedly not been replacing their senior staff after they’ve been fired or laid off. However, Evolve clarified that the company is still run by Brian Fitzgerald and Aaron Broder and responded to the allegation with, “We added a head of operations (we didn’t have this before) and a new head of finance.”

Several employees reached out to question the work conditions and the financial viability of the company. This certainly has not helped amidst these layoffs and the alleged downsizing of one of their offices. However, Evolve responded to the office downsizing saying, “No, we moved a while ago.” There is a chance that an office move was construed as office downsizing.

There were also allegations of a lot of the work over the last few years has been outsourced to a Mexico office, so fewer employers are required in the US and Canada leaving everyone worrying about their jobs.  

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2. Paying Publishers Late, or Not At All.

One of the biggest concerns for publishers working with the Evolve Media is if they will be paid late, or not at all. Several of the past employees and publishers have recently brought this to our attention.

However, according to Evolve Media, “We changed our payment terms from net 60 to net 120 as we are being paid by agencies on average net 150-210.  That’s the real story here. Agencies are keeping publishers money longer and longer.” We can confirm that this has been a trend in the industry. If Evolve Media only required updating contract terms without mutual consent, there is a decent chance that publishers’ have overlooked extended payment terms.

Of the publishers that are aware of the payment term changes, Evolve mentioned there were several that were upset by the change. Evolve Media added, “Also, with all of the viewability auditing in sold campaigns, we get paid on and we pay on viewed impressions.  This means pubs get paid less than what our reporting interface may show because we are paid off of third party numbers like IAS, Moat, DoubleVerify or DFA.” Longer payment terms and not getting paid on all impressions could definitely upset publishers. This could be the cause for some of the negative feedback we’ve received.

3. Dwindling Support for Executives & Leadership

Just because it is on the internet does not mean it is true. However, in most cases, Glassdoor is very reliable for company reviews and you can see how their ratings changed from good to horrible, over a short period of their most recent reviews. However, in the past couple of weeks, a few positive reviews have been submitted as well although, the positive reviews are still a minority.

It is consistent in the recent negative reviews, the lack of leadership and what is thought of the executives. Allegedly, the leadership has not been very present. If these allegations are true, this toxic environment and culture spills over into the entire feeling of the company and could be sensed among the clients.

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4.  Declining Revenues and Profit Losses

Many of the Evolve Media stakeholders that proactively reached out to us have alleged that Evolve Media has been declining in revenue for years and they are going through yearly losses. Evolve, when asked to comment asserted that they are breakeven. They are earnings losses in some months and profits in others. As ad tech businesses are very seasonal, this claim isn’t out of the ordinary.

Their business model revolves around creating and building custom content for authority websites. Some of the websites include fashion, pets, computer games, beauty, outdoor, and coupon websites.  These lifestyle brand and niche authority websites attract 120+Million fans a month that all require hundreds of well written long-tail content each month. There’s no doubt their business model is expensive to run, however, it can be lucrative for some companies with optimal ad tech.

5. Not Adapting To New Business Models

Evolve Media is one of the industry vets that we have followed for many years.  It started off as Gorilla Ad Network in 2000, before purchasing many different websites listed above that they monetize internally.

However, several stakeholders have claimed that many of the advertisers have left for more programmatic avenues such as Pinterest, Facebook, Google, YouTube, or Instagram. Programmatic ad rates are considerably less than sold directly. Programmatic is also more efficient and effective to buy when combining technology. In fact, Evolve Media confirmed this trend commenting, “Advertisers have been moving more budget to programmatic for years.“

Like Mode Media and Say Media, Evolve Media is an agency type of ad network. They are sales and marketing first and technology never seemed to be their strength. As a result, they have allowed ad tech advances like header bidding, server-to-server, and exchange bidding pass them by. This has most likely been a reason for declining revenues. More technologically advanced SSPs like Index Exchange, AppNexus and OpenX have thrived while ad networks like Evolve Media have declined.

MonetizePros Recommendations

The above is based on allegations from Evolve Media stakeholders, responses from Evolve Media, thorough web research and our educated opinions. It’s hard to say exactly what is happening with a company till official announcements are made. As we said above, we hope the best for all the publishers and entire Evolve Media Company but had to address these concerns. There are a lot of symptoms of an ad network that is going out of business joining a sizable list of Ad Networks that went bankrupt in the past years.

If you are running Evolve Media demand, we recommend to contact your rep and confirm your payment terms. If your publisher business has some late payments from Evolve Media, we’d recommend pausing their demand. It is not worth risking late payments or not getting paid at all especially with so many great ad network options that are header bid compatible.

If you are a publisher that is thinking about trying out Evolve Media, approach with caution. Long payment terms, a dying business model that is most likely surviving because of the publisher side of their business and tech being a weakness are not savory traits in ad tech these days.

As usual, tread lightly and please let us know if you have any information to add in the comments below.

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