Former Tacoda Chief Aims for Straight-Set Win in Tennis Gig

Dave Morgan spent years helping traditional media companies go digital. Now the Tacoda and Real Media founder is turning the tables. As chairman and a partner in tennis magazine and event firm The Tennis Company, Morgan will put his expertise to work helping the traditional media outfit dominate the tennis content niche on the Web

“At some point you have to put your money where your mouth is,” said Morgan. He decided to invest in and serve as chairman for the publisher of, Tennis, and Smash magazine on one condition: “only if we were going to refocus the company.”

Ultimately, Morgan aims to use the property as launching pad to connect brands with what he believes is a relatively untapped and very passionate audience. “I’ve always believed enthusiast companies were the best ones,” said Morgan, adding they create a “direct connection” to passionate audiences in an otherwise fragmented media world.

“We’re sitting on the most affluent, fitness-focused audience in the world,” noted Morgan of tennis fans. He told ClickZ News his mission for the business is “to do everything to own tennis online,”

That process will involve extending the Tennis brand to a worldwide audience, building out video content on its site, and pushing out that content — and in turn, its advertisers — by distributing it throughout the Web. In addition to creating lots more video, which will include footage from the publisher’s Pacific Life Open and Indian Wells Tennis Garden tennis events, content will feature commentary and community offerings. At this point, the company’s content is domestic and involves little video.

“For the next three months I’m going to spend a lot of time learning Spanish and learning tennis.” Half of The Tennis Company’s audience is based outside the U.S., according to Morgan, who sees dollar signs for the Tennis brand far beyond the domestic market. Going global will entail not only distributing content to reach audiences in tennis-loving locales like Spain, Russia, and Eastern Europe, but translating content into other languages.

Morgan hopes more video, and broader, global distribution will attract advertisers outside the endemic categories the publisher sells to now. “We need to build a lot of travel out,” said Morgan, adding the firm aims to bring in more luxury goods and health and wellness advertisers.

Morgan founded ad network and tech firm Real Media in 1995; the firm merged with ad network 24/7 in 2001, and that entity was acquired by WPP last year. After Real Media’s merger, Morgan founded behavioral targeting company Tacoda in 1995. Tacoda was purchased by AOL last July and has since been folded into its growing Platform A ad division.

Since Morgan left his position as EVP of global advertising strategy at AOL in February, several former Tacoda executives were laid off by the new parent company, including ex-Tacoda CEO Curt Viebranz, who was made head of Platform A at its creation.

When Morgan left AOL, he told ClickZ News he’d spend the coming months planning his next startup. He hasn’t necessarily changed course, yet his new role represents more than just a tangent. Alluding to his as-yet-undetermined next startup, Morgan said, “I have ideas for that, but I’m going to drive through this first.”

Morgan will be based in the New York office of The Tennis Company.

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