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Naddy talks about his own career path and the changes, challenges and opportunities he’s seen in his time in the industry.
As Naddy puts it, he didn’t lay in bed as a kid dreaming about performance marketing. But in his early 20s, he recognized that’s where the opportunity was, even though the industry was still broadly viewed as a “pay for play” economic model rife with the opportunity for conflict of interest.
“I cut my teeth in performance marketing at that, sort of, time, where it was very unfashionable, and it was a certain niche thing,” Naddy said.
By 2013, Naddy ended up at a startup called Agent Ace – a startup that aimed to be a kind of “money ball for real estate agents.” The startup got support from venture capitalists and started partnering with and working with U.S. News & World Report to power their real estate agent matching tool. In 2016, it sold to Quicken Loans. The model of “money ball for real estate agents” relied on using transactional data to find the best real estate agent for you. That data was the kind of information that consumers hadn’t previously had access to, Naddy said.
That resonated with the mission of U.S. News & World Reports: providing ethical, data-driven products to help audiences and consumers.
Though the model of Agent Ace was lucrative, it was also tough to scale, Naddy said. Still, Naddy said he learned a key lesson from his time there: Every user on the Internet is a real human with a need. And you can’t push consumers to a transaction until they are ready.
He and Chad Smolinski – now the product manager at U.S. News & World Reports – were “really aligned on this thesis that, when you help audiences make better decisions, when you bring them unique data or helpful takes on data, you can really be a differentiator in the review marketplace,” Naddy said. About five years ago, Smolinski and Naddy noticed many review companies that “were not doing it the right way.” Instead, they were biased, subjective, not persuasive or simply caught in a cycle of “pay to play” reviews.
That observation is what helped launch 360 Reviews.
The mission was to bring the U.S. News methodology and approach out to new audiences and new purchase decisions, Naddy said. Finding places to use their review methodology became, for him, a “fascinating mission” and a “dream job.”
The business really started to scale in early 2020 when the pandemic hit, thanks to Google rewarding the approach with high SERPS and more exposure.
As 360 Reviews looks to continue to scale, Naddy said it must consider the right balance of offense and defense. The teams need to consider how many categories they want to tackle, and how many updates they want to make, and how they want to approach seasonality.
Still, as the team looks to be tactical in the face of changes – including those that come with AI – Naddy said the company’s north star remains:
“The thing that unifies the 360 team, to this day,” he said in the interview, “is this real conviction that the U.S. News methodology and commitment to quality improves audience’s decision making and helps audiences make better decisions.”