clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

(Rap) Genius Considering Putting Ads on Its Site, CEO Says (Video)

“You don’t want to just plaster ads on your site,” CEO Tom Lehman said. “You want to do something that’s very integrated."

Jason Del Rey has been a business journalist for 15 years and has covered Amazon, Walmart, and the e-commerce industry for the last decade. He was a senior correspondent at Vox.

Genius, the text annotation site that started as Rap Genius, has produced way more controversy than revenue in its five-year life. Nearly $57 million in venture capital makes that possible.

But Genius CEO Tom Lehman says the startup he founded with two friends from Yale is thinking long and hard about the right way to make money from the site. And advertising is a possibility.

In an appearance on Re/code’s new Web show “Code Forward,” produced in partnership with MSNBC, Lehman called advertising “an option that is promising.”

“You don’t want to just plaster ads on your site,” he said. “You want to do something that’s very integrated, that enhances the experience.”

What Lehman is describing sounds like what the ad industry would lovingly refer to as “native advertising,” as opposed to banners and other display ads. Somewhere, a brand marketer salivates at the thought of a new highly trafficked site to penetrate.

Genius got its start as a site where rap fans analyzed and annotated their favorite lyrics. The site has since broadened its scope beyond both rap and music in general, and now says its mission is to “annotate the world.” Just this week, MSBNC used Genius’ annotation technology to mark up and critique President Obama’s State of the Union address.

The full interview that my colleague Nellie Bowles and I conducted with Lehman is embedded below. Lehman discusses ads and business models at the 6:15 and 7:10 marks.

Other highlights: At 3:08, I confess that I didn’t believe that Genius had actually hired New Yorker music critic Sasha Frere-Jones when I first heard the news. And at 8:59, I ask Lehman to serenade me with Taylor Swift’s “Style.” He declined.

This article originally appeared on

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for Vox Recommends

Get curated picks of the best Vox journalism to read, watch, and listen to every week, from our editors.