A Marketer’s Guide to the Major Players in Native Advertising

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Content saturation on the open web is here, and it’s only going to get harder for your audience to find yours. As more and more gets published, it gets harder for consumers to find your needle in the haystack, and the audiences that publishers can attract are even more necessary for success.

Native advertising with publishers is one of the few marketing channels left that’s still scalable even with all of that content out there, but it can be a bit confusing. The industry is packed with jargon that can be tough to navigate, especially for new marketers.

The overall concept is the same as it always has been—there are media outlets with large audiences and there are brands that want to reach them, but the landscape online has more players than ever before.

native advertising players
Source: Business Insider

All of these players have their own way of defining their role, and the role of the technologies that help them accomplish their goals. The conversation can be difficult to follow depending on who you’re talking to. Chad Pollit of the Native Advertising Institute says it best:

“The 800-pound gorilla in the room that hardly anyone mentions is that the language publishers and marketers use to discuss native is completely different in many cases.”

– Chad Pollitt, VP of Audience and Partner, Native Advertising Institute

The first step to figuring out this confusing maze that is to understand the major players in the native advertising industry—who they are and how they define their goals.

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Supply-Side: The Players that Supply the Audience

native advertising players

Traditional Media Publishers

First are the publishers that you know from print and broadcast media. They’re all online today—and they’ve brought their strong, niche audiences with them.

  • Who they are: the big publishers—think The Weather Channel, Bloomberg and USA Today. Their audiences are usually targeted by enterprise brands looking to capture a wide audience.
  • Native advertising goals: these publishers are looking to monetize their site with branded content. They’re looking to increase revenue, and to also boost engagement with their organic content.

These traditional media outlets have a well-known presence in their space—whether that’s regionally, globally or by industry—and over time, have gathered loyal audiences that appeal to a wide variety of advertisers.

New Media Publishers

You probably won’t recognize these outlets from the days of broadsheets. These website-only publications appeared more recently in the past couple of decades.

  • Who they are: the newer publishers—think the Huffington Post, Refinery 29 and AOL. They were generally early adopters of native advertising, and have built their revenue models on the backs of online advertising from the beginning.
  • Native advertising goals: these publishers have the same goals as traditional publishers, but may be looking for a different niche of branded content to help monetize their site.

New media publishers provide an opportunity for smaller brands and business to advertise to much smaller niche audience on the web.

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Demand-Side: The Players that Want to Reach the Audience

native advertising players

Agency Advertisers

Agencies that work in the native advertising space usually provide marketing, advertising or public relations (PR) services.

  • Who they are: a third-party connection between publishers and the brands the agencies represent—they represent brands like Avocados from Mexico for example. They’re a diverse bunch, and can specialize in everything branding to performance on a scale that ranges from boutique to enterprise.
  • Native advertising goals: agencies are looking for the best performance on behalf of their clients. Depending on whether or not they’re focused on brand awareness or performance marketing clients.

These third-party players provide an opportunity for brands both small and large to capitalize on native advertising without having to bring the expertise in-house.

Brand Advertisers

Brand advertisers are professionals from big businesses and corporations looking to extend brand awareness through marketing and PR initiatives online. As content saturates the web, they’re looking for new channels to distribute their message.

  • Who they are: companies sized from mid-level to enterprise looking gain more brand awareness through different forms of content—think TUI Group, GrubHub and NASCAR.Their campaigns leverage content that comes in many forms, from online publications to videos to podcasts. Some even act as publishers to invest in their own organic audiences—like TUI’s Passenger 6a and GrubHub’s The Crave.
  • Native advertising goals: brands are looking to reach the widest audience possible to increase brand awareness.

As the competition for the audience pool on search and social media increases, gets smaller, and as the web becomes more and more saturated with content, brands are turning to native advertising as a way to capitalize on publisher audiences and drive traffic to their campaigns.

Performance Marketing Advertisers

Performance marketers are professionals looking to grow their business or sell a product or service online with content—content covers a variety of formats like video, blogs, media coverage, product landing pages and more.

  • Who they are: marketers from businesses and startups looking for consumer action—think of companies like Cornerstone, Innogames and Bombfell. They’re looking to be matched with publisher audiences that contain relevant consumers.
  • Native advertising goals: performance marketing advertisers are looking to impact their company’s bottom line.

Performance marketing advertisers stand to benefit greatly from native advertising as the cost of advertising on search and social networks grows. Publisher audiences provide an alternative solution that scales more efficiently.

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Technology: The Third-Party Platforms

native advertising players

Content Discovery Platforms

Content discovery platforms are engineered to drive marketing results for your business, by providing access to thousands of publisher websites.

  • Who they are: Taboola is the leading content discovery platform that’s trusted by thousands of advertisers for our exclusive partnerships with top publishers around the globe. We provide native and in-feed opportunities to put your messaging on center stage on premium publisher sites.
  • Native advertising goals: We connect relevant publishers and advertisers in order to connect audiences with content they might like, but never knew existed.

Online publications ultimately command more combined audience share than search and social, which is why content discovery platforms like Taboola provide significant opportunity for advertisers to be successful in both brand awareness and performance marketing.

Social Media Platforms

Social media networks provide in-feed advertising to connect publishers, agencies, brands and performance marketers with their audience.

  • Who they are: these are the social networks you know well, such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. These are closed online communities where users go to interact with others online and to consume information curated in their personalized feeds.
  • Native advertising goals: social media platforms are looking to drive revenue from the audiences they built on their own, in a similar way that publishers do. Many social media platforms have even started their own publishing platforms, like Twitter’s Medium, LinkedIn’s Pulse and Facebook’s Articles. Social media platforms straddle both the demand and supply side of the industry.

The role of social media platforms aim to drive traffic for both publishers and marketers alike.

Search Engines

Search engines also provide native advertising to connect publishers, agencies, brands and performance marketers with their audience.

  • Who they are: These are the sites you probably go to every time you’re online—think Google, Bing, Yahoo and AOL. They seek to curate content for users based on search queries.
  • Native advertising goals: Search engines are looking to connect users to content that they desire to find—search engine users are different from discovery and social audiences as they have clear intent. They work with both publishers and advertisers to connect users with content, and like social media platforms, are looking to drive revenue from audiences they’ve built on their own. They also straddle the demand and supply side of the industry.

Because of clear user intent, search engines are popular amongst marketers looking to run bottom of the funnel campaigns.

As the native landscape grows, navigating your options as a marketer will get more and more complicated. The trick is to have a clear goal in mind and know your options.

Depending on the goal of your next campaign, your business size, and your budget, you’ll be searching for a media mix that’s best for you. There are multiple ways to reach the coveted audiences publishers have worked so hard to build—knowing the players in the native advertising industry will help you make smarter distribution decisions.