Publishers Seeing Rise In Custom Native Ads

Publishers looking for ways to offset losses from the growth in programmatic media buys, which in many cases undercut their business model, are offering sponsorships through custom native ad units. More advertisers choose to purchase through programmatic channels these days because it's less expensive.

eMarketer estimates that nearly 20% of U.S. digital display ad spending will incorporate real-time bidding technology this year, up from single digits just a few years ago.

Analysis from eMarketer released Thursday suggests brands are spending more on sponsorships with premium publishers than previously expected as a result of offering custom native advertising units. The firm expects spending on sponsorships -- a form of native ads -- will rise 24% to $1.9 billion this year in the United States, up from $1.54 billion in 2012.

The approach works for some publishers, per eMarketer, which forecasts that newspapers and magazines will see digital ad revenue rise 5.6% and 13.3%, respectively, this year. These gains are strongest among digital publications, such as Vice Media, Buzzfeed and Mashable -- online-only magazines experimenting with native advertising integrated with editorial copy.

Native ads have been expanding across social into publisher sites. The key difference between native sponsorships and Facebook ads is brands can customize the former, but not the later, explains Clark Fredricksen, vice president at eMarketer.

Some native ads -- paid messages blending into the content -- can become deceptive if not clearly identified as ad units. The adoption continues to blur the lines between paid and organic messages, similar to the way paid-search and organic search engine listings initially blended together.

Still, adoption rates continue to push more tech companies like blurbIQ to develop interactive ad units focusing on social media. The Las Vegas, Nevada, company introduced a social, native ad unit featuring embedded links, annotations, videos and commerce. The company claims early tests by brands in Facebook timelines achieved an average time spent of 2.5 minutes with the ad, compared with standard posts.

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