Sharethrough Sees The Future: Native, Scalable And Mobile

At our Native and Content Marketing breakfast events earlier this year, Sharethrough’s  name came up again and again as a company that “gets” native advertising. Sharethrough works with publishers like Time Inc.and Forbes, and with brands including Coca-Cola, GE, Intel and Toyota. That’s why I was excited to sit down with Chris Schreiber, the company’s VP of marketing and communications.  As Schreiber puts it, Sharethrough powers native and specifically in-feed advertising for publishers, particularly in the premium publisher set. Advertisers work with Sharethrough to distribute meaningful brand content via those placements.

With respect to RTB, Sharethrough is definitely focused on the real-time elements of advertising, working with publishers and advertisers to explore the connection between native, in-feed ads, and between real-time data and the use of their own data.



“I’d say we work in RTB in a peripheral sense, but I wouldn't directly define us as a programmatic platform at this point,” Schreiber says, noting that this is clearly the direction that the industry is taking, so the ability to leverage both audience and publisher data will be critical.

The company is already scaling native, leveraging its own Real-Time Templating technology, which “automates the native advertising process,” says Schreiber. “Through a simple, automated process, advertisers can easily build native ads using a URL that links to their unique content. The technology automatically reads the style components of the site and it matches it, so the ad will always blend with the form and function of the site it’s on.”

The ever-evolving piece is the ability to leverage Sharethrough’s own data. The company works with third-party data players like Neustar for the ability to look across its network and segment audiences.

Sharethrough uses various targeting methodologies to ensure relevance including category targeting, contextual and audience targeting. “We’re excited about gaining a deeper understanding of targeting for branded content because there are certain opportunities within content distribution,” Schreiber enthuses. “We’re trying to figure out the best combination of targeting tools to facilitate powerful, yet seamless online storytelling.”

Another big focus for the company is mobile, particularly as it relates to the evolution of ad units.

Although mobile overtook desktop traffic this year, most publishers and brands still design for the desktop – despite the fact that designs don’t always cross screens well.  Schreiber believes we're moving into a new paradigm of design that offers a new opportunity for ad units. This is because mobile sites simply don’t incorporate a traditional right rail: there’s a feed. Within that feed, advertisers have two options. They can advertise at the top or bottom of the feed with standard bannerettes. There are a variety of options for advertising within the feed, as well. Advertisers can choose native ad units, which essentially match the form and function, or they can stick a banner in the middle of the feed. “We can probably all guess how that’s going to go,” Schreiber opines.

Schreiber believes native and feed ads are becoming quickly the standard on mobile, particularly if you follow the money. Facebook, Twitter and even Google search - all of which deliver native, in-feed ads - are dominating mobile spend. So native ads have already become the dominant ad form on mobile – a fact that the industry is beginning to wake up to. That trend could spill over to desktop pretty soon simply because design is moving, per Schreiber.

The big opportunity relates to content quality scoring: developing algorithms to really understand which content offers the highest quality. With Google, the top placement isn’t secured with the highest bid alone; quality and relevance matter, too.  Optimizing the content, rather than the ad unit, is key.

“The same thing is going to have to happen with native ads and branded content,” says Schreiber. “Listening to signals in real time to have those decision options – that’s likely going to be a deep part of the future of native advertising and thus, display advertising.”

2 comments about "Sharethrough Sees The Future: Native, Scalable And Mobile".
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  1. Mike Einstein from the Brothers Einstein, November 26, 2013 at 11:10 a.m.

    I can tell you the future -- it's a massive headache caused by chasing our own ever-longer tails in ever-smaller circles.

  2. Therran Oliphant from xAd Inc., November 26, 2013 at 11:27 a.m.

    Native of 2013 is the programmatic of 2012. Next year, we'll be all a-buzz about native ads because that is where brand dollars will go. Suddenly, you'll see agencies looking for copywriters and brand content developers again and the internet will eventually come full circle to the creation of storied content on websites like they did for magazines in the 1960's.

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