Customer-obsessed marketing

Rise of the Content Distribution Space

Ryan Skinner
Senior Analyst
November 14, 2013

This morning’s announcement by OneSpot – a company that helps marketers place their content in front of relevant buyers through display advertising – of series A financing to the tune of $5.3 million may pale next to recent multibillion IPOs and valuations, but it says a lot about a new space opening up: content distribution.

While OneSpot and Resonance HQ (which offers a similar service) drive content engagement through banner ads, native advertising or sponsored content puts branded content straight into digital publishers’ editorial mix (often with “sponsored by” or “sponsor content” next to it). Vendors like Outbrain, Taboola, AdBlade, Sharethrough, LinkSmart, Nativo, Media Voice and AdsNative are vying for a $2 billion per year native advertising market that’s growing by as much as 20% year on year.

Add to this the plays by Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter that allow marketers to purchase visibility for their content in certain users’ timelines. For both Facebook and twitter, this is their only source of revenue for a growing proportion of mobile users, and it looks like Wall Street may be rewarding them for this mobile-driven success.

Other players crashing this “help brands put people in front of their content”-party include just about every publisher you care to mention, with BuzzFeed.com as the biggest poster child. Federated Media, too, is rethinking content distribution via what John Battelle calls “peanut butter cup marketing” – that is, the matching of content to programmatic retargeting.

This brings us back to the series A announcement by OneSpot, which has created something akin to Battelle’s peanut butter cup. Bryan Stolle, General Partner with Mohr Davidow Ventures (which led the round), said: “We believe the market will continue to see a shift of brand dollars to both content marketing and programmatic advertising as brands increase their reliance on content-centric programs and look to scale those efforts.”

He’s right on the money there. Many brands have content down, but few manage to scale what they’re doing. Brands that invest upwards of $40 billion per year on custom content have an immediate incentive to think about how to put that content in front of more, and more relevant, buyers. This clear need is powering what I call the content distribution space.

Provided content distribution becomes a discipline in its own right, it spawns a number of follow-up questions: How does paid content distribution relate to organic distribution (i.e., search and social-driven)? How does a brand invest in content distribution? Which forms of content distribution respond to user data?

It’s like any new space – each answer brings a bevy of new questions.

(If you’d like a primer on how to approach content distribution from a strategic perspective, have a look at my latest report, which looks at paid content distribution in a broader context).

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