"Did I pass?" - The Final Grade On My 2014 Native Ads Report Card

Kunal's report card

By Kunal Gupta, CEO, Polar

Every December sees a collection of articles in which industry leaders predict trends for the upcoming year, and digital publishing is no different. Last year I made my predictions for “6 Native Ads Trends Every Publisher Should Watch In 2014” and thought it would only be fair if I graded myself on my guesses for the year.

Twitter Challenges Facebook For Mobile Ad Revenue Crown - D

I was dead wrong on this one. Facebook continued to trend upward in users and ad dollars, plus their purchase of Instagram continued to monetize. Other big acquisitions like Occulus Rift, and WhatsApp proved Facebook was becoming much more than a social networking site and sponsored content was a big reason why. Twitter expanded it’s sponsored Tweets, trends and suggested follows initiatives, but the user base plateaued. Even high-profile attempts at attracting new users, like their campaign with the World Cup failed to gain traction with new users.

Recent partnerships with US network television and the NBA shows there is still a strong opportunity for Twitter to grab revenue, but it wasn’t the easy path I predicted.

Pinterest, Tumblr, And Other New Entrants Emerge With Their Own Native Advertising Product - A

Name a website or app with ties to social media, and I’ll name you a website or app which has flirted with native advertising in 2014. Pinterest rolled out Promoted Pins, Tumblr’s Sponsored Post appeared across the whole Yahoo network, and even unlikely players like dating site OKCupid partnered with PizzaHut to bring sponsored content to their user base. This is one 2014 trend which will grow even bigger in 2015.

Publishers And Media-Agencies Duke It Out For The Role Of Content Agency - B

Though there isn’t a ton of hard data on the winner of this fight, when it comes to perception publishers are on top of this battle. Netflix’s heavy hitting sponsored content produced by the New York Times and Wired were two very different pieces of writing directed precisely at their respective publications audiences. Without the care from the Times’ and Wired’s content teams, these articles would not have received the same accolades or resonated so strongly with readers.

The Banner Isn’t Dead – But It’s Very Sick  - A

As recently as last month I’ve still seen headlines, like this one from Farhad Manjoo, on the death of the banner. It’s not anywhere near as effective as native advertising when it comes to engagement and click-through-rate, but there is still a place for the web’s first revenue generation tool in large-scale sponsorship campaigns and ensuring viewability for a brand.

Native Advertising Is The Key To Mobile Monetization - B+

mobile global

This one is on the money, especially for those advertisers who do it right. Our most recent benchmarks, based on the 1-billion native ads we served on mobile devices this year, show that audiences are even more engaged on phones and tablets than they are with the desktop when it comes to sponsored content. The only reason I don’t get an A here is because some publications are lagging behind in their mobile strategy. The demand, tools, and audience are there in mobile to make this happen, publishers just need to step up.

Your Average Reader Will Engage With One Native Ad A Day - B

This seemed like an incredibly ambitious prediction at the beginning of the year, but if you take into consideration sites like Buzzfeed which exist entirely on a native advertising model, and LinkedIn which has seen a 45% jump in revenue since pumping up it’s sponsored content initiatives, it seems like a safe bet. If you read news in 2014, at the very least you interacted with native advertising.

So, it looks like I did quite well in 2014 and am allowed to make predictions for another year. All of these predictions were based on the success of native advertising for publishers, media, social networks and brands alike, and it looks like 2015 will have no shortage of headlines dedicated to the format. Let's see how I do next December.