The Publisher Branded Content Business Today

August 14, 2018

5+ years, 50+ publisher partners, 50,000+ branded content articles and videos distributed, per year.

Our business, Polar, runs the world’s largest branded content platform for trusted publishers. We provide large publishers globally (the likes of Conde Nast, News Corp, Oath, Gannett, and The Telegraph) with the tools that they use to distribute, serve, optimize and measure the branded content campaigns that they sell to agencies and clients.

We are the “Intel inside” for publisher branded content and see more publisher-led branded content than any single publisher, agency or technology provider globally. The average consumer, agency or brand would have no idea that our technology is being used behind-the-scenes. We are seen as a trusted technology provider and business partner to publishers, as we do not sell branded content. Rather we are motivated to see the publisher-led business grow.

The publisher-led branded content business is a $7 billion digital market globally this year and growing a healthy 40% year-over-year. The big are getting bigger, with the top 100 publishers taking home $4.6 billion for digital branded content and the top 50 expected to generate on average $64 million each this year. Many of these are our partners and we like to think that we’ve had a small hand to play in helping them get there.

I am worried about the future growth opportunity for the publisher-led branded content business, in its current form. It has been growing like a rocket ship in recent years but I fear the current iteration may soon hit a ceiling, or worse, fall off a cliff.

Massive, sudden and unexpected disruption is a trend in media and advertising over the past decade. When print revenues started to decline for newspaper publishers, it was not a slow and steady decline. Revenues fell off a cliff overnight. When audiences began adopting ad blockers, it was not slow. Adoption soared overnight. Direct-sold digital display did not move programmatic over many years, it happened over a few months. Now publishers are seeing very low demand for direct-sold display. When Facebook or Google change their algorithms on how content is discovered, publishers and brands are rarely able to anticipate the change. The drop-off in audience happens overnight and everyone is distracted trying to figure out what to do.

The threat of massive disruption to the publisher-led branded content business is looming and that is why we’ve started to plan for the future. The short-term revenue success publishers are experiencing is making many comfortable and lazy. The rug may get pulled out from under you and you have no idea it’s coming. We will then present ideas for the future of branded content. These are seeds we are planting, expecting that some will grow into little saplings next year and into full trees over the coming years.

I’ve put together a market vision brief about the future of branded content, with a warning about the current reality. I encourage you to download a copy of The Future of Branded Content and share with your team as I’ve included a variety of tactics and strategies for a different future for branded content.

This is the first post in an ongoing, 14-part series around the topic – The Future of Branded Content. Further, weekly posts will tackle The Reality Of The Branded Content Market Today, The Trusted Web, and Strategies For A Different Future For Branded Content.

[DOWNLOAD WHITEPAPER] The Future Of Branded Content

I invite you to join me in this conversation about the future of branded content,

Kunal Gupta

Kunal Gupta is the Founder & CEO of Polar, a technology platform provider whose mission is to enable a business model for the Trusted Web. Polar’s partners include major global publishers and the business has offices in Toronto, New York, London and Sydney.

Kunal is passionate about finding calm and focus in a modern era. Kunal is on the board for CAMH, Canada’s leading mental health hospital and research organization. He writes regularly on the topics of leadership, mindfulness and technology culture on his blog at

You can connect with him on LinkedIn.



Insights about the future of branded content, with a warning about the current reality, as well as a variety of tactics and strategies for a different future for branded content.