By Anne Lu

Facebook has announced the official release of its updated Instant Articles to all publishers in the recently held Facebook F8 conference. This new platform is set to feature fast-loading and responsive posts compared to the usual posts on Facebook. Additionally, the social media giant opened up its Instant Articles to all publishers to create more interactive and shareable content on Facebook.

There were mixed speculations from publishers on the release of the Instant Articles platform which Ad Week has captured. The platform lets publishers post their content directly in the Facebook Instant Articles news feed as well sell ads other than their brand.

“Facebook Instant Articles is neither an ally nor a threat since the war is already over, and Facebook won,” said Sean Cullen, Fluent EVP for product and technology. “Publishers have no choice but to adopt Instant Articles in order to maintain their existing traffic levels and many will have no choice but to buy advertising from Facebook to grow.”

John Potter, CTO of Purch, told AdWeek that Facebook Instant Articles is an ally more than a threat. However, Potter reminded publishers that Instant Articles is just one of the many platforms to reach an audience.

Aside from Instant Articles, WordPress, Tumblr and LinkedIn are also considered alternative blogging and publishing platforms where publishers can showcase their products and articles. These platforms also contain plug-ins, customization and analytic tools that can benefit publishers.

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Quick poll of tech players after a big day at F8

By Christopher Heine

Of the many talking points Tuesday at Facebook’s F8 conference, two stood out because of their potential ramifications: the full rollout of Instant Articles andFacebook Live opening up to developers.

We did a quick poll of tech players to gain insight into whether media companies should fear the two features. Here’s what they told us:

Instant Articles

The program lets publishers post whole text stories and other multimedia content directly to the news feed while selling ads against them, though it threatens to siphon traffic from their proprietary websites.

Is Facebook, with the initiative, being a friend to publishers or a foe?

“Facebook Instant Articles is neither an ally nor a threat since the war is already over, and Facebook won,” said Sean Cullen, evp product and technology at Fluent. “Publishers have no choice but to adopt Instant Articles in order to maintain their existing traffic levels and many will have no choice but to buy advertising from Facebook to grow.”

Yaniv Makover, CEO of content marketing vendor Keywee, said, “Facebook is a long-term gain for publishers that provide long-term value. However, publishers looking for a quick fix will be discouraged. Some publishers might think Facebook has overly onerous user-experience guidelines that favor quality content over content whose chief purpose is to go viral.”

There are, of course, other viable platforms for publishers to push their content including Twitter, Snapchat, Google AMP and Apple News, noted Gil Regev, CMO of tech vendor Marfeel.

“One thing publishers do need to keep in mind is that Facebook is just one channel,” he said. “They should not pick and choose between these but rather utilize them all. [It's important to stress] the need to continue grooming their own mobile properties, making sure that they provide attractive, interactive, cohesive, engagement and monetization-driven layouts that act as landing pages, keeping users engaged and coming back for more.”

John Potter, CTO of Purch, views Facebook as more of an ally than a threat for publishers.

“On the other hand,” he said, “Facebook could become a threat in the future if publishers become too reliant on the platform to reach an audience, which is no different than the current situation with Google.”

Potter also said, “Given the growth of other social platforms such as Snapchat and Twitter, you can plausibly make the argument that Facebook will never be as dominant as Google has been on the web.”

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By Marty Swant

In a sign of the times, CBS Interactive has inked a deal to increase native programmatic advertising on the majority of its websites. Bidtellect, a native advertising exchange, has an exclusive contract to backfill in-feed native ad inventory across 18 of CBSi’s properties on desktop and mobile.

David Morris, chief revenue officer of CBS Interactive, said he’s “bullish” on programmatic and has “seen substantial growth within our native programmatic channel quarter over quarter.”

“Our proxy is that any way an advertiser wants to connect with CBS Interactive or connect to a consumer through CBS Interactive, we want to connect those pipes,” he added.

Other publishers using Bidtellect’s platform also say they’re seeing good returns. Purch—a digital publisher with 100 million monthly visitors—said its audience is increasingly going to mobile, especially apps. Purch still generates more money from online sales. However, the automated advertising that does run through its various tech publishing websites sees between two and four times better CPMs in native apps than they do on the mobile Web.

“What we’re finding is the train has left the station, and it’s driving toward mobile,” said Marc Ropelato, director of programmatic revenue at Purch.

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On track for $100 million in revenue this year.

Purch is looking for ways to get to the next level, and one leading option is allowing the public to buy shares.

“I would consider the IPO as one possible path, amongst other paths, in the next 12 to 24 months,” Purch CEO Greg Mason told Adweek.

Mason said the publishing company, which rebranded itself from TechMedia Network on April 30, is on track to hit $100 million in revenue this year, and is growing at a rate of over 20 percent year-over-year. Purch also clenched the number one spot in the technology category in April 2014, according to comScore. Over 26 million visitors checked out its technology sites that month, giving Purch a slim but clear lead over CNET and Ziff Davis Tech.

But, if it wants to stay competitive, Mason admitted it will need more money. In late 2011, the company raised about $50 million through venture capital funding from Village Ventures and Highway 12 Ventures and from private equity company ABS Capital Partners. Mason said an IPO would allow the company to get the funding to continue to grow, adding that public market investors it has spoken to expressed interest in the possibility.

“We sort of feel like we see a business that is worth $300, $400 or even $500 million,” he emphasized.

The IPO isn’t the only possibility it is considering, however. Other options consider taking a debt on the business or returning for another round of capital funding.

Whatever option it chooses, Mason is banking that the company’s strategy of emphasizing service driven advice across its sites will appeal to investors. What this means in practice is an expansion of its review topics and formats, which can be seen in Top Ten Reviews, Tom’s Guide and new partner Mobile Nations. And, though its leading property Live Science, which pulled in more than 4.1 million viewers in April, is focused on health and science news, it too has a consumer utility aspect. Mason explained that the content on the site reflects the quantitative self movement, which is the idea that data or scientific facts can be used in technology that can improve people’s wellbeing.

Purch is also considering alternate opportunities to boost consumer oriented products focused on guiding consumers or businesses’ decisions. Ideally, it will be music to both reader and advertisers’ ears, considering that a GE Capital Retail Bank study showed that 81 percent of U.S. customers do research online before a major purchase and spend 79 days sorting through Web information before handing over any cash.

“We wanted a name that was a lot more reflective of our mission and our strategy of our business,” Mason said.


By Michelle Castillo, AdWeek

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Native advertising was all the rage this past year, as online publishers and marketers grappled for new (or repackaged) ways to get the attention of ad-weary consumers. Brands and publishers created entire divisions to produce the ads that mimic editorial content, while vendors sprang up to try to scale their distribution. The IAB took steps to demystify the format by offering standardized language, while watchdog agency FTC raised concerns about the potential for consumers to be deceived by the ads. We asked some active users of the form to predict what’s up ahead in 2014 for the trend.

Matt Turck, publisher, Slate: Custom experiences will continue to grow in 2014; however, advertisers will demand a better understanding of how custom helps their marketing efforts. Creating great content is essential, but expect an increased focus on the metrics and what those metrics really mean moving forward. For scale and economic reasons, more advertisers will create their own content and simply use publishers as distribution systems. And, effectively adapting the custom experience to mobile is a must next year, if it isn’t already. Clarity in demarcating custom content will remain strong with credible publishers, but vary by publisher, as will format, promotion, style, etc. It should, as it is customized to meet specific needs for brands, environments, consumers and advertisers.

Kevin Gentzel, chief revenue officer, The Washington Post: 2014 will see the emergence of the “native product.” Native products are start-to-finish collaborations between news, technology and advertising that take content marketing beyond text, images and video. They leverage tools, platforms and technologies for a better user experience and greater audience engagement. If display advertising and programmatic buying are about scale, native products are about deepening relationships with a more targeted audience.

Mike Kisseberth, chief revenue officer, TechMedia Network: With the recent release of the IAB’s Native Ad Playbook, we’ll see continued standardization of native ads and native ad serving.  Disclosure and transparency in native advertising will continue to be top-of-mind for the industry. Expect stronger guidelines and standards to be considered by the FTC in the New Year, with the industry encouraging self-regulation, as seen with the IAB’s playbook.

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