2016 has been a most interesting year for all of us in programmatic native and the native industry in general, albeit it has suffered fewer dramatic events, it has gone through a few interesting milestones.
I may be biased but I think one of the most important event in 2016 worth mentioning is the transition of OpenRTB Native addendum of 1.0 to 1.1 and thus paving the way of standardisation of native assets for publishers and consequently creating an opportunity for publishers all over the world to start creating valuable, programmatic friendly native inventory.
Google's push into the native advertising space it is a strong indicator of the industry’s growth potential
Then, although we had quite a few native exits and acquisitions, I think the fact that Google’s DoubleClick started to make a push into the native space both from the buy side (DBM Native buying capability) and the sell side (DFP Native placements). I think we can all have a safe bet that if they push into the native advertising space it is a strong indicator of the industry’s growth potential, a positive flag worth keeping an eye on.
And thirdly, it all happened quietly and very early Jan 2016 but the fact that one of the biggest content recommendation company, RevContent, acquired a smaller UK counterpart: ContentClick. This marked the beginning of an interesting phenomenon and solidified the content recommendation positioning in one of the early native advertising adopter markets in Europe. Something I believe we haven’t seen the end of (more on this a bit further down so stay tuned for more on this!)
After this trip down memory lane however, let’s see what my crystal ball shows us for 2017:
1. Native will continue to grow but not at the right scale yet
Anyone remotely interested in native advertising has seen the Business Insider chart on native ad spend forecast for the next 4 to 5 years. So it is not really news that more ad spend is going to flow into this channel, however I am sceptical about how fast paced this growth will be for programmatic native for instance.
We haven’t had our “Trump moment” yet and until publishers have adequate amount of revenue funding their publishing operations, they will simply not be forced to accelerate native ad placement and native revenue/strategy adoption.
2. We will see more market specific and regional content recommendation native solutions
I have already mentioned that RevContent has made a push into the European market via an acquihire solution. We know what is another major player’s (Plista) legacy business model. And there is Zergnet, Content.ads, Strossle and possibly a dozen other technologies that are going to jump on the bandwagon in their respective markets and start delivering content recommendations or Other News from the web.
The point is, this space will definitely see a buoyant development phase in the coming year for this part of native and I wouldn’t be surprised if Outbrain or Taboola tried to consolidate their positions in continental Europe either.
3. We will see an increase in native mobile (in-app) and native video technologies
If I may circle back to our favourite Business Insider chart on native ad spend, we will also have flashbacks on where exactly within native this growth will come from. The native video space will experience an unprecedented growth in 2017 (and beyond) and due to its even more premium/scarce nature the publisher and brand value will continue to rise throughout the year.
This consequently means more ad spend which then results in innovation for native video. The formula is pretty much the same for native mobile, however it may be a bit more ahead as far as its maturity and speed of development is concerned as the mobile app industry, a sector native mobile is closely connected to, has already produced a number of native mobile SSPs or technology companies the native advertising community greatly benefited from.
4. Programmatic native will benefit from slight scale improvement
Continuing on the above chain of thought around a native technology boom, as an offshoot from that, programmatic native will too go through some positive changes, especially from a scale and inventory point of view. I have touched on this slightly above for native overall and also referenced this with the OpenRTB Native library upgrade to 1.1, but the main point is that throughout 2017 more and more publishers will adopt the standardised, programmatic friendly technologies and native ad formats that can allow RTB native to flourish and grow in the coming year.
5. Native will adopt the AdChoices protocol to align with EU privacy law regulations
Lastly, we have to remember that native is a form of advertising. With its technological development, inevitably we will have to collect data on users to fine tune and increase the efficiency and relevancy of our sponsored content for users. But currently there is no way for a user to opt out of native advertising unlike display where you have AdChoices to opt out of advertising cookies should you wish. With a pending EU crackdown on user privacy and advertising cookies, this will become increasingly important.
Overall there will be a few movers and shakers and I expect to see a few interesting pieces of technologies pop up from time to time as well, but I would avoid from the label the advertising community put on mobile in the past and say it: 2017 will not be the year of native….yet.