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Premium Publishers See Hope in 'Native' Sponsorships

Spending to rise 24.0% this year in the US

Ad spending on sponsorships is growing faster than expected, as more premium publishers focus on selling customized, “native” digital executions, according to new figures from eMarketer.

As display ad-buying becomes on the one hand ever more automated, with programmatic eating up a greater share of ad dollars each year, premium publishers are on the lookout for a way to stand out—and offer advertisers an experience that doesn’t compare with a typical banner or video ad.

eMarketer expects sponsorship ad spending to grow 24.0% to $1.90 billion this year in the US, compared to $1.54 billion last year—slightly up from eMarketer’s previous estimates from August. The figures include spending on sponsorship ads served to any digital devices.

The growth comes as more advertisers rapidly increase spending on highly targeted programmatic inventory at the expense, in many cases, of more costly premium placements traditionally found on the homepages of large newspaper and magazine websites.

Research suggests that premium publishers see their growing emphasis on sponsorships as a way for many to offset losses from this programmatic encroachment. eMarketer estimates nearly 20% of US digital display ad spending will incorporate real-time bidding technology this year, up from single digits just a few years ago. And that’s just one form of programmatic buying.

For some publishers, the approach may be working. eMarketer estimates that newspapers and magazines will see digital ad revenue growth increase 5.6% and 13.3%, respectively, this year, according to new figures.

These gains are most prevalent among digital-only publications such as Vice Media, Buzzfeed, Mashable and others who are willing to experiment with the customized, so-called “native” executions heavily integrated with editorial. (Editor’s note: the definition of a “native” ad is nonstandard, and eMarketer considers placements such as Facebook’s Sponsored Stories or Twitter’s Promoted Tweets, which some have characterized as native, as display advertising but not as sponsorships.)

eMarketer’s estimate for digital sponsorship spending this year comes in close to one released in August by Jefferies, though the investment bank expects higher growth this year and in years to come. Barclays Capital, meanwhile, forecasts declines in sponsorship spending, which it estimates at well under $1 billion this year.

eMarketer bases all of our forecasts on a multipronged approach that focuses on both worldwide and local trends in the economy, technology and population along with company-, product-, country- and demographic-specific trends as well as trends in specific consumer behaviors. We analyze quantitative and qualitative data from a variety of research firms, government agencies, media outlets and company reports, weighting each piece of information based on methodology and soundness.

Additionally, every element of each eMarketer forecast fits within the larger matrix of all our forecasts, with the same assumptions and general framework used to project figures in a wide variety of areas. Regular re-evaluation of each forecast means those assumptions and framework are constantly updated to reflect new market developments and other trends.

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