Ziff Davis has been a serial acquirer since former Time Inc. digital chief Vivek Shah took over the company as CEO nearly three years ago, with investment assistance from PE firm Great Hill Partners. The purchase of NetShelter from former parent inPowered Media is being supported by ZD's parent, J2 Global, which bought ZD last November.
For inPowered, the sale of NetShelter – terms of which weren't disclosed – represents a decision to remove itself from display ad sales and content management and delve deeper into being an earned media ad platform, CEO Peyman Nilforoush told AdExchanger. For Shah, the addition of NetShelter is something he's been eyeing since he began plotting ZD's turnaround into a display and ad targeting platform business.
"From our point of view of the display market, scale matters," Shah told AdExchanger. "Advertisers simply want to concentrate their efforts with the top players in the market. This acquisition puts us in the number one position in the tech category when you combine our reach and NetShelter."
In February, ZD acquired gaming site IGN Entertainment from News Corp., in the process adding men's lifestyle and entertainment sites AskMen and 1Up. The company claims the deal brought in over 600 advertisers and 53 million monthly unique visitors.
It's all grounded by BuyerBase, the in-house private exchange ZD launched two years ago. From there, ZD's pitch to advertisers boils down to this: if you're a tech advertiser and you want the ability to target – and retarget – users, the company now has greater reach and inventory.
One thing ZD isn't selling is "native advertising." Since users come to ZD to research and discover new products anyway, Shah said there's simply no need to introduce an additional layer of content/advertising.
"We're all about finding people in the purchase funnel," Shah said. "We want to be around content that helps people make technology purchasing decisions, whether for their home or business...The advertising and the editorial already support each other in that sense. So we don't think that much about native advertising."
Last fall, inPowered began de-emphasizing NetShelter in favor of marketing software that would tell brands like Samsung, which was the first to use the ad company's new system, what articles and blog posts were being written about them and being shared the most. By identifying positive pieces about a marketer's products, inPowered says it can then help a marketer like Samsung "amplify" the message being carried through social media, in essence connecting earned and paid media.
"With traditional advertising, a TV commercial or banner ad is created to promote something," Nilforoush said. "With inPowered, we do the opposite. We tell brands no need to create anything; you just see what other experts are saying about the brand and product. It's a pure data play in that it looks across the internet and looks at published articles and the amount of sharing that it's getting."
Looking ahead, Shah said that ZD will remain "opportunistic" about acquisitions. And as inPowered and NetShelter go in their separate directions, Nilforoush said that even with his company's eye towards deepening its social network content marketing, down the road there could be possibilities with its current deal partner for wider marketing efforts that include equal parts paid and earned media.