Glam Buys AdPortal; Piecing Together The Publisher Platform

Ad PortalAll Things D's Peter Kafka covers Glam Media's acquisition of AdPortal which is a spin-off of Sportsgenic, a men's vertical sports ad network. The AdPortal technology will be the basis for "'GlamAdapt for Publishers,' a one-stop solution to web-enable all digital inventory for existing and emerging demand sales channels," according to Samir Arora, CEO of Glam Media. Also, according to the release, the AdPortal platform is used by Time, Inc. and CBS. Read more. Kafka's sources estimate the acquisition at $12-15 million with earnouts. Visit AdPortal's site here.

The Sell-Side Platform Evolution

Sell-side technology is continuing to evolve as platforms like those from AdPortal (used by Time/CBS), Jim Heckman and Ross Levinsohn's 5 to 1, Fat Tail (used by Forbes) and iSocket (used by TechCrunch) offer a way for publisher to sell direct to advertisers and agencies large and small. At the very least, a portal like Ad Portal's can presumably serve as a lead generator as advertisers with smaller budgets begin to move bigger budgets online - and direct to the publisher. Here, the critical direct sales relationship between the publisher and the advertiser or agency can be established.

Obviously, scalability is an important factor when servicing many smaller (local!) advertisers. And with a self-serve, AdWords-ian ad platform, publishers access advertisers that the full-service team could never handle. Depending on the portal, various components of the ad stack may be offered - beyond just inventory - such as control of the publisher's data, optimization capabilities and analytics.

Obviously #2, assuming there is sell-through, inventory offered at guaranteed prices through the self-serve portals provides much better yield to publishers than the lower CPMs of ad networks, DSPs, aggregators and ad exchanges who buy and sell in the spot market. In time - years - that gap should close considerably as liquidity builds in the spot market and valuable audiences meet precise buying with the help of the closed loop of increasingly real-time attribution for brand or direct response campaigns. Spot buyers will bid higher for target audiences as they understand exactly what they're getting. And the flip side will be that some inventory and audiences that we all thought were valuable will become worthless.

Ad networks and DSPs are becoming guaranteed buyers, too, (Wait, weren't some of them buying guaranteed all along?) through these self-serve systems as they secure inventory and offer a competitive advantage (See Tom Hespos) with exclusive access to inventory as well as benefiting from the arbitrage.

And good news for the brand marketer as these ad portals also can offer instant access to audience overlaying a transparent network of premium sites - a compelling opportunity as brand dollars move online and agencies look to place a brand safe bet for their clients. As 5 to 1's site addresses in part, "Pristine brand environments, free of low-quality, brand damaging ads."

Meanwhile, aggregators are staking out the ground around spot market inventory as well as informing publishers about their inventory with the aim of fine-tuning their guaranteed strategies. As aggregators continue to open themselves to the buy side though, they increasingly look like exchanges. It would seem that entering the premium/guaranteed field with a self-serve portal for smaller buys may be another option for both guaranteed media and spot buying controlled by the aggregator. Or is this where the private exchange enters? Lions, tigers and bears OH MY!

Futurescape

No doubt there is more going on out there than I know. You know who you are. But who is going to bring it all (guaranteed/non, futures/spot, data, optimization, analytics) together for the publisher? It feels like another Holy Grail.

At some point in the distant future, I'd hazard to guess that the publisher platform will not just be seen as for the publisher. It will be an ad platform that buys and sells...it won't be publisher or advertiser-centric because each constituency will be performing the same two functions: buying and selling. And the data will swirl. Exchanges will cease to exist (yes, Jerry Neumann said it first). And, Google will have the biggest ad platform in the world. Or not - and just own some big, data-rich websites.

Whoa... is that a shark jumping?

By John Ebbert

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