"The brand advocacy that's driven by native is more powerful than display or search," He said.
Cunningham agreed that native is competing with display, not social media, for dollars. "The rise of programmatic provides a lot of value," he said. "There is efficiency. On the other side, timing and context represents native very well. We're all going to be competing for the display bucket. But if you're not programmatic or top 15, you're going to get squeezed. Native levels the playing field a bit."
Speaking of programmatic, Meredith Levien, Forbes Media's group publisher/CRO, said that publishers can sometimes feel at odds with the idea of the "tech stack," which implies advertisers cherry-picking audiences for the greatest efficiency and cost. In turn, native showcases publishers' "media stack," which is the power to aggregate audiences and extend content and the marketing message it's attached to outward under the umbrella of a trusted brand.
Earlier in the day, Forbes.com launched new homepages for its two-year-old native platform, known as BrandVoice, with an updated design and expanded functions. Among other things, the new BrandVoice homepages have been optimized for mobile, which represents even greater challenges for banner ads because of the smaller screen size and usage patterns of people on the go.
Marketers are already taking on the function of publishing, telling stories on their owned channels, Levien said. "But I don't think it's a matter of taking anything away from display or social media budgets," she added. "I think the pie is going to get bigger [as native advertising gets bigger]. As a premium publisher, we are taking marketing share from things not funded by advertising."
Taking in all the commentary from the panelists, Rothenberg posed a rhetorical question: "So from what you're all saying, does this mean that are you are the agencies and Twitter and Facebook are the new networks?" To which the panelists responded with a collective, "Yeah, pretty much."