Pubs Could Build It
Aside from Google, there's at least one other category of company that might pull off a combined CMS/ad server.
"It makes sense for someone as large as Google to do it, or it could make sense for a really scaled publisher," said Richard Jalichandra, CEO of iSocket, a startup offering tools to automate transactions for reserved digital inventory.
Jalichandra mentions two of the world's largest digital media brands, Yahoo and AOL, as possible candidates to build such a platform. AOL bought content recommendation engine Gravity in January, and CEO Tim Armstrong clearly thinks "content tech" is still cool, telling AdExchanger, "When we bought TechCrunch, which I think people would call a content acquisition, it had CrunchBase underneath it, which is a platform. When we bought The Huffington Post, that was content but it had a blogging platform underneath it. We will do acquisitions – content or ads – that have platforms attached to them."
Facebook too would be high on the list of companies that could pull off holistic publishing tools for publishers. Its acquisition of mobile developer platform Parse, its proprietary native mobile ad formats, and the launch of an ad network would all position it well to take a step into a complete CMS product for publishers.
Anyone confused about the value of a platform combining a CMS with an ad server should think about native ads, said Jalichandra.
"If it's well designed and very flexible for the editorial designer then you can make pretty standard units appear like they're native by having more flexible page layouts," he said. "This could be a game changer for native advertising."
Additionally, a flexible CMS could allow editorial and ad formats to periodically shift size and position to counteract the effects of banner blindness.
Even so, Google will have a hard time convincing the largest publishers to make the switch. After all, the technical hurdles to a CMS migration are not trivial, and many large publishers view their CMS system as a source of publishing innovation.