Do Advertisers Have Any Use for Blog Networks?

Glam Media and Say Media, for example

As the digital ad market races toward programmatic and native, do advertisers have any use for blog networks like Glam Media and Say Media?

Once, such networks were seen as an innovative way to pinpoint thousands of tiny blogs on the Web and roll them up for advertisers. But now, with programmatic buying, advertisers can reach their demo of choice faster and cheaper, and with improving transparency.

Meanwhile, with the hot segments of native and video advertising, the advantage goes to premium publishers, which are more likely to have the resources required to produce custom ads and high-quality video. There’s also the viewability issue. The sudden interest by advertisers in ensuring their ads are actually being seen puts an additional burden on networks with hundreds if not thousands of partner sites.

When asked about Glam and Say in particular, buyers described those companies as “losing heat” and “totally getting eclipsed … programmatic lets you crunch those audiences in seconds.”

“I think they’re still fighting for share, and with more people claiming or offering native content marketing options, it’s becoming a much more competitive landscape,” said Adam Shlachter, svp of media, Digitas. “Size and scale of blogs, voices and personalities aren’t the only deciding factors.”

Small wonder, then, that blog networks have been retooling. Say Media has sought to become more of a traditional publisher, with the launch of xoJane and purchase of what’s now ReadWrite. Glam has launched its own verticals to offer advertisers safer environments and has recently moved into programmatic, per VivaKi. Glam also is exploring a “premium exchange,” per sources.

However, Glam has challenges. Per comScore, more than a third of its publishers have lost audience in the past year. Plus, CMO Erin Matts has left the company.

Glam execs declined to comment; the company is known to be prepping for an IPO. If there’s a cautionary tale for Glam and Say, it’s Federated Media which, despite being the sixth-biggest U.S. ad network (comScore), shut down its direct sales arm in November to focus on programmatic and native advertising.

Say Media is moving in that direction, if more slowly. President Kim Kelleher said the pressure that programmatic’s rise has put on the pure network model has hastened Say’s transition to a business model that embraces both transactional and premium content-driven direct sales. Say also has launched a native ad unit, Adaptive, and addresses viewability concerns with its exposure-based sales model.

All that said, despite native, programmatic and video having flavors-of-the-month status, they’re still small pieces of the ad pie. Kelleher said she believes transactional sales will still be the foundation of Say’s business, given they can accommodate custom, expandable units, whereas, she added, “with programmatic, you’re trapped in an IAB world. Transactional is not growing as fast, but it is stabilized, and it is the foundation of our business. I think there’s room for both.”

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