The Native Ad Opportunity: Content Discovery Networks

Posted by WhatRunsWhere on March 26, 2015
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In our recent posts, we gave a brief introduction to native advertising examples and broke down the three golden rules of a good native campaign. Create valuable, enriching, and non-disruptive content and viewers will click – those clicks will quickly turn into conversion.

But creating interesting content alone isn’t enough – you need to be able to get it in front of the right audience. This is where Content Discovery Networks come in.


Content Discovery Networks (CDN, also known as Content Recommendation Engines) help advertisers distribute ads by serving sponsored content to the recommendations section or widget of publishers.

High profile publishers like CNN, NBC News Today, and Business Insider all use CDNs. You’ve probably seen recommended ad content at the bottom or on the side of any given article.


In the case of CNN above, Outbrain was their CDN of choice for delivering recommended content.



People Magazine also uses CDNs to boost other editorial content produced by the publisher.



The Food Network uses CDNs to both recommend other articles readers might be interested in at the bottom of its articles, and to showcase native ads in its ‘from around the web’ section.


Considering that audiences often spend almost the same amount of time reading editorial content as they do native ads (1.2 seconds vs. 1 second), it’s conceivable that native ads seriously drive clicks and conversion – especially when coupled with an effective landing page.


In this opportunity laden landscape, CDNs help simplify the content delivery process and allow publishers and advertisers to embrace the programmatic side of native advertising.

Leading Content Discovery Networks

So what are the foremost Content Discovery Networks out there?


Founded in 2007 by Adam Singolda, Taboola is one of the premier content discovery networks whose largest direct competitor is Outbrain. Its clients include: Huffington Post, The Weather Channel, NBC and The Atlantic.


Since 2006 Outbrain has been servicing major publishers like CNN and Mashable, as well as advertisers like BBC and The CDN was founded by Yaron Galai.


contentThis CDN serves over 5 billion recommendations per month on premium publications and smaller niche sites. MoneyNews – now – and, the celebrity news site, have been known to use Content.Ad.

yahooYahoo Gemini Native – Yahoo’s latest innovation, this CDN partners mobile search with native advertising. By incorporating real Yahoo news in continuous stream with its native ads, the mobile focused CDN promises better reach for audiences on the go. Sponsored Listings* – AOL’s premium sponsored listings program targets ads to match publisher page and section topics, as well as contextual topics using keywords. Its clients include:, INGDirect, Weight Watchers, and NBC Today.

adbladeAmong Adblade’s list of clients are major news and magazine outlets abcNews, FoxNews, and Hearst Corporation. AdBlade is one of the largest content-style ad platforms out there, reaching 300 million monthly users regularly since 2008.

revClickBooth RevContent promises to serve premium content on exclusive placements and boasts having served over 17 billion impressions globally. Some of RevContents’ clients include:

shareAs one of the fastest growing CDNs in the world, Sharethrough hopes to revolutionize native advertising with its proprietary technology. Its clients list comprises Forbes, People, and Men’s Health to name a few.

disqusSince 2007 Disqus has provided blogs and publishers worldwide with a highly accessible comment hosting service. By 2010 the platform also began providing content based ad services for clients such as,,, TMZ, and more.

WhatRunsWhere covers several of these CDNs including Taboola and Outbrain and the list is still growing. Request a Demo to find out more!

Content Boosting Vs. Direct Response

CDNs serve both advertisers and publishers for different reasons: to boost content or facilitate direct response adverts. For publishers, CDNs help generate more revenue and curate relevant content faster by boosting reach and generating more traffic for non-advertising content.


Today has native ads being served to more than one spot delivering more material “from the web” and boosting its own content in the “more from” section.  

For example, NBC News’ Today has a large selection of recently published material. Today’s news articles can be recommended to viewers reading current articles which would increase readership and following of their content overall. – Content Boosting

The DailyStar, a UK publisher, also uses CDNs to boost non-advertising both on its website and elsewhere on the web.


Above we note that this publisher uses Outbrain and showcases content from around the web as well as its own. 








When the publisher advertisers on other publishers the majority of its placements were native ads (hybrid ads) most often served through the popular CDN, Outbrain (85.18%). Other networks used include Taboola, but otherwise when advertising often made direct media buys (11.98%).

Creatives WhatRunsWhere uncovered included:



What are the key elements of’s top scoring and most recent native ads?

  • They feature images of the topic their articles discuss (i.e. photos of stars for celebrity scandal stories)
  • Use of shocking or bizarre images for scary stories such at the one shown above about the outbreak of a disease much like the plague


Since DailyStar produces news stories its native ads take on a news-like angle. Its usage of CDNs like Outbrain is likely primarily to increase traffic towards its published stories.

MegaBargains 24 – Direct Response

For other advertisers, CDNs assist in promoting their products and services to readers in a non-disruptive yet more engaging manner. In many cases, these are direct response native ads that lead to a landing page. offers an online bidding service for branded products, vacations and more. It promises vouchers and tips and tricks to cash in on the best deals out there.

Using WhatRunsWhere we were able to identify this advertiser’s strategic use of native ads and identify the CDNs they employed.








MegaBargain used Content Discovery Networks for nearly all its ad placements. In particular, Taboola made up over 75% of its network placements while Disqus took up over 24%. The network placement breakdown for this advertiser also reveals that half of its advertising strategy is driven by native advertising.

Creatives WhatRunsWhere uncovered included:


What are the key elements of MegaBargains top scoring and most recent native ads?

  • Images of high profile, branded products
  • A simple but eye catching question or title that solicits a really good deal


In particular, these creatives highlight a secret way to save money now that readers can discover simply by clicking to find out how. These creatives led to a prelander that were essentially testimonial pieces arguing that signing up at the auction site Madbids can really help you save!

mabidprelanderWhy is this landing page effective?

The landing page itself is designed to resemble a news article or produce review on a personal blog of a self-proclaimed ‘bargain hunter’. In other words, the pre-lander is a testimonial offered up by an ‘expert’. It goes in-depth into the product this ‘bargain hunter’ wanted and the problem they were facing – it was too expensive.

But gave them a fantastic solution to getting deals on “everything from cars, to phones, to computers” and more. The article and personal review lends credibility to the service being recommended. By clicking through the pre-lander, viewers end up on the MadBid sign-up page. – Direct Response

Another great example of an advertiser who places direct response native ads is – a genealogy research service provider. If you want to know your family history, Ancestry is the place to go.








When we broke down their native ad strategy, we found that over 90% of this advertiser’s placements were made through Taboola. Once again, the majority of its placements were hybrid ads (82.8%) indicating that’s ad strategy has a large native advertising proponent.

Creatives WhatRunsWhere uncovered included:


What are the key elements of’s top scoring and most recent native ads?

  • Use of old photographs or images alluding to a historical period, long gone (i.e. Medieval Europe or Victorian England)
  • Images of celebrities like Vanessa Williams asserted to be a potential relative
  • A simple but eye catching question or title that makes viewers want to find out who they’re related to


Why is this landing page effective?

The medieval knight native ad led to a landing page that was an article discussing the significance of English surnames – another tactic to get audiences wondering about their own history. Once again, we have another landing page that is designed like an article.

It showcases not just interesting but also educational content that tugs on people’s curiosity and inspires engagement. Who knew that “last names [in England] weren’t widely used until the Norman conquest in 1066?” This landing page and article is valuable because it teaches the viewer something new, potentially inspiring clicks.

The landing page has two CTA buttons for free trials to Ancestry’s paid genealogy service, and at the very bottom of the article there’s another recommendation widget powered by Taboola. Here, more original content by ancestry is recommended that may better fit the reader’s attention or further maintain it.


Once again Ancestry is employing a tactic to ensure that audiences stay on the advertiser’s domain. What’s more, by creating or curating interesting content readers are more likely to share their Ancestry’s content with friends and family, and –hopefully– sign up for the service.

Now that you know about Content Discovery Networks, what’s next?

Up until now, we’ve defined the native advertising opportunity that’s still growing every day and analyzed numerous examples of great native campaigns. We’ve also clarified the importance of Content Discovery Networks and highlighted how to use competitive intelligence tools like WhatRunsWhere to understand what’s happening in the rising world of native advertising.

But you still need to know what the best practices are and how you can put them into place.
Stay tuned for our next and final installment of the Native Ad Opportunity where we’ll list out the Dos and Don’ts of native advertising. Before you know it, you’ll be an expert.



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About WhatRunsWhere

WhatRunsWhere is a competitive intelligence service for online media buying. We help you buy more intelligently for your campaigns, discover new traffic sources, and keep an eye on what your competition is up to – all in one amazing package. Connect with us on Twitter, Google+, or Facebook.

Topics: Native Advertising, Case Studies, Strategy, Advertising, Content Marketing, Content Discovery Networks


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