It would be hard to find a trend in marketing hotter than so-called "native" ads. Broadly speaking, they're ads that look and feel like content and not like online banners that people find so easy to ignore.
One guarantee you'll hear more about them: San Francisco-based Sharethrough has raised $17 million in Series C funding, another indication that the ecosystem of companies attempting to be networks for this type of advertising are gaining some traction.
Sharethrough's technology lets brands inject content that already exists on the internet -- be it a YouTube video, Vine video, photos posted to their sites, or articles that mention them -- into content streams on more than 200 publisher sites. The notion behind these ads is that they are noticed because they're in the feed where most eyes are, not on the fringes where banners tend to be.
Resulting revenue is shared with the company's publisher partners, which include Time Inc., Forbes, USA Today Sports Media Group and Abrams Media, at varying splits. The company's CEO Dan Greenberg said that customers -- which have included brand marketers like Pepsi, Jim Beam, Intel and Clorox -- spend $100,000 per campaign, on average.
Mr. Greenberg says he looks at the company's growth opportunity through the lens of how many major publishers are incorporating feeds -- or vertical streams of content, in the vein of the Facebook news feed -- in the design of their websites and apps. The added bonus is they work well on mobile devices which are optimized for the feed and where banners are particularly challenged.
Last year, the company introduced the option for brands looking to target a specific audience on mobile to buy programatically in an auction-based system. It intends to add desktop inventory to that mix, but mobile has been the priority, Mr. Greenberg said. That's largely because of how many mobile sites are incorporating vertical feeds.
"You could name any publisher off the top of your head, and I almost guarantee that they're going to have a really clean mobile news feed," he said.
Mr. Greenberg said he intends to grow the company's engineering, sales and business development teams. (The latter is charged with bringing publisher partners on board.) Sharethrough currently has about 100 employees, and he expects to add 40 or 50 jobs this year.
Founded in 2008, the company has previously raised $11 million, and the new $17 million round is in debt and equity financing. Three new investors -- Elevation Partners, Silver Creek Ventures and Sharethrough's own president Patrick Keane -- joined existing investors Floodgate and North Bridge Venture Partners in contributing to it.