Contently's Funding Signals It's Time to Embrace Native Ads
BY Will Yakowicz
The startup raised $9 million, another sign of businesses' desire to cash in on sponsored content.
Contently, a native advertising startup, announced it has raised $9 million in a Series B funding round.
The funding came from five sources--previous investors Lightbank, Contour Ventures, and David Lerner, and new backers Sigma West and Sigma Prime. The New York-based company now has raised $11.7 million since its founding by Shane Snow in 2010.
Snowtells Forbesthe company will use the capital to build new tools for its network of almost 30,000 freelancers, who write sponsored editorial content for clients including American Express and PepsiCo, and to develop software to help marketers measure their return on investment from native ads.
"Everyone's talking about pageviews and shares and silly metrics like that," Snow tells Forbes. "We think that the big question brands are going to have to address this year if they want to be successful at publishing is tying the thread of publishing results to business results."
According to Bloomberg, Contently's revenue grew almost 400 percent in 2013 and the company predicts it will generate around $20 million this year. About 80 percent of the company's revenue comes from its software.
If your business has been advertising solely through traditional media, now may be time to try sponsored content. Native advertising is a hot market, with companies like Digitas, Polar, Nativo, and Sharethrough all vying for a share. Even old-guard advertising firm Ogilvy & Mather has gotten into this space with its branded content division, OgilvyEntertainment.
Snow says that his industry's popularity is both good and bad: "It's a much bigger thing than I thought we were getting into when it started, which is exciting and kind of terrifying," he tells Forbes. "I used to surf, and it feels like we were in the water when a big wave came along."
CORRECTED: A previous version of this story erroneously indicated that Quora, a question-and-answer website, and Parse.ly, a site analytics company, are involved in native advertising.
WILL YAKOWICZ is a reporter at Inc. magazine. He has covered business, crime, and politics at Patch.com, and his work has been published in Tablet Magazine and The Brooklyn Paper. He lives in Brooklyn, New York. @WillYakowicz