As AdExchanger reported Friday, Google is working on a CMS, likely with its own ad server baked in. The solution is expected to unify the functions of a content management system with the DoubleClick for Publishers toolset – ad serving, sales management, yield optimization, and so on.
Google has declined to comment on or confirm the report.
The key question here is not whether Google can pull this off – it probably can – but rather, could anyone else?
DoubleClick for Publishers reaches an estimated 85% of publishers in comScore's top 300, a very large base Google could use to upsell media companies on its CMS product. Furthermore DoubleClick's positioning as a provider of "total revenue management" for the advertiser might lend some credibility to its pitch. Publishers thinking about paywalls and commerce could also get those solutions from Google (though Google has not shown interest in driving commerce at the publisher level.)
"An intelligent CMS that is either ad aware or that is fully integrated or part of an ad delivery system would be game changing for the market," said Eric Picard, CEO at RareCrowds and a former executive in Microsoft's ad platforms business. "Google is one of the few companies that has the existing technology stack that could just be extended to roll out a CMS."
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.
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