At the end of last year the American statistician and writer Nate Silver tweeted to his 885k followers with a prediction: “I’d guess we have 12-18 months until the population develops herd immunity to ‘viral’ headlines”.

He was referring to what we now know under the various guises of paid and sponsored content, advertorial, or perhaps more resonantly, native advertising; the basic principle of advertising masquerading as editorial in context with the user’s interests.

Nearly a year since Silver’s prophecy and the giants of news and social media continue to make hay from an increasingly accepted and widely used practice. Once scoffing at the idea, traditional institutions The New York Times, WSJ and Forbes have embraced the concept, the latter even publishing items under its own native category: ‘BrandVoice’- signalling the company’s affiliation with native ad platform MediaVoice. Companies synonymous with social media have taken full advantage, with Twitter acquiring mobile native specialists Namo Media for a reported $50 million.

Unlike our usual Ones to Watch features which attempt to bring to the fore businesses still in their early stages of launching, the following companies are already proving themselves as big contenders in the native advertising space this year. With momentum on their side, they look primed to take on the next rounds of the rapidly growing sector.




  • Founders: Eric Berry, Shaun Zacharia, Ari Lewine
  • Founded: 2012
  • Investment: $6.1M

New York City-based Triplelift started life in 2012 as a trend-responsive banner ad company, monitoring brand content across social media channels and automatically adapting its advertisements. Still pursuing this concept of real-time visual brand optimisation, and with the backing of $4 million in Series-A funding led by True Ventures, Triplelift have recently made a decisive move into the native ad space. Automatically matching aesthetically focused adverts to each of its publishers, Triplelift are regarded as the first company to crossbreed programmatic advertising with native.

Co-founded by CEO Eric Berry, formerly of appnexus, the company claims a host of accolades including a place on Forbes’ list of five companies that transformed advertising in 2014.

Find them on Twitter @TripleLiftHQ




  • Founders: Eric Lubow, Russell Bradberry, Edward Kim
  • Founded: 2010
  • Investment: $10.6M

Landing on the SimpleReach homepage, visitors are currently met with a banner announcing its new partnership with Buzzfeed – the most recent in a series of high-calibre affiliations including MSNBC, TIME and The Huffington Post. The company’s latest deal with the poster-child of sponsored listicles would suggest SimpleReach’s decision to piggyback on the sector’s growth with specialised analytics was a cunning one.

SimpleReach measures the performance of its clients’ content on publisher sites, and offers a rating between 1-99 to indicate how much traffic it will gain from social media. The tool then allows for the promotion of articles through social media channels.

With over $10 million in investment to date, the vast majority of this funding was whipped together in July 2014 when the company gained $9 million in a Series-A round.  

Find them on Twitter @SimpleReach





  • Founders: Stanley Wong, Navdeep Saini, Chenggang Duang
  • Founded: 2013
  • Investment: N/A

Founded in San Francisco last year by three veterans from content creators Glam Media, DistroScale ambitiously describes its platform as a marketplace for buying, delivering, managing and measuring native content across websites, mobile sites and apps.

With automated distribution of content, DistroScale vows to offer a solution to the problem of having to create effective sponsored content for individual sites, which limits the scale of promotion. DistroScale will deliver advertorial to hundreds of sites, automatically adapting it to the existing format.

As we are already aware, automating native ads is not new anymore. However, DistroScale is focused strictly on sponsored content as opposed to images, social media posts and various other interpretations.

McDonalds, National Geographic, Vizio and Elio Motors are currently testing the product, with distribution deals lined up with over 600 companies.

Find them on Twitter @DistroScale