Mobile Ad Networks Begin Taking a Back Seat to Publishers

Are we witnessing the decline of mobile ad networks or the ascent of publishers selling mobile ads? It depends on who you ask and how you look at it. Mobile ad networks no longer command the majority of spending mobile display ads in the US, according to a new report from IDC. Mobile ad networks, such as Google, Millennial Media and Apple, have been supplanted by mobile publishers like Facebook, Pandora and Twitter.

Mobile publishers controlled 52 percent of US mobile display ad spending last year, a significant increase from the 39 percent they collectively controlled the year prior.

“Mobile ad networks are losing market share to publishers, and we expect them to lose even more going forward,” notes Karsten Weide, vice president of media and entertainment at IDC.

Mobile advertising spend grew 88 percent in the US last year to $4.5 billion. Mobile also comprised a double-digit share of the overall digital ad market for the first time in 2012, reaching an 11 percent share, up from 7 percent in 2011. IDC projects mobile ad spending will grow at least 55 percent in the US this year for a total of about $7 billion. All this comes despite mobile growing at a slower pace year-over-year and no longer experiencing annual growth rates in the triple digits.

Mobile display ads generated $1.7 billion in 2012 and gained 8 percentage points on search, comprising 39 percent of total mobile spend in the US last year.

Meanwhile, search still remains the dominant channel for mobile ad spend at 61 percent or $2.8 billion, according to IDC.

Facebook ended the year on top, clearing $234 million on mobile display ads, followed close behind by Pandora at $229 million, the firm reports. Twitter came in at third place, selling $117 million worth of mobile display ads.

Google remains the top dog on the ad network front at $243 million. Millennial Media surpassed Apple last year with $151 million in mobile display ad revenue versus the iPhone-maker’s $125 million, and Jumptap closed the year at number four with $90 million.