These Stories Dominated Digital Media in 2013

From native to programmatic, it was a dynamic year

Digital media is thriving. Online advertising is growing faster than any other medium. The Web is hot.

Except for the fact that the Web has had all sorts of growing pains. And major business challenges. And it changes constantly, sometimes quite radically.

It's certainly never boring, and there were lots of big stories in 2013. While not comprehensive by any stretch of the imagination, here are the digital stories we kept talking about.

Native Advertising

Have you heard about it? In 2013, every publisher and advertiser had to have a strategy for native ads. Some poo-pooed the trend as the rebirth of the advertorial, but native spoke to something bigger. Despite its growth, the Web is still searching for a sustainable business model. And the anti-banner movement is in full force.

Social Ad Race Heats Up

After lots of rumors, Instagram started running ads. Facebook ramped up mobile and finally debuted autoplay video. Twitter got in bed with TV and launched Amplify. And Pinterest ads are coming soon.

The Mobile Cliff

In 2013, nearly every Web publisher was talking about how much traffic they were suddenly getting from mobile devices. As much as 50 percent in some cases. The problem is, most of them were having trouble getting decent prices for mobile ads.

The Mobile Shakeout … and the Spending Surge

Meanwhile, the immature mobile ad market saw a shakeout, with display networks losing ground, and the biggest companies on the Web—Google, Facebook and Twitter—taking over with their native offerings. Facebook's rise in mobile has been nothing short of stunning. And now, mobile ad spending is rising even more quickly.

Programmatic Soars

Spending on programmatic advertising is so hot eMarketer has to keep revising its forecasts. Still, many Web publishers are uncomfortable with this trend, and many brands don't even understand it. And it's not without problems.

Questionable Traffic

In some ways, 2013 was the year of the bot. Turns out the Web has a serious problem with ad fraud. And not everybody wants to talk about it.

Responsive Design

Every Web publisher is wrestling with whether to build mobile sites, mobile apps, apps for every single platform, or responsive design sites, like the trend-setting Quartz that translate to every screen.


Web publishers stepped up their original content efforts on the Web in 2013. But most struggled to sell video shows, which paled in comparison to TV-esque "Web video" like House of Cards. AOL has been an exception.

YouTube Pivots

If 2012 was the year of the Hollywood/YouTube embrace, 2013 was the year YouTube embraced its core creative/native audience and put a stake in trying to own the millennial market. Despite some criticism, it seems to be working.


The industry promised to finally get a handle on all the ads you can't see but brands pay for anyway. While publishers struggled to get a consensus, Google moved forward.

Yahoo Buys Tumblr, and All Eyes on Mayer

The big deal of the year in digital media, outside of the Snapchat deal that wasn't, was Yahoo's $1.1 billion acquisition of Tumblr. It's going to take a while for that to pay off monetarily, but the perception value was huge for CEO Marissa Mayer and company. Tumblr was also a focal point for one of the more popular digital media discussion points of 2013. How's Mayer doing? What's her plan? Cool mobile startups? Katie Couric? Both?

Snowfall's Shadow

Online publishers continue to experiment with storytelling techniques, embracing touch screens and the visual, Pinterest-influenced Web. The New York Times is at the forefront here, along with BuzzFeed and its listicles.

Content Gets Money

Despite a tough economic climate, companies like Upworthy and Vox Media got actual VC funding in 2013.

Adtech IPOs

Criteo, Tremor, Rocket Fuel and YuMe all went public this year. The results have been erratic at best.

Publish date: December 23, 2013 © 2020 Adweek, LLC. - All Rights Reserved and NOT FOR REPRINT