A Eulogy for Millennial Media

by | Sep 9, 2015

We lost one of our own last week. In an official release, Millennial Media has been acquired by AOL. And while the company will live on in our hearts (and within the larger AOL framework), what Millennial represented is forever lost to the ether.

This day marks the end – the death – of the mobile ad network.

Millennial Media was born on the threshold of a new mobile age.

Positioning itself as a mobile ad network, Millennial Media basked happily in the rising demand of mobile inventory. We proudly watched Millennial go public in 2012 with a jaw-dropping valuation of $2 billion. It had become a bastion of mobile ad networks. Where others failed, it rose above.

But soon the winds began to shift, and even this great, greying champion of mobile ad tech began to succumb to attrition.

The mobile advertising industry became increasingly fragmented, with new technologies and innovations sprouting by the day. In order to continue its early success, Millennial had to possess cutting-edge programmatic technology – technology the company didn’t have.

We remember Millennial’s efforts to save itself, after already taking a heavy beating from the market. In 2013, Millennial acquired mobile ad company Jumptap in order to build its demand side programmatic business. Then in 2014, Millennial bought Nexage, a sell side technology.

And yet, in retrospect, these acquisitions were nothing more than last gasps. Our dear friend Millennial was dying. Its business model was fatally flawed.

Millennial Media couldn’t scale. Its inability to operate outside its own SDK had stunted its growth. It also never manifested a working mobile tech stack, having to rely on the third-party technologies of others.

No matter how bravely it fought, the result was a company struggling to turn a profit. In 2014, Millennial accrued $149.1 million in losses. And now, in 2015, a company once valued at $2 billion, has been bought for an underwhelming sum of $238 million.

Indeed, the age of the mobile ad network has ended.

Only those vertically integrated mobile platforms that boast a full mobile tech stack remain