There are essentially three ways to place your display advertisements on mobile devices (separate from search.)   They are purchasing through an ad network or ad exchange and buying directly through a publisher.

According to a new report released by IDC, International Data Corporation, “a global provider of market intelligence to information technology, telecommunications and consumer technology markets,” online publishers are storming past traditional ad networks to lead the sale of digital ads.  In 2012 publishers such as Facebook, twitter and The Weather Channel now have 52% of the mobile display ad spending compared to 39% in 2011.

The ad networks are led by Google, Apple and Millennial Media.  To provide proper perspective on the size of display mobile advertising, Facebook is the number one publisher in the field with $234 million in sales and Pandora is second with $229; Google is the leading ad network with $243 and millennial is second with $151 million.  This is in contrast to search which generates close to $3 billion.

What does the switch to direct-to-publisher sales mean?  More than anything else, it shows that the mega publishers like Facebook and twitter are learning how to monetize their sites.  They are learning how to incorporate display advertising into their experience without driving their users away.

So while the display advertising market is still a small one compared to search, the switch to greater direct sales to publishers is an important one.