Outbrain Wants To Help Marketers Put Content To Work Across The Entire Funnel

Chances are when you read articles on some of your favorite Web sites, you’re going to run into content recommendations from Outbrain. They appear on the pages you’re reading. The company has a global audience of 557 million per month, per comScore, and serves 200 billion content recommendations monthly.

There’s a lot of content out there, and Outbrain is one of the companies helping you discover even more of it. More importantly, it’s trying to offer up what’s most relevant and interesting to you.

Outbrain is positioning itself as a full-service content marketing and content recommendations platform. “We can do everything,” said Eric Hadley, Outbrain’s CMO. “We distribute content to the right people in the right place. And if you don’t have content, we’ll tap partners like NewsCred to create the content.” Outbrain also determines which content works best with various audiences and makes recommendations on types of content will resonate.

“We determine the content you need to produce based on what we see people are interested in and discovering,” Hadley said. In other words, Outbrain does content audits. It’s trying to help its clients make the best content and offer insight into what type of content will drive business results. “We’re looking at the question of  ‘how do you make the best content marketing for brands?’” Hadley added. 

In contrast to Taboola, which Outbrain perceives as having more of a long-tail focus, and providers like Revcontent that focus on cost-per-acquisition (CPA) deals, Outbrain places most emphasis on premium publishers.

Aner Mazur, head of marketer product at Outbrain, called content “pull marketing” vs. push marketing. Content has traditionally been used to foster awareness at the top of the funnel, but now it’s being used to drive business results and actions on brand sites. Mazur said content marketing needs to address the entire consumer journey, not just the top of the funnel: “You can use content to drive users to take some type of action.” That “action” can be anything from opting in for a newsletter to participating in a poll or quiz or making a purchase.

In the last couple of months, Outbrain introduced custom audience, a feature that enables brands to segment audiences and target each audience segment with content that would drive it to take an action. For example, consumers who have already purchased something. Why not offer them content about the next, step-up product? Or perhaps consumers were engaged with a brand in the past but dropped off the radar. Why not offer them the chance to opt in to relevant newsletter content?

Mazur is most excited about story sequencing, which enables brands to take consumers through a story. Outbrain says it’s seeing 3 x to 4x click-through and engagement rates for pieces of content that have been written on, say, auto enthusiast sites that then drive consumers to brand sites.

Mazur shared a case study that illustrates the use of story sequencing for an auto maker in France. The goal was to use content to inspire consumers to offer a positive review of the vehicle, and then to re-engage readers and drive them to the company's Web site. The results were that the review engaged more than 50,000 consumers, and then more than 9,000 went to the site: 16% of readers of the review. Consumer engagement for the second story was 8x higher. Average time on the site in the second story was 60 seconds.

What story sequencing does is to find additional people all over the Internet who are most interested in the initial piece of content. “Marketers’ eyes are opened once they hear about story sequencing because they want to be able to develop a personalized conversation with consumers and lead them to a goal,” said Mazur.

Further, Mazur said that Outbrain sees a disconnect between marketers’ brand teams and their performance marketing teams: “We want to help marketing departments solve the disconnect between their brand and performance teams in a measurable way that drives business results. We believe content is the best way to communicate with consumers to achieve the results marketers want.”

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