Outbrain serves 250 billion pieces of content recommendations, mostly native ads, each month. Among the publishers it works with: Time Inc., Fox, The New York Post, Rodale, Atlantic Media, Mashable, The Daily Telegraph, New York magazine, People, CNN Travel and ESPN. Outbrain's brand marketer partners include Visa, McDonald's, Kimberly-Clark’s Huggies, Visa and Unilever.
Native Insider: What are some of the challenges that Outbrain helps publishers overcome?
Yaron Galai: The thing we help solve at scale for publishers is the issue of payment. Most publishers get paid with reader attention.
Publishers’ sites are where people choose to spend their time! That’s been true forever. But that’s starting to break apart. People are saying they’re interested in the content, but not in all the ads publishers are serving up. For eight years, we’ve enabled publishers to offer content recommendations, and that’s what people are looking for: great content.
Native Insider: What does Outbrain consider its competitive set?
Galai: We compete on behalf of the publications where people pay attention. We consider newsfeeds on Facebook and Twitter our competition, because they’re places where people are discovering content. We also compete with Yahoo Recommends and Taboola.
Native Insider: What are the biggest challenges publishers face in native content and content marketing overall?
Galai: It’s offering the scale that most of the marketers need. It’s particularly difficult because native only works when people are engaging with the content itself.
With native, it’s a matter of finding the right audience and matching it up with the right content. Delivering the scale is usually difficult. There are publishers doing fantastic work in terms of fulfilling the right engaged audience at scale -- one is The Atlantic. That’s a publisher very in tune with what content is on-brand for its readers, among others.
No one does a better job of creating content than the best publishers in the world. They are the experts. They are more experts than marketers and agencies. Delivering the scale is where we come in. We reach more than half a billion users a month [according to comScore, Jan. 2016].
Native Insider: The data that you’re able to extract and analyze about audiences is critical.
Galai: Yes, we’re a data company. We look at more than half a billion uniques a month and 250 billion links to content each month -- and how we can help publishers’ readers get the next best native ad. The most prudent publishers are looking at what people are consuming, identifying the gaps.
Native Insider: What is your take on the FTC’s guidance on native advertising issued in December?
Galai: For us, the fundamental currency for our business is user trust. If you have that trust, people will come back for the second time. My take is that anything the FTC comes out with pertaining to user trust is a welcome thing.
Native Insider: Any breakthroughs in native advertising in 2016?
Galai: One thing is what we refer to as story sequencing. Up until now, native has been what I call a hope-based plan. Publishers create the content, they hope it will be cool and maybe people will show up. Measuring effectiveness, determining audiences for the content and the metrics weren’t necessarily attended to.
Native needs to tie the metrics to the marketing funnel. Content is great at the top of the funnel for awareness, but what about contextually? How does content address where someone is in his or her customer journey? Native can work at the bottom of the funnel, too, but we need to tie all the pieces together.
We’ll release a set of capabilities this year around story sequencing: the ability to offer different stories and messages that will be interesting to people at different phases in their journey. It will be contextually relevant content at scale.
We need to enable marketers to target people in places outside of content. For example, maybe it’s people who have completed a dealer form when they’re shopping for a car. A marketer can revisit them by targeting specific, custom audiences and through look-a-like modeling, which is used to build larger audiences from smaller segments to create reach for advertisers. This will come to native and content marketing.
Native Insider: Achieving scale for marketers with programmatic seems like a challenge for publishers.
Galai: Publishers have a hard time fulfilling the right audience at scale. Native advertisers that want scale, go programmatic. I’m not a big fan of programmatic where multiple companies bid for a placement in an open auction.
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