Study: Readers Distrust Sites That Use Content Recommendation Widgets

A new study from Arkadium showed some not-so-surprising opinions from web users regarding the recommended content widgets found across sites powered by companies like Taboola and Outbrain.

Arkadium polled 300 people, asking questions about the articles and content found in the widgets. According to their results, 79% of people who have seen the widgets dislike them, 40% blame the hosting publisher for bad experiences and 20% believe the widgets spread fake news. 

In some instances, these widgets can carry sexually explicit material, too.

Content recommendation platform Revcontent has tried to rid its own content delivery widgets of items considered inflammatory by the National Center on Sexual Exploitation — which recently gave Revcontent its seal of approval — through the use of machine learning and artificial intelligence.



Revcontent hopes its efforts will result in a lasting effect on the digital advertising industry by creating a higher standard for recommended content.

However, what is the result of those efforts if they target websites consumers already mistrust?

If the Arkadium study is any indication, the content in many cases is the problem.The study showed that 73% of respondents were aware that the featured content was often sponsored and paid for.

Those who did not blame the publisher for a negative experience, blamed the site they ended up on (30%) and the creators of the widgets (24%). 

Jessica Rovello, CEO of Arkadium stated: “Publishers are doing long-term harm to their reputations and relationships with readers when they opt for the short-term cash these widgets can bring. Our study gives us overwhelming proof that people respond negatively to sites that use content recommendation widgets.”

One issue consumers honed in on was the actual appearance of these widgets, with 40% saying they looked “spammy” and 18% responding that the content seemed like “clickbait.”

Brand safety has become an ever-increasing issue for companies as they struggle to make up lost revenue dollars.

What is clear is that more research needs to be done addressing how consumers respond to various types of advertising and content recommendations. Revcontent’s efforts are commendable, as it attempts to raise the standards across the board. But if consumers are already wary, the payoff may not be worth it.

The survey group -- 300 -- is likely too small a pool to speak for the definitive future of s widgets, but the results should be a wake-up call to publishers.
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