Op-ed: How content discovery is helping solve two publishing dilemmas

Monday, 15 July 2013 - 5:23pm

Op-ed: How content discovery is helping solve two publishing dilemmas

In the online space, there are a number of challenges for publishers to navigate – and the two that come up most frequently are, how can I keep my readers engaged and interested when there are so many other channels competing for their attention? And how can I monetise online content when advertising revenues are dwindling in the traditional publishing space?

Keeping users engaged and interested

While online content has numerous benefits, there’s one inherent part of flicking through a physical copy of a newspaper that has not translated as well to digital – that of turning the page and discovering an interesting article you didn’t expect to find.

When experiencing a newspaper or magazine a reader will flick from page to page, perhaps stopping to read a story on UK news, then sport, entertainment and business. The stories we choose to read are based on their interest level to us – not on their similarity to each other. Online, stories are frequently grouped together based solely on contextual analysis and similarity – not at all reflective of a natural reader journey.

In order to help recreate the serendipity of happening upon relevant content online publishers can look to a content discovery tool. These use a series of algorithms that can help improve the ‘interestingness’ of recommended content. Contextual analysis is fine, but adding an additional layer of algorithms, which compete against each other to surface content that is of most interest for each individual user – helps to create a truly personalised experience.

At Outbrain we use over 45 algorithms from collaborative filtering (“people who read this also read…”) and popularity (most visited articles), to sharing trends and personalisation (recommendations based on previous behaviour) – and our clients have reported large increases in click through rates as a result.

To take it a step further, we can tailor the exact mix of algorithms to each individual site, and even to specific sections within sites. So while you may want more contextual analysis on a very specific trade site, or within the sports section of a major publisher (if you love Chelsea for example you may want to read additional articles on your own team) – the number of behavioural algorithms can be turned up across other areas to increasing the level of interestingness.

As more and more digital content abounds, tools to help users find what is interesting to them are giving publishers a way to improve click-through rates, create stickier sites and build better relationships with their audiences. In fact, audiences who discover content through Outbrain are more engaged – they consume 44% more page views per session than those coming from search and 46% more than social media.

Monetising content

Native advertising is no doubt a buzz word you’re familiar with – in simple terms this is advertising that adds to, rather than detracts from a user’s experience. Gone are the days when users would accept disruptive banner adds or pops-up, and instead there is an emergence of content that gives, and does not take away from the user experience.

The rise of native advertising has come hand in hand with the content marketing boom, and has had an enormous impact on both the marketing and publishing sectors. For marketers, there is finally a realisation that what users want is compelling content, rather than simply to be sold too - they’ve realised that by providing interesting, trustworthy content, they can engage people far more effectively than with traditional or interruptive advertising.

Meanwhile for publishers, catering to this new field of content marketing, and helping marketers maximise this content has led to the emergence of new revenue streams. Outbrain’s technology, for example, as well as helping publishers to amplify their own content, can be used to recommend external, third party content on a pay per click basis. Each time a user clicks on an external link the publisher receives revenue – meaning a new, incremental revenue stream.

Brands or agencies who have created high-quality content can also use Outbrain to distribute this content across its publisher network – content that will then be displayed alongside traditional publisher lead editorial.

Outbrain has helped champion the importance of producing, curating and distributing highly relevant content and has led the call for a set of industry standards around the growing content marketing movement. Late last year, Outbrain ejected a number of questionable marketers from its network and were one of the first companies to set forward strict content guidelines that place a premium on long-term reader trust.

The company’s emphasis on quality content is evident in its industry-leading click-through-rates, which are orders of magnitude above most traditional forms of digital advertising. By focusing on helping readers find great content, tools like Outbrain are helping publishers keep users engaged and are helping to develop new revenue streams – a true win-win.

Stephanie Himoff, Outbrain


About Outbrain

Outbrain (www.outbrain.com), the leading content discovery platform, is on a mission to help readers find the most interesting content online, while giving publishers and brands the ability to reach a highly engaged audience. Using personalised links, Outbrain recommends content across a network of more than 700 premium publishers, including The Guardian, The Telegraph, CNN, Sky News, Future Publishing and Express Group. Links to content on a publisher’s own site increase stickiness, while links to high-quality third-party content increase site traffic and generate revenue. Outbrain is currently installed on more than 100,000 sites and generates more than 100 billion recommendations per month. Founded in 2006, the company is headquartered in New York, with 15 offices globally, including the U.S., U.K., Israel, Singapore and Australia. Outbrain has also recently extended its reach in Europe which now includes France, Italy, Spain and Germany.


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