Are advertisers the new aggregators? A company called Outbrain thinks so and is seriously stretching the definition of contextual relevancy by letting advertisers actually become distributors of content.
It’s straddling the worlds of advertising and content by placing advertiser links on its distribution network of sites like USA Today and The Washington Post. One client, American Express, uses Outbrain to send traffic to its own content site. Another, Ford, might pay to distribute a car review on caranddriver.com.
New York-based Outbrain tries to ensure the ad-sponsored links look like editorial, and that’s a big difference between this and other contextual ads. The advertisers are invisible to the reader.
From the company’s promotional video below, it looks like Outbrain has more going for it than non-transparent paid link advertising, which is good. Clicking a link has to lead to incremental value, or it’s nothing more than an annoyance, one that will deteriorate trust between publisher and reader.
Outbrain CEO Yaron Galai said the company doesn’t hide the fact that the paid links are ad-supported and that the overarching goal is to publish links readers like. He said Outbrain would take down an advertiser-supplied link if readers don’t click on it. “We take the high ground,” he said.