Soon There Will Be No Line Between Advertising And Editorial

MediaWeek is reporting on Outbrain’s move into non-transparent paid link advertising.

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
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 Thumbnail Widget from Outbrain on Vimeo.

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.

About David Burn

Co-founder and editor of AdPulp. I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. I worked for seven agencies in five states before launching my own practice in 2009. Today, I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.


  1. These paid links masquerading as editorial as going to backfire one way or the other.  If they are effective then they will drive publishers readers to a competing publisher to consumer content.  If they don’t work, the advertisers wont continue to advertise.  So the fact that their are paid links should cause publishers to worry that they are taking a very small amount of money upfront and are slowly migrating their user base to other sites.  The other issue is that the links simply aren’t marked as paid.  This is a clear violation of most sites editorial and privacy policies and its a violation of FTC and IAB guidelines.  Outbrain should know better considering the guy invented Quigo, a pure PPC advertising link business.