What is OutLoud?
OutLoud is a way for publishers to promote an article/piece of content and have it appear inside the Outbrain widget on pages across the large Outbrain network.
How does it work?
A publisher who would like to promote an article would pay $10 per month per article s/he would like to “amplify”. OutLoud targets articles by relevancy and audience engagement — when it thinks someone will be interested in a promoted article (because they are reading something similar), Outbrain shows a link inside their widget. Articles that people seem to enjoy more get an audience lift. Because of this focus on reader interest, there are no traffic guarantees with OutLoud, but there also isn’t a limit to how much exposure you could receive. The more interesting the article, the more successful it is in drawing a large audience.
Comparison to other CPC based programs
Although not positioned this way, OutLoud seems to me as an attempt to get into the multi-Billion-dollar text ads marketplace that has been dominated by programs such as Google AdWords or Yahoo Search Marketing (btw, you can use this link to sign up and get a $25 credit for Yahoo Search Marketing). Even if Outbrain does not want to position the new product as competition to these advertising programs, the publishers/advertisers who will sign up for Outloud will do that as they would like to find how this traffic aquisition program performs compared to other programs they use. Based on Outbrain’s post, an average article will drive 50 to 100 readers a month which translates to $0.10-$0.20 CPC ($10 per months / 100 or 50). To me this range seems to be at the low end of Google’s average CPC rate for many keywords in many categories, and therefore worth the test.
- Introducing a subscription based model in an industry that for the past 11 years (since Bill Gross invented CPC and founded Goto.com/Overture) has been using cost-per-click text ads is innovative, unique and very interesting. I give the Outbrain team great credit for introducing this model into such an established industry. Their challenge would be to get advertisers who are so used to working in a certain format to adopt a new one.
- AdWords or Yahoo’s search marketing consoles have become pretty complicated and require you to create campaigns, ad groups, ads, manage keywords, bids and placements, not to mention the different optimization techniques you have to use constantly. Outbrain is on the other side of the spectrum. Its approach is super simple which makes it very easy and attractive for a non-techie publisher/blogger to get started. Simply sign-in into Outbrain self service system, add url(s) to amplify and check out. Felt like “AdWords for Dummies” to me.
- Favoring relevant content by giving it more impressions sounds similar to Google’s Landing Page Quality Score (LPQS) that influencing a keyword’s minimum bids, ad ranking and actual CPC. This vague concept allows Outbrain not to commit to a certain # of impressions a link to an article gets for the $10-per month rate. To be honest, I am having mixed feelings about using a black box approach, especially when it is done by a company and product that I like. As an advertiser, I want to have as much info as possible about how, where and when my money is spent. As a Google AdWords & Yahoo advertiser (I manage a campaign for my wife’s birth doula business) I have too many unanswered questions about keywords, quality scores, min bids, etc. that I can not get answers from Google nor from Yahoo.
- Publishers who have been using OpenID to sign into the Outbrain dashboard can not checkout and pay (due to security issues related to OpenID). According to the dashboard they should contact Outbrain for a solution. I hope this limitation get addressed soon.
[If this feature is already in place then well done Outbrain team. If it does not work this way, then here’s my first and most important feature request]
I don’t want my campaigns to be like the gym membership that people forgot to cancel. I hope that Outbrain has implemented subscription based services based practices and that it sends an email a few days before the renewal date with a reminder about the upcoming renewal and with some data on the past month’s performance. If their service works well and delivers viewers to my content there is no reason I would cancel it.
An interesting concept, easy of use, affordable pricing and a product that I like very much as a blogger. I am going to give it a shot and try OutLoud to drive some traffic to my wife’s birthspeak.com website and compare how it performs compared to the Google and Yahoo campaigns I am currently running.
To read more about Outloud, check out the official post here.
Two last notes unrelated to OutLoud but very related to Outbrain:
1. A few weeks ago I was walking the exhibit hall at BlogWorld Las Vegas and looking for Outbrain’s booth in order to say hello to the team. I kept walking and walking, looking for a booth that has the 5 starts logo I know so well but I just could not find it. Eventually, after looking at the floor map and navigating my way according to it, I found the Outbrain booth and immediately shared my thoughts on the new logo via twitter. Well, based on the current logo on Outbrain’s website it looks like someone has put a pause on this rebrand process. And if I had something to do with it, then I am glad I could help. But right before publishing this post I read Eze’s post on VC Cafe and saw the new logo which makes me puzzled again (Yaron, I said it once and will say it again – why Mii?).
2. Looks like Outbrain is now testing/migrating to showing images that are scraped off of the destination pages inside the widget . Smart move to increase CTR on links especially if you are an OutLoud advertiser.