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Posts Tagged ‘Outbrain’

First Look at OutLoud – Subscription Based AdWords for Dummies

November 10th, 2009 6 comments
I am a big fan of Outbrain, a content rating and recommendation service, and have been using it on my blog since it just came out. I’ve posted about its usefulness on twitter and on the company’s financing round on this blog. Today, I am happy to do it again and tell about Outbrain’s new offering called OutLoud.


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.

Pros:

  • 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.

Cons:

  • 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.

Wish list
[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.

Bottom line
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.

P.S.
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.

Outbrain widgets with images



Social Media Services As A Growing Source Of Traffic

March 12th, 2009 2 comments

My blog gets a fairly small number of visitors and page views every month. But just like TechCrunch, Fred Wilson and Sean Percival, I decided to take a look at my Google Analytics account and see how much link love social media services like Twitter, Facebook and others send here.

Below is February 09 referring sites data and a couple of observations:

  • February was not a usual month for this blog in term of traffic. At the begining of the month, my Tropicana’s poor re-branding post was picked by FastCompany and the blog recieved (and still continues to) large number of readers.
  • As pointed out by the bloggers I mentioed above, social media services are becoming major traffic drivers in the overall mix of referring sites. Specifically in my blog’s case, StumbleUpon, Twitter, Ginx (a Twitter interface), Facebook and Outbrain appear high on the list. In addition, their positions improved compared to previous months.
  • Users referred by social media services seems to be of “better quality” than users referred by Google. These users tend to spend more time and often read more than the specific page they land on. In addition, a smaller percentage of them, compared to users referred by search engines, hit the browser’s Back button immediately after seeing the landing page (bounce rate %).

I will keep following whether this trend continues to grow over time and post about it.

meydad_com - referring sites feb 2009



How I Almost Scooped Outbrain’s $12M Round B Story

February 11th, 2009 7 comments

Several months ago Josh Kopelman announced a small side project called FundingSleuth. It is a free service that lets you track SEC filings made by US private companies and email alerts whenever different forms are filed, including form D that indicates sell of equity or capital raise. I decided to test the service and defined alerts for a few companies I had in mind – makers of widgets I use on this blog, companies of friends, competitors and a few others.

Unfortunately, due to the economic climate and the sharp decline in VC investments, I have not been getting any alerts from FundingSleuth for a long time. The last one was sent to me on 12/24/2008 and did not bring good news at all. It was when Eyeblaster, a company co-founded by my friend Ofer Zadikario, withdrawn the S-1 form and canceled its IPO.

But last Tuesday, 2/3/2009, I received an alert from FundingSleuth about Outbrain, makers of the blog ratings & recommendations widget that I use on this blog (readers – please use it and give me feedback) and like the fact it is starting to act as a traffic acquisition tool too. A quick look at the SEC website showed that the company filed form D on 2/2/2009. I was curious to know the details about this round and so I sent Yaron, Outbrain’s CEO, this short email:

From: Jay Meydad
Sent: Tuesday, February 03, 2009 6:01 PM
To: Yaron Galai
Subject: Do you deserve a MAZAL TOV?

http://www.sec.gov/cgi-bin/browse-edgar?action=getcompany&CIK=0001454938&owner=include&count=40

From his response, I could tell he was surprised, very surprised:

On 2/4/09 7:10 AM, “Yaron Galai” wrote:

Wow – you are good!… do you actually go over all these filings, or did it show up on a Google Alert?…

Well – confidentially – yes, we do deserve a mazal tov… Details soon. Please don’t spread the word though yet… Thanks.

I did not say or post a thing of course, but was very happy to:

  1. Hear that a company I like its product & team raise money during this tough climate
  2. See that FundingSleuth can provide some positive news for a change
  3. Be the first to find out about this scoop
  4. All of the above

A week passed and yesterday Yaron sent me another email with the Round B announcement press release:

On 2/10/09 1:46 PM, “Yaron Galai” wrote:

Jay – FYI – as you were the first one to catch this, here’s the press release we’re doing tomorrow. Thanks again for not publishing it so far!

Now, I am sure some of the news sites and bloggers covering start-up companies and have a much bigger readership than my blog are more suitable to scoop a story about Outbrain’s $12M round B. I am also pretty sure they will fight to be the first to report and post the story exactly when the embargo expires (10am EST). I won’t try to take it from them. It is important they will do their job and break exciting stories like this one. So, I will follow and this is the reason I scheduled this post to go live 20 minutes after the embargo expires.

Bottom line, Mazal Tov Yaron & the team for closing such an impressive round at times like these. I am sure you will use this wisely to keep growing Outbrain and enhancing the product.



Time For A Change On Meydad.com

January 28th, 2009 3 comments

One of my new year resolutions was to refresh the design of this blog with a new theme. I am happy that it took me less than a month to complete it and get it off my task list.

I am now using the stylish iNove theme, created by mg12. I like its simplicity, cleanses and how it brings the content to the front. I also find the RSS button implementation very cool (hover over the button to see it). Hopefully it will get more people to subscribe to this blog and consume my thoughts regularly via RSS readers or email.

I kept only the essential widgets on the site in order to shorten page load time:

  • Twitter badge shows the number of followers I have on twitter (if you are not one of them, now it is a good time to do it) and the latest twits.
  • MyBlogLog gives me information about the community who reads this blog
  • Disqus powers the comments and integrates very well with this theme and WordPress
  • Outbrain lets you rate my posts and provide feedback that helps me improve my writing over time
  • And of course, all external hyperlinks are enhanced using the product we have created at Snap – SnapShots
  • For analytics I use both SiteMeter and Google Analytics.

The last credit goes to Alex Sirota, founder of FoxyTunes, who took my portrait picture that is displayed at the top right corner.

I hope you will like like the new design as much as I do.