Content Discovery: how the Outbrain platform works

Among the many activities that can be carried out in Digital Marketing to promote content, one of the latest is content discovery: a service that helps users discover content that is interesting to them at the right time.

Although it is widely used around the world, perhaps not everyone knows exactly what content discovery is and how it works. One of the best-known companies offering this service is Outbrain, an American platform specializing in content discovery.

Today, we’re privileged to delve deeper into the realm of content discovery through an insightful conversation with Alberto Mari, the Country Manager at Outbrain. Joining us for this enlightening discussion is Claudia Ronchi, representing the Outbrain Press Office.

Interview: Unlocking the World of Content Discovery

Good morning, Alberto! We’re thrilled to have you here to shed light on the fascinating world of content discovery and offer valuable insights into how it’s shaping the digital landscape. Let’s embark on this illuminating journey as we uncover the nuances of content discovery and its impact on the realm of Digital Marketing.

content discovery interviewer

How did Outbrain come about and how is it present today? 

alberto mariOutbrain was born 10 years ago, we just celebrated our 10th birthday, in the US, with the goal of helping users, and online readers, find the content that is most interesting to them. Through a platform that connects content, readers, and publishers.

We do what we have renamed content discovery. We have been operating since 2012, four years ago we opened our first office, following a roll-out that from the United States took us to Europe, to the UK as the first market, because of its affinity with the English language.

Then we continued with the other languages and more sites were opened in France, Spain, and Germany. Languages are important when working on content, the platforms and algorithms work precisely on the type of content and interest and languages have to be implemented.

Today we are operating in 15 markets worldwide, reaching Australia, New Zealand, India, Japan, and Brazil.

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content discovery interviewer

How do you usually explain the dynamics of Outbrain’s service to people who are far from the world of digital marketing?

alberto mariMany users, even if they don’t know it, have seen us. We are present on all major online publishers internationally. For example Corriere and Gazzetta, I think almost everyone has visited one of these sites at least once. When you visit a Corriere.it article, at the end of the article you find a space that says “you might also be interested“, where content is suggested.

This is personalized content for you. You will see content that will be different from what other people will see on the same article, based on a series of information that is your browsing history, your interests, what you have clicked on, what you have seen on this site, and others.

In practice we help Corriere and other top publishers such as Mondadori, Banzai, Rcs, and Sky, to select their content, and their most interesting stories for each individual reader, personalizing the browsing experience.

This allows the reader to follow a tailor-made path. Example: I am reading a last-minute article on a news story and then I discover that there is talk of technology, there is talk of science, there is talk of culture, all topics that interest me and are not necessarily those that the editorial team has pre-packaged for me.

In addition to this aspect of exploring the content offered by the publisher, there is an aspect of monetization: some of this content is sponsored by our customers who have chosen to be present on these pages, they pay us a fee and part of this pricing goes to the publisher who hosts us of course, the model is sustained in this way.

It is an advertising model, with the difference that we are always talking about content. So even when a company wants to communicate, having an editorial position within a site, it will have to do so by telling a story. Thus we enter the world of content marketing.

To give a concrete example: when Coca-Cola communicates through us, it does not do so with the traditional commercial that you see on TV, but it does so by telling for example the story of its glass bottle or telling what the recipe for happiness is according to Coca Cola, and so on with articles, with videos, with content that has the characteristics of editorial content and as such is hosted on the pages of the big publishers I mentioned earlier.

content discovery interviewer

What are the main differences between Google Ads service and Outbrain?

alberto mariIt differs in two respects, certainly one is content, our focus is on content discovery. But there is another fundamental aspect: the Google search model addresses an audience that indicatively already has in its head what it is looking for, it knows what it wants, and the advertiser gives the answer to a need that already exists.

Speaking of discovery, we position ourselves at a different moment in the user experience. The user does not yet know what exactly he needs.

Example: let’s talk about holidays, who has decided to go to the mountains in a specific location, will Google hotels and offers for that location? Someone who has not yet decided and is browsing the site of any newspaper discovers a story about the best destinations in Valtellina, for example, and may be very interested.

So let’s go and arouse a need in a user who does not yet know he has this need, or perhaps has an idea, but has not yet decided. Google search is for those who already know what their need is, discovery is for those who are still in the decision-making phase.

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content discovery interviewer

Is there a typical customer for Outbrain or is it a service that is suitable for both small and large companies?

alberto mariIt fits both, let’s say that then the service models change. For large companies, there is our team directly, and there are our account managers who guide the client through the whole process: the choice of content, the amplification of this content on the network, the best way to convey this content, and the analysis of the results.

For small customers there is the mode where the customer goes directly to our platform, Outbrain.com, sets his targets, enters his credit card details, and can do very small campaigns directly.

The level of analysis we can offer for large customers is more refined, but we have a lot of small customers who started this way, testing the platform directly, and then calling us to move on to bigger models.

content discovery interviewer

Where can we see Outbrain at work?

alberto mariYou can see us in all the biggest international newspapers: from CNN to Fox, Le Figaro and Le Monde in France, El Paìs in Spain, and Bild in Germany. We now reach over half a billion unique users every month, there are so many newspapers, all premium publishers, working with us.

 

content discovery interviewer

Do you think Native Advertisingit is a phenomenon that is destined to grow and occupy an ever larger share in online marketing?

alberto mariThe term native today tends to lump together many different things. We consider native in its original definition, i.e. advertising that respects the appearance and function of the hosting context. The native we deal with is that of an editorial context, with its layout, and also has the function of content.

Native works well because today traditional, display communication has its limits: users ignore it, there is too much overcrowding, and there are AdBlocks, all phenomena linked together. Native communication is different, in technical terms it is called “pull”.

Instead of pushing communication (push) with a message that I throw in your face and you, willy-nilly, receive it, native communication is pulled, much less invasive, and more discreet.

I am a brand, I am Coca Cola and I want to tell you the story of my glass bottle. Some will be intrigued by this communication of mine, they will click and go and read the story and these are the consumers I most want to talk to. Those who are not interested and will not click, will not be bothered.

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content discovery interviewer

Have you seen anything change in companies regarding content production in the last period?

alberto mariCompanies have realized that content is important, some are more advanced and some less so, but basically all companies are gearing up to have a content marketing strategy. some, of the biggest companies, are doing it in-house.

Most companies still rely on publishers, which is a good choice in my opinion. The publishers themselves, in a period of suffering due to the crisis in the advertising market, have started a new line of business, that of producing content for companies such as the creation of special projects, branded content, and storytelling.

All strands lead back to the idea that there is a publisher who puts his skills and expertise at the service of a brand that has valuable stories to tell, but which must be told in the right way.

Then there are excellent cases of brands like Red Bull for example, which have become real media companies. Red Bull is a content producer on an equal or even higher level than many publishers.

content discovery interviewer

What do you think are the skills currently most in demand in digital marketing and what will be the skills in the coming years?

alberto mariIt is a market that is evolving so fast that perhaps the only skill that is valid for several years is flexibility, the speed to learn. For a person approaching this market, who wants to be present and follow the evolution, being up to date with the latest news, and knowing formats, technologies, and platforms, is absolutely crucial.

The market changes very quickly and you have to be constantly updated. For those willing, it is an extraordinary market, there is always something new.

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