Sramana Mitra: Are you talking about the category that Outbrain and Taboola have been in?
Peyman Nilforoush: They are the ad networks.
Sramana Mitra: They were in the business of propagating and pushing content.
Peyman Nilforoush: That’s correct. Those are the ad channels. When we entered, there were existing ad networks that were promoting content. There are almost a hundred content networks. We’re not looking to build an ad network. What is missing is being able to build an engine on top of the ad networks to be able to distribute content across every single channel most efficiently.
The problem that we saw was that people clicked on content but a lot of those clicks bounced quickly. There’s a clickbait problem in the native advertising world. All these ad networks are incentivized to drive clicks.
Sramana Mitra: So how do you propagate content?
Peyman Nilforoush: We wanted to focus our entire model on driving actual ROI from that content. We were going to be very concrete about this. We are going to drive engagement with the content.
Meaning, somebody clicks on a piece of content. They’re going to go to that page. They’re going to spend a minimum of 15 seconds reading that content. You don’t pay us unless they spend a minimum of 15 seconds. This did two major things.
Our incentive wasn’t to drive cheap clicks; our incentive was to drive high-quality readers who would actually stay on the page. Number two is, we had no horse in the game. We integrated with all the supply-side channels. Every single channel essentially became a distribution channel for us.
We scan the content, and we figure out what combination of targeting, channel, title, and image gets you the highest engagement from that content at the lowest possible price. This was a pretty enormous task.
When we launched the company in 2014, the cost per engagement that we offered was $5. That was very expensive. We’re essentially building up the technology. We haven’t yet built a lot of AI. We haven’t built a lot of machine learning. Nobody was even talking about AI and machine learning at that time when it came to content marketing.
Today we’re able to offer that to marketers anywhere between 50 cents to a dollar. We’ve essentially focused on two things. Every time we’re promoting content for a brand, we are seeing that click all the way to the post-click engagement. We’re tracking everything. We’re even offering them a CTA. We’re tracking what every user is doing post-click.
Over the past six years, we’ve collected an enormous amount of post-click engagement data for every kind of content, whether that’s travel, tech, or finance. We have been able to figure out the optimal distribution channel that drives the highest engagement at the lowest cost.