Image credit #MiguelGuerra @IDEAeconomics

Content discovery platforms and race to the bottom

There is a plethora of content discovery platforms like Outbrain, Taboola, Revconent, and Colombia to name a few.

Their promise to publishers (like slate.com, fortune.com, etc.) is to make them extra money by publishing ads on their websites (generally at the end of every article). And their promise to advertisers (car, insurance companies, etc.) is to reach wider audience with as few bucks as possible.

It’s a great value proposition. Nothing wrong with the business model. The only issue is, it is race to the bottom.

Let’s see how it works.

Advertisers upload the ads in form of content to these platforms. Ads go through a review process and once approved they start showing up on various publisher websites.

And now let’s see what comes out of the funnel.

Slate.com

Slate.com — semi-porn?

Fortune.com

Fortune.com — link baits? Check the photo of the house here and then check previous image.

ComputerWorld

ComputerWorld — racist? That obsession of Indians with fairer skin!

Don’t remember publisher site of following.

2x racist?

Chicago Tribune

Chicago Tribune — well, what does the picture have to do with car insurance premium calculation? Most decent of them all though.

Most ads I see from these content discovery platforms are either link baits, racist or semi-porn. I am sure you see the same everywhere.

So my questions to publishers are:

Are you so desparate to earn those few extra bucks?

Don’t you care about your reputation at all?

Aren’t there better ways to push relevant content on your sites?

And above all,

Where does this lead you?

These platforms are going to push worse ads tomorrow than today as the effectiveness of today’s ads decreases. This is purely a race to the bottom even for the advertisers. Good luck winning that race!


I am Abhishek Desai, co-founder of Digicorp and product manager of ReadBoard and BA Apps.

ReadBoard is the fastest way to start a conversation on any web article with your colleagues, friends and family.