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Content Syndication Is Big Business - But Does It Promote Clickbait?

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If you've heard of Taboola, you're likely pretty familiar with content marketing and the various publishing channels that can get your content in front of a targeted audience.

Even if you haven't heard of it, however, you've definitely seen it at work. Anytime you get to the end of a blog post or article and see a group of headlines under the phrase "Recommended For You," "From Around the Web," or "You May Also Like," that's Taboola or one of its content syndication competitors at work. Marketers are paying to have their content displayed by these services - but will this strategy last?

Taboola Raises $117 Million

This week, Taboola announced that they've raised $117 million in new funding through Fidelity Investments, Marker Financial Advisors, Steadfast Capital and Comcast Ventures, among others. According to Techcrunch, this round of funding is only a section of Taboola's nearly $1 billion valuation. Taboola has indicated that this funding will allow them to grow their company internationally and develop technology to make more personalized article recommendations to internet users.

To many, this recent gain represents the growing success of content syndication platforms. It cements the notion that content recommendation widgets like Taboola will be seen on the internet for the foreseeable future. Indeed, digital statistics firm comScore has reported that Taboola reaches 86 percent of desktop internet users in the U.S. - that's more than Facebook, Google and Yahoo. With numbers like that, it seems likely that Taboola will continue to be a viable publishing option for content marketers in the years to come.

Content Syndication Competitors

Taboola isn't the only company in the content discovery game, of course. Outbrain, arguably Taboola's biggest rival, recently signed a $100 million deal with Time Inc. Outbrain displays related articles on sites as large as Slate, CNN and ESPN. Yahoo also has a content syndication platform called Yahoo Recommends, which is currently used by Vox Media and CBS Interactive. AOL's Gravity serves many different clients as well. There's also Zemanta, Adblade and Zergnet. And don't think Google doesn't want in - they're already beta testing their own similar product.

This is good news for content creators. Getting your content displayed by these platforms can be expensive for companies that don't have a large marketing budget. Hopefully, prices will come down as more and more companies enter the game.

Is It Clickbait?

Perhaps the biggest problem with these platforms right now is the reputation of some of the content they display. There's been a growing backlash over the bait-and-switch or downright spammy nature of articles such as "10 Hot Celebrities With Ugly Spouses" or "The Stupidest People All In One Gallery" appearing in recommendations from Taboola or its competitors. Indeed, many of these articles could be considered clickbait: low quality content whose headlines you just can't resist.

On one hand, these clickbait headlines do get traffic. Taboola helps generate tons of clicks for websites that create this type of content. On the other hand, many content marketers simply will not want their content being displayed in a "bad neighborhood." If you're paying top dollar to get your content recommended on ESPN.com, would you want it being displayed next to an article called "Danger! Don’t Watch This With Your Wife?"

This isn't to say that all content displayed by such platforms is poor quality - much of it is well written, valuable content. However, although this content publishing method appears to be an effective strategy that's here to stay, content marketers may want to think twice before shelling out to a platform that might make readers question your reputation.

T.J. Anderson

Posted on 5th February, 2015 by T.J. Anderson

About T.J. Anderson

T.J. Anderson is a Chicago-based content editor and writer, as well as an SEO and marketing specialist.

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