Our always-connected mobile reality has changed us. We use our smartphones and tablets for everything: browsing, searching and engaging on social media are now happening more on mobile devices than desktops. Our information seeking and content consumption process has changed as well, transforming from pull to push, from search to content discovery.

More than 50% of the content consumed online is consumed on mobile devices. The leading traffic channels to most publishers, social referrals and search, are also mostly mobile. Advertisers are adapting to our mobile-first reality, driving mobile advertising to be the fastest growing online advertising sector and increasing mobile ad spends by roughly 120% YoY. By the end of the year mobile ad budgets will represent 51.1% of global digital ad spend and 60.4% of digital ad spend in the US.

Native ads outperform display and PPC ads on desktop and mobile in CTRs, traffic and engagement. As a result, native ads will most likely continue to gain popularity and market share as advertisers allocate more of their advertising budget to mobile. This is what brought us to look into one of the most popular native ad formats available: content discovery.

Around the Web Links

Content discovery platforms, or content recommendation services, supply publishers with widgets to drive additional page views and revenue through sponsored and internal links to suggested content. These widgets are usually called out as ‘Promoted Stories’, ‘Around the Web’ or ‘You May Like’ sections that appear at the end of articles on leading websites, such as CNN, The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, ESPN and MSN.

We looked into the leading content discovery networks to see where they stand regarding global and local growth and click-throughs. We compared the leading content recommendation services by the click-through traffic they generate to advertisers and publishers, using a Jumpshot Competitive Analysis report. Our competitive analysis of Outbrain, Taboola, Disqus, Zergnet and MGID reveals that these companies’ performance differs from their market share, as reported by the Wall Street Journal. We found that the top 5 global content discovery networks by unique click-throughs and traffic generated are: Outbrain (49.3%), Taboola (26%), Disqus (11.7%), MGID (7.3%) and Zergnet (5.7%).

Content recommendation unique and total click-throughs by platform

Focusing on the US, we can see that Outbrain and Taboola have a very close competition going. The US leading content distribution services by unique click-throughs and traffic generated are: Outbrain (36.8%), Taboola (35.4%), Zergent (13.4%) Disqus (8.9%) and MGID (5.5%).

Content recommendation unique and total click-throughs in the US by platform

Taboola and Outbrain are neck and neck in the amount of unique clicks they have generated throughout the year, but Outbrain still dominates in the amount of total clicks generated in the US (50.7%). This finding intrigued us, so we decided to focus our investigation on Outbrain and Taboola, which together generate 72.3% of the unique clicks on content recommendations in the US and 81.1% of the total clicks on recommended content in the US in 2015.

Outbrain is Ideal for Publishers and Taboola is Ideal for Mobile Advertisers

Outbrain and Taboola have been competing fiercely for the last couple of years for market share and revenue. Outbrain is in the lead with $240 million in revenue in 2014 and exposure to 561 million monthly unique users. Taboola is not far behind, with more than $200 million in revenue in 2014 and exposure to 550 million monthly unique users. As for US exposure, Taboola has been reported to reach more desktop users than Facebook, displaying their suggested content to more than 86% of US desktop users.

A Competitive Analysis report focusing on the two content discovery platforms reveals that although Outbrain has a larger US market share than Taboola, the difference between the two are diminishing quickly, especially on mobile. In fact, Taboola grew the amount of mobile unique click-throughs by 75.5% since the beginning of 2015, while Outbrain only grew the same by 19.3%.

Outbrain Vs. Taboola on mobile click-throughs in the US

A deeper analysis of Taboola and Outbrain indicates that Outbrain is ideal for publishers that are looking to grow their onsite engagement and page views while Taboola is ideal for mobile advertisers interested in exposure. Our conclusions are based on the following data:

1. Outbrain drives 64% of desktop content recommendation click-throughs in the US, with an average of approximately 4.6 clicks per unique user. Having the same person click-through multiple times is great for publishers, regardless if these are sponsored or internal articles. But, this is far from being an ideal situation for advertisers and performance marketers looking to maximize exposure.

2. Taboola generates 48.5% of the unique click-throughs on content recommendation links from mobile devices in the US. Taboola’s mobile content recommendations in the US generates an average of 3.1 click-throughs per unique, while Outbrain generates an average of 4.5 clicks per person. Taboola’s promoted content on mobile is ideal for advertisers looking to gain exposure and traffic in the US mobile environment.

Outbrain Vs. Taboola on mobile and desktop click-throughs in the US

In fact, when we analyze the amount of clicks per unique user we see that Outbrain tends to generate an average of 4.5 clicks person while Taboola generates an average of 3 clicks per person, across all devices. The higher the clicks per unique, the more beneficial the service is for publishers looking to increase pageviews and revenue. If I have just described you, you should probably try out Outbrain. But, if you are an advertiser looking to gain exposure you should consider Taboola, especially for mobile traffic. Taboola is very close to Outbrain in mobile market share and generates 31% less clicks from returning visitors, maximizing your exposure in comparison to Outbrain.

Outbrain Vs. Taboola on click-throughs per person in the US

Bottom line: The mobile revolution has changed the way we consume content from search to discovery. Content discovery platforms are gaining popularity as advertisers allocate more of their budget to mobile advertising, a trend that will continue to grow in the years to come. The two leading content distribution networks, Taboola and Outbrain have essentially the same offering, but with different results. Outbrain’s increased clicks per unique make it more appealing to publishers, while Taboola’s lower clicks per unique, together with its very competitive mobile market share, make it more oriented towards mobile advertisers, which might explain its impressive mobile growth throughout the year (75.5%). It will be interesting to see how the two content discovery networks continue to compete and how the rise in mobile advertising affects them in years to come.


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