Babar Khan Javed
Feb 27, 2018

Outbrain's Sphere: A tool for premium publishers to battle Google/Facebook?

The new platform claims to help publishers in the reader-acquisition battle while offering new revenue options.

Sphere lets publishers hand-select the peers whose content will appear on their sites.
Sphere lets publishers hand-select the peers whose content will appear on their sites.

Outbrain has launched an audience development network.

According to the announcement, Sphere aims to help premium digital publishers add a new revenue source and incentivise longer page visits while taking back audiences lost to Facebook.

With this update, the content discovery and recommendation platform is allowing publishers to manually choose the content they recommend from counterparts and profit from its distribution on their sites. This differs from the existing Outbrain model, which attempts to display content that site visitors are likely to click on, based on programmatic prediction methods. 

Publishers are rewarded on the CPC model, pocketing 100% of the revenue generated when a site visitor clicks on a curated recommended link that takes them to another publisher site. For its part, Outbrain gets paid the same CPC, but only when the same visitor continues on to another article on the site they were sent to.

“Outbrain was created with a mission to help users discover things they find interesting," said Andrew Burke, the company's APAC managing director. Sphere lets the most premium publishers in Outbrain's network deliver a great user experience while letting the audience discover the best content available, he added.

Publishers deemed premium, that have been invited to the platform, will display a Sphere widget on their sites, offering visitors transparency with regards to the recommendations.

“We have launched this product in the US last month and plan to roll it out globally in the coming months," said Burke. "We have been receiving a lot of interest from publishers that see this as a strategic technology, especially in a time when Facebook is limiting publisher content discovery from their social feed.”

The offering allows publishers to "exchange audience safely from one another", Burke said, adding that while they can make money from the process, the real value comes from retaining and growing audience. "We believe that by providing the audience with a great best-of-web experience, audience keeps coming back again, and more often," he said. "This principle is what’s driving us, and Sphere is here to help create strong user habits that maximise lifetime-value to publishers from their audience."

In this way, Outbrain aims to incentivise the quality reader acquisition the industry needs and reward content creators that keep readers on sites for more time.

But why would publishers help each other and lose organic traffic?

Outbrain's answer is that publishers no longer compete with each other entirely and are losing out to Google and Facebook. The agument implies that Sphere is essential to publisher collaboration and offers premium publishers an opportunity to recirculate readers across their sites.

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