Review Information Last Updated on: April 25, 2014
Outbrain is a sponsored content network for publishers to advertise their content as well as earn revenue from sponsored content hosted on their sites. While sponsored content is a relatively new and unique form of monetization, compared to more traditional sources such as display or affiliate advertising, revenue potential is sponsored content is very low. Still, with high enough levels of traffic, a publisher can earn significant incremental revenue with Outbrain’s site widget.
Outbrain Tech Implementation Rating: 5 out of 5.
Outbrain Publisher Reporting & Admin Control Panel Rating: 4 out of 5.
Outbrain Payment Rating: 3 out of 5.
Outbrain Account Help Rating: 3 out of 5.
This editor’s review is limited for a few reasons. Principally, while we were accepted as a publisher by Outbrain, we currently do not meet the traffic minimum to be eligible for revenue sharing, so we were limited in our ability to test everything firsthand. We hope to update this review in the future with more details. Outbrain, along with Taboola, is one of the top two sponsored content recommendation networks on the Internet. They offer a simple widget for publishers to drop into their sites. This widget displays recommended content from both the site itself as well as from external sites around the Web. The recommendation engine is very easy to install, but earning significant revenue from it will prove tough for most publishers. Firstly, Outbrain only shares revenue with publishers who are generating at least 10 million US monthly page views on their articles. That high minimum will immediately filter out many smaller publishers who may be interested in using their service. (For these smaller publishers looking for a similar service, we recommend checking out Nster.) Publishers who do meet this traffic criterion are not automatically accepted into the premium program; they need to contact Outbrain from the publisher control panel and request admittance. Secondly, revenues generated with any sponsored content network tend to be low, compared to more traditional forms of online advertising (i.e., display). Couple that with the fact that many of the externally recommended links may appear to be somewhat spammy, and clearly sponsored content is not for everyone. The prospect of exposing your brand to recommendations of “funny dog videos” or entertainment gossip may make you think twice before chasing after that incremental revenue. That said, as far as sponsored content networks go, Outbrain is likely as good as it gets. Account creation and implementation of the widget on the publisher site is relatively quick and easy. Installing the widget is a breeze, and it automatically styles itself to keep with the look and feel of your site, which is a big plus. And the recommendation engine actually does a pretty good job of recommending related articles, at least on the internal site, making it a helpful feature for your users, which can lead to higher pageviews per visitor and more time spent on your site. While Outbrain claims that achieving a CTR of 4-10% is possible if one follows all of their UI best practices, we experienced lower CTR in the 1-2% range with our light implementation (six recommended articles immediately below each article). We have also noticed here at MonetizePros.com that the Outbrain widget’s recommendations, while not as spot-on as some other related-article plugins available for WordPress, usually did do a pretty good job of recommending articles within our site. That it was automatically styled properly and included a thumbnail from each article was helpful. There was no fiddling required; the plug-and-play nature of the Outbrain widget allowed us to set it and forget it, more or less.
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