Business Insider Doubles Down On Video, Extends Content Personalization Deal With Taboola

JulieHansenBusiness Insider’s “big reveal” this quarter was its planned launch of a standalone consumer tech site, but the publisher’s lifting the curtain on some other priorities – like video and a push into personalization.

Business Insider’s video team totaled about 10 at the beginning of the year, but Business Insider president and COO Julie Hansen said she expects to double the headcount by year’s end.

Additionally, Business Insider just extended its contract with Taboola to power content recommendations on desktop and mobile for the next three years. Taboola says it delivers about 1.2 billion monthly recommendations for Business Insider spanning photos, articles and videos.

“We’re big believers in native advertising or content marketing … and we found their video module was a great complement to what we do,” said Hansen. Business Insider first started working with Taboola a year and a half ago, and found its right-rail “Videos You May Like” module on desktop (on mobile, the videos live directly below the article) consistently drove a minimum 1% click-through rate on each page. 

“Taboola’s done a great job surfacing the most popular video content and it’s just been very productive for us and has driven a lot of video views,” said Hansen. She declined to name how many video views BI amasses per month now, but comScore reports that on desktop, video views shot up from 1.1 million last April to 2.8 million this year. In total, the publisher generates close to 45 million monthly uniques, with just over 60% of those visits now mobile.

For the first time last month, Hansen said third-party distribution channels including social surpassed video views it drove with its own site, which speaks to the growing dominance of Facebook as a way for publishers to increase referral traffic and awareness.

“We like to go where our users are and generally speaking, there are monetization opportunities that follow,” said Hansen, who called Facebook’s video player “very appealing” to BI.

Although Facebook has barely scratched the surface of video monetization, when it does turn on the switch, it could help solve one of the biggest publisher challenges today in video – generating enough scale of premium supply, said Adam Singolda, CEO of Taboola.

“Of course you have YouTube and TrueView, but even then you see a lot of video traffic brands aren’t super happy about,” Singolda said. “They want publishers to offer a lot more. The biggest pain for publishers in a mobile world is not necessarily, ‘How do I bring the highest CPM?’

Instead, he added: “It’s about becoming a place where brands see your ability to scale, and that you’re a place they can spend real money. Then they pay more to put toward execution. It’s almost like a glass ceiling publishers have to crack first.”

Although private marketplaces are common for selling banner inventory, that’s not the case with video, since BI’s video inventory almost always sells out directly, Hansen said.  In some cases, advertisers seek out content they can sponsor exclusively and in others, they just want to have a share of voice.

To meet increased demand for advertiser content, Business Insider has expanded its coverage to include more “subcategories” that appeal to an executive’s lifestyle, such as science, entertainment, travel and cooking tips like “How to cook a restaurant-style burger in your own kitchen.”

Hansen claims BI’s heritage as a business news website means content is already fairly targeted, but says there are additional safeguards in place to ensure, for example, that an airline ad wouldn’t precede coverage of an airplane crash or that an advertiser wouldn’t run against editorial content featuring its own company.

A big imperative moving forward is improving video personalization across the board, including embedded videos it produces itself, those it syndicates from partners like The Associated Press or video recommendations of the sort Taboola offers.

“We’ve done preliminary work with personalization so far, and our Recommended For You module that sits at the top of every page and at the bottom of every story are good examples of that,” Hansen said. “We want to get to a point where even if we both read the same story, you and I would have completely different [site experiences] based on our behavior.”

Singolda expects publishers’ interest in personalization to accelerate, which partially spurred its acquisition of ad optimization tool Perfect Market. Depending on how a reader landed on a site – whether organically, through paid social or a recommended link – how they engaged with the content or what device they used, the video or article recommendation would vary.

“If you’re a video person, you should see more video, whereas if you’re a big social media user, maybe you’ll have more access to sharing tools – or none at all if you aren’t,” said Singolda. “I think we’ll see multiple experiences for users on publishers’ sites, more personalized infrastructure.”


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