Newsmax Wrangles Like-Minded Publishers With Its Content Recommendation Network

newsmax content recThere’s a reason most publishers turn to partners like Outbrain or Taboola for content recommendation: simplicity.

But conservative news publisher Newsmax Media saw the benefits of creating a content recommendation network in-house: more revenue, more control over the content and its partners and more flexibility to make the feeds look truly native.

The main Newsmax site attracts 14 million monthly unique visitors, and the Newsmax Feed Network serves 550 million monthly impressions from 2,000 like-minded publishers.

Its partners include the National Review Online, Boston Herald, Breitbart News Network and other sites with religious content or conservative political or financial views. The publishers share revenue with Newsmax.

“We wanted to be on sites similar to our site, who have the same target group – baby boomers 45 and above,” Chaturvedi said.

To manage the huge scale of this custom system, Newsmax needed a technology partner.

After creating the content recommendation system in-house as a proof of concept, Newsmax decided to integrate its work with Adzerk’s platform. That way it wouldn’t have to build the ad-serving, optimization and reporting tools itself, nor maintain them.

Six months in, it started capturing impression data using Adzerk. Four months ago, Newsmax’s self-serve RTB system, which marries the in-house solution with Adzerk’s platform, went live.

To match the right content to the right publisher, Newsmax created three news feeds: financial, political and health. “We come up with a feed for the publisher that would work best according to our data. For financial sites, our health feeds work better than financial news,” said Ayush Chaturvedi, the senior software architect who implemented the feed. 

Advertisers bid to appear in the feeds next to links to Newsmax’s content. Better-performing ads appear more frequently so publishers yield the highest eCPM.

Newsmax content only goes through manual adjustments or removal. The site wants breaking news to flow through the feed, not just evergreen content with historically higher click-through rates. But in the next year or so, Newsmax plans to address automation for those pieces as well.

Within one widget, there are nine ad-served links. But the look and feel of the widgets rests completely in Newsmax’s hands, an area of importance for the publishers using the network. “We can dynamically style them so they look completely native,” Chaturvedi said.

Though Chaturvedi has served some native implementations through DoubleClick, which Newsmax uses for display ads, he cited Adzerk’s flexible APIs as one reason he chose the partner. The company deploys a open design that enables diverse applications of its ad-server tools.

He also liked that Adzerk used a node server and a NoSQL database, technologies that makes sites load faster. When he’s been part of larger ad platforms, he’s encountered more latency.

“We needed an ad server to make a decision and knowing what kind of widget and feed it was coming from,” Chaturvedi said. “We needed tracking on how many impressions and clicks happened, and we also wanted to do RTB for our advertiser system.”

Since the self-serve RTB system opened, Newsmax has only been adding advertisers. Early adopters know they have an advantage before the marketplace grows further and bid competition increases.

Revenue growth for this module outpaces that of other digital revenue sources like display, making it a “focused area of attention” for the publisher and Chaturvedi’s development time in the future.

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