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Content recommendation networks look for a second act

April 23, 2018 / Max Willens

Content recommendation services are trying to break out of their widget-shaped boxes. In the past month, Taboola announced a version of its content recommendation app will come installed on select lines of ZTE phones; Revcontent launched Engage.im, an invite-only infinite scroll of publisher content it said has been in development for three years; and Outbrain launched Sphere, an invite-only publisher content recommendation network. Outbrain also ran a price promotion for premium publishers during the first quarter of 2018 to entice them to buy more traffic through its service. All three are trying to make themselves more useful to publishers because the value they’ve long provided — a steady stream of revenue, and in some cases, cost-effective traffic — has been eroded by improvements in programmatic advertising and more focus among publishers on keeping readers on one’s own sites. For these new products to work, each must overcome publisher skepticism.