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Can Content Distribution Networks Hurt Your Brand?

The benefits can be overwhelming. But is there a downside to using popular content distribution networks to advertise your business's product?

As we mentioned last week, content distributors Taboola and Outbrain can markedly increase your website's pageviews and conversion rates. However, the companies are facing a backlash from users who feel that some of the related content ads are rather unsavory.

Negative Connotation?

“Despite their founders’ best intentions, many believe Outbrain and Taboola have made the Internet worse for the wear. It’s easy to see why. The links in their ‘related content' widgets, which typically appear at the bottom of a blog post or news article, often represent the worst of the Web.”

Erin Griffith of Fortune, quoted above, explored the darker side of these content networks. She notes the disgusted reaction of venture capitalist Marc Andreessen, who said content publishers “should be shot” for using the related content widgets, which degrade the experience of the user and advertiser. Indeed, headlines such as “10 Celebrities Whose Plastic Surgery Went Horribly Wrong” could detract from the aesthetics and perhaps even reputation of a website.

Users Determine the Experience

However, representatives from the companies say users determine the most popular and therefore most visible content. Taboola users can “ex out” content they do not want to see, while the most highly engaged posts drive content for both of the juggernaut companies. In other words, you continue to see ads about celebrities and plastic surgery because people are clicking on them.


So should you utilize these services and risk seeing your advertised content next to a headline that may or may not be wholesome? Or, if your website has enough pageviews to host paid advertising, display unsavory advertising messages on your website?

No Easy Answer

There is no easy answer, unfortunately. Businesses are faced with these types of decisions each day. Advertisers are faced with a similar dilemma regarding retargeting (when an ad depicting a product you shopped for appears on a subsequent website through the use of cookies). Some users find this practice intrusive. But studies reveal incredible success rates, with retargeting increasing sales of browsed-for-but-not-purchased items by as much as four times.

As we suggested in our initial post, if you are interested in using content distribution networks, you'll want to get in touch with these companies to see what kind of value they can bring to your particular business. You may be willing to risk turning off a few customers if you can vastly increase click-through rates or conversions. But don't go too far in sacrificing your brand's image in the interest of revenue.

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