Everybody’s a content curator on the web these days, but the folks at Outbrain seem to be doing an especially good job. Today they announced a $35 million series D round led by Index Ventures and the addition of Dominique Vidal, partner at Index Ventures, to their board of directors.
Outbrain works in two ways. Publishers can install a free widget on their site that recommends articles to readers and helps grow traffic internally. It’s basically a souped up version of, “like this, try that”, which appears at the bottom of many online articles.
The second half of their business does the same thing, but instead of keeping clicks on a single site, it pushes them out to a network. Outbrain gets paid to deliver traffic and publishers can get a slice of that revenue for sending along their readers.
“My two previous companies worked by interruption, which I hated. We were trying to get you to click away from a story on the kind of ad that personally, I ignore,” co-founder and CEO Yaron Galai told Betbeat. “Now we’re focused on sending an engaged audience by connecting them with content they enjoy.”
Right now all this content recommendation generates more than 200 million clicks per month across 200 publishers, including CNN, Fox News, Hearst, Mashable, MSNBC, and Reuters UK.
“In the last year we’ve expanded to three new international markets and two new verticals: mobile sites and video content,” said Mr. Galai. “The appetite for our product is there and this gives us a good war chest to continue being aggressive.” Cash is good for things like acquiring competitors, which Outbrain did earlier this year when they bough Sphere from AOL.
Mr Vidal, the new board member, was the former CEO of Yahoo Europe, and will be especially helpful as Outbrain looks to grow its footprint overseas.
While geographic expansion is in the works, Mr. Galai says that he company intends to maintain a laser focus on recommending content. “I get asked about once a week if we could use our algorithm to begin recommending people products as well as articles, so I’ve gotten good at saying no.”
He doesn’t think Outbrain will ever take the Buzzfeed route and push into original content. “We aren’t going to build a destination website. We think of ourselves as strictly curators.”
There is one area where Outbrain hasn’t gone yet, and that’s inside publishers’s apps. “I don’t like playing in other people’s walled gardens. You have to pay the vig,” said Mr. Galai. “We will be there eventually, but my bet is on HTML5 and the mobile web.”
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