How Outbrain Is Working With Indian Publishers

Gulshan Verma, General Manager – SEA & India, Outbrain shares how India has become the fastest growing market and how its working with Indian publishers

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ScoopWhoop, the 18-month-old millennial online publisher with over 12 million monthly uniques recently joined hands with content discovery platform Outbrain to personalise content. The publisher evaluated various options and ultimately chose to work with Outbrain because of its ability to deliver the most personalised content recommendations. “Moreover, our guided personalization platform gave them the opportunity to maximise engagement and access key insights and analytics on their digital audience,” added Gulshan Verma, General Manager – SEA & India, Outbrain.

Not just ScoopWhoop but very recently Outbrain renewed its partnership with Network18, and has joined hands with a number of other Indian publications, including Indian Express, ABP Live, Financial Express, MTV India (Viacom), ScoopWhoop, Sanjeev Kapoor, StoryPick, MissMalini, and fossBytes.

Publishing houses like The Times of India, The Hindu and ESPNcricinfo in India are already working with Outbrain since last year.

Outbrain that serves over 200 billion recommendations per month to consumers in over 150 countries, started looking at India seriously from the first quarter of last year. To start with the content discovery network signed a multi-year strategic partnership with Times Internet to offer personalized content recommendations to readers on the latter’s online properties including The Times of India, The Economic Times and Indiatimes among others.

At the time, the company had claimed that it has witnessed significant growth in South-East Asia and India in the last 18 months, registering 800 million pageviews on a publisher network comprising more than 150 publishers. Post that Outbrain appointed Gulshan as the country manager of Outbrain India to lead the setup and growth of the company in the country.

Gulshan joined Outbrain after heading Komli Media as its vice president & ad network country head for India, US and Canada. It’s been more than a year with Gulshan at the helm and India is Gulshan Vermaalready Outbrain’s fastest growing markets. According to ComScore April 2015 Outbrain reached nearly 26 million unique visitors on desktop (and more on mobile) and now works with 6 of the top 10 English language publishers in India.

“We’ve been growing our publisher network and this further extends the content marketing opportunity for brands in this market. A growing network that today extends across all major verticals – news, lifestyle, finance, youth, just to name a few. In addition, we are now working with more than half of the top 10 brands in India,” Gulshan informed.

Outbrain is known to offer two solutions called Amplify and Engage. Engage is a content management software for media organisations, while through Amplify Outbrain promotes content on leading publications like CNN.com, Slate, ESPN, The Daily Telegraph, New York Post, and Time Inc among many others, besides the Indian publications.

While Engage has been appreciated by Indian publishers, native advertising has been one of the promising areas that publishers have shown keen interest. Before Outbrain could offer such service to publishers it faced many roadblocks while trying to implement such a solution.

“Firstly publishers had to pay separately for yet another platform, which did not always integrate well with their ad server and was complicated to use. Secondly, while the publisher sales force was transitioning to selling this native format, the publisher did not see the monetization from Native.”

This led to the launch of Outbrain Native In-Feed, a product that allows publishers to use the Outbrain platform to serve native (in-stream) advertising. Gulshan shared that Outbrain partners can sell their own campaigns and use the Outbrain user interface and tools to deliver these campaigns to their audiences quickly and simply. “If the publisher does not have the relevant demand, Outbrain will then monetize those impressions and share the revenue with the publisher.”

Native In-Feed is built on top of Outbrain’s existing proprietary technology and enables publishers to easily set-up and deliver native ad campaigns, relying on Outbrain’s premium network to fill unsold inventory. The solution works with all content types (articles, videos, etc.) and delivers the content seamlessly across all platforms: mobile, tablet and desktop.

With content consumption patterns already shifting from web to mobile specially in a country like India, Outbrain can integrate recommendations within publishers’ mobile sites or apps through its SDK.

In fact a recent finding from Outbrain stated that – “A staggering 76 percent of the overall content consumed on smartphones is consumed on an Android device in India.”

“Nearly half of our network’s recommendations in India come via mobile or tablets, so we obviously put a lot of effort into developing our mobile offering: the device or the platform on which the user is on forms a very important part on determining which form of content to use,” he added.

Outbrain, of late, has seen a lot of attention from the Indian market but competition is stiff. Taboola, Outbrain’s strong competitor which recently saw Daily Mail investing $3 million to develop advertising products together, has also focused on India.

By the end of 2013, Taboola announced the launch of its operations in APAC to serve publishers, brands, and content marketers. With an office in Bangkok, Taboola made partnerships with leading publishers like Hindustantimes.com, Zeenews.india.com, cricketcountry.com, Bollywoodshaadis.com, Bollywoodlife.com, Health India, BGR, and others.

Trak.in, known for its business coverage of Tech, Mobile and Startups in India, has been trying out Taboola for more than six months. Arun Prabhudesai, Founder at Trak.in earlier had tested Outbrain but as of now Taboola is adding value to his readers and is also providing an opportunity to make some money but he wished if content discovery platforms provided advanced control on display of content. “I need to have a greater control over the stories that are shown on my site. Defining content is a struggle, however it might not be in the interest of the content discovery platforms but publishers would be aggressively showing it if given greater control on content.”

Nevertheless, Outbrain believes that it empowers editors to program the ‘what’s next’ moment on home pages and articles. “Business and commercial teams use Outbrain to engage audiences and hit business KPI’s, while product teams use Outbrain to manipulate the page layout and create a more personalized reader experience on desktop, tablet, mobile sites and apps.”

Keeping the momentum going further Outbrain is working with premium publishers in India across not only the news genre, but into finance, lifestyle, youth, auto and other categories too. For marketers Outbrain is helping them build content and measure their returns from content marketing. Citing an example, Gulshan informed that they now are helping marketers understand how users are interacting with content in a specific category or identify trending news stories in a category they wish to be relevant in.