Outbrain wants to engage content marketers in Asia.
Content recommendation engine Outbrain, an increasingly familiar fixture on publisher websites in the US, is relatively new to Asia, opening a regional hub in Singapore earlier this month.
Business here however, albeit at an earlier stage of development, appears more aligned with the company’s long-term goals – working with marketers as well as media owners to drive traffic and engagement.
“Globally, about 65-70% of our buyers are publishers rather than brands, but we see the future of the business in content marketing,” says Anthony Hearne, Outbrain’s regional manager for Southeast Asia, speaking in an interview with Media Business Asia.
“In Asia, the split between publishers and brands is about equal, although it can vary month by month.”
Marketing heads in Asia often have more autonomy than their peers in more established markets, Hearne contends, making them more open to experimentation.
“While there is a way to go to boost digital consumption and ad spend in Asia, I have been pleasantly surprised by the marketing fraternity’s existing use of content and their appetite to try new things,” he says.
Outbrain’s discovery utility, built on a catalog of algorithms that both track and predict traffic patterns, has been operating in the US since 2007.
Publishers and brands can include the service on their own sites for free. This appears to readers as automatically generated links that can direct them to related content on the same site or elsewhere.
Publishers and brands pay when people click on links they have asked Outbrain to distribute on its broader network.
Paying customers in Asia are predominately English language offerings, although the service is also available in Chinese and Japanese.
Building the marketplace
The company is also testing Bahasa and Hindi platforms, although the initial focus will be on English language revenue opportunities in Singapore, India and the Philippines.
Outbrain engineers monitor traffic across all sites where the recommendation service is installed, building up a potentially valuable record of which stories people are more likely to read in different markets.
The engine comprises some contextual algorithms, which are affected by language, as well as some behavioral algorithms, which are more universal.
In theory, clickthroughs and revenues should increase as Outbrain gets better at working out what people want to read.
Hearne’s job is to boost the footprint in Asia.
“It’s not just about installing the technology,” he says. “We have to build the marketplace.”