Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Content-Recommender Outbrain Buys Content-Fetcher Scribit

You’re one of those brands that wants to be in the content business, but you don’t want to spend a lot of time making content? There are people who can do that for you.

And now you want to make sure people see that content? There are people who can help with that, too.

And you only want to go to one place to do all that? Then Outbrain hopes you come to them: The well-funded content-recommendation service has purchased Scribit, a small start-up that fetches pre-made stories, videos, etc., that publishers need to buff up their Web sites. (If you want to see a bigger version of the same idea, check out NewsCred, which seems to be doing well.)

Outbrain is based in New York, but CEO Yaron Galai says he’ll leave Scribit (formerly Vertical Acuity) in Atlanta. He won’t disclose a purchase price and my hunch is it wasn’t a big one; more likely something closer to a soft landing for Scribit’s 10-person team, who are all supposed to stay on board.

Still, the deal is an interesting step for Outbrain, which is quietly becoming an important player for Web publishers via its core business, which circulates traffic to different sites using story and video links it publishes at the bottom of Web pages. (AllThingsD is an Outbrain partner, so you can see examples at the bottom of this post.)

Right now, Outbrain only uses links with “real” content, and Galai has recently booted some clients he says were producing spammy links in order to drive traffic to what were effectively marketing sites. You can’t really blame them for trying, since lots of Web advertising works that way, from Google’s AdWords on down.

But buying Scribit allows Outbrain to tiptoe into a more conventional ad network business, without actually becoming an ad network. Scribit’s clients use the service to acquire “real” content for their sites, and then they can advertise that content via Outbrain’s network. So in theory, eyeballs still show up on marketers’ pages, except now they’re looking at stuff they actually want to see.

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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik