Despite frequent criticism, the Israeli ad-tech company Taboola’s revenue is skyrocketing

Adam Singolda

  • Despite absorbing its fair share of criticism, the content-recommendation platform Taboola has continued to grow.
  • The ad-tech company, which uses widgets to place links on publisher websites to articles, videos, and products, is projecting over $1 billion in revenue in 2018.
  • It also reached nearly half of the world’s desktop internet users in December (43.6%), according to comScore.
  • Taboola has billed itself as an alternative to Google and Facebook over the years, attempting to own “discovery” as they own search and social advertising, but it isn’t necessarily going to be easy.

The amount of revenue this content-recommendation company expects to bring in this year will shock you.

While facing criticism over ads appearing alongside unsavory content, accusations of spreading fake news, and old-fashioned clickbait, the ad-tech platform Taboola is best known for delivering those ubiquitous “Sponsored Headlines” that appear near the bottom of many websites, and it has its share of critics.

But none of that seems to have had any bearing on the company’s growth.

In fact, the 10-year-old Taboola, which uses widgets to place links on publisher websites (including Business Insider) to articles, videos, and products, is projecting over $1 billion in revenue as well as profitability in 2018, claiming that it powers more than 450 billion recommendations globally each month.

It has also expanded its footprint considerably. Taboola’s recommendations reach nearly half of the world’s desktop internet users (43.6%), according to comScore Key Measures rankings from December, reaching a respective 89%, 86%, and 63.5% of all desktop users in the US, the UK, and Germany.

taboolaSpeaking with Business Insider, Taboola’s founder and CEO, Adam Singolda, attributed the growth to a combination of factors, including the success and adoption of its Taboola Feed and self-service platform as well as international expansion.

“Our proposition has always been to aid the consumer discovery process in the open web,” Singolda said. “Our growth shows that the open web is big and brands should diversify their advertising buckets and that publishers can achieve scale.”

Hoping to help publishers feeling burned by Facebook

Over the years, Taboola has billed itself as an alternative to Google and Facebook, attempting to own “discovery” in the same way those two giants own search and social advertising. Taboola has been touting its recommendation links as an essential strategy for brands to reach quality audiences as they discover content on premium publisher sites.

The company’s growth comes at a time when many publishers are facing the consequences of becoming overly reliant on distribution from digital giants like Facebook. Just last week, for instance, Facebook’s most recent algorithm tweak prompted the women-focused digital publisher LittleThings to shutter after its organic reach plummeted 75% as a direct result of the change.

Given the environment, Singolda is more bullish than ever on wider adoption of Taboola’s positioning and offerings.

“Both brands and publishers are increasingly realizing that they need to get intimate with a variety of technology that can help them diversify outside of search and social,” he said. “It’s never a good thing to be overly dependent on one thing.”

To that end, it has invested in several new product offerings over the past year. It introduced Taboola Feed in May, for example, mimicking Facebook and Instagram’s feeds to serve relevant, personalized content to users in an infinite scroll on the open web.

Besides new products, Taboola plans to expand its employee base by 1,300 this year across its 13 offices.

Moving fast and breaking things

Still, it has not been entirely smooth-sailing for the company, and at a time when issues of ad fraud and brand safety continue to plague the industry, it is not necessarily going to be easier ahead.

Just last week, Taboola found itself in hot water when it was associated with the conspiracy website Infowars, which characterized the recent Parkland, Florida, school shooting as a “deep state false flag operation.” The site was running a native-ad widget from Taboola because of a partnership with a third-party vendor, which was later removed in accordance with Taboola’s policy to not work with publishers that intentionally deceive or harm consumers.

“Do I think we made a mistake? Absolutely, it was a f—-up, no doubt,” Singolda said. “But companies make mistakes when they are moving fast and innovating. But there’s a clear distinction between intent and making a mistake. We made a mistake, but our intent was never wrong.”

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