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Tuesday 16 April 2013

Senseless 'content marketing': What is Think Progress doing here?

I am looking at a Think Progress (TP) article titled 'The 8 Worst Responses To The Boston Marathon Bombings'. I scroll to the end. Instead of related internet articles (related to the content or tags) I get .. what?!
  • 5 Most Overrated Exercises You Can Stop Doing
  • 10 Best Makeovers of 2012
  • Investing For Income
What sort of crappy service comes up with this selection on that article? Why on earth would I click on one of those headlines after reaching the end of that article? And why would TP, or The Hill or DailyKos or some mainstream media news services, bother with something called 'Taboola'?
Taboola is surfacing your articles, slideshows, and videos to the right users, on the most innovative publishers in the world, and inviting them to click and ...
Oh just stop right at 'surfacing' ...
The latest from Taboola (@taboola). World leading content recommendation and monetization platform. Pubs integrate Taboola to surface interesting content ...
I'm looking at the result right now! If this is 'world leading' then the 'world' hasn't engineered its 'recommendation engine' very well, now has it?

It isn't that easy to pull off. I get it. The Guardian has one of the best CMS around and look at what can pop up (aka 'surface') at the bottom of its articles sometimes that's supposedly related.

But these options on Think Progress et al .... Frankly I think they make the users look amateurish. They look like Altavista search results. They look like desperation. They, cough, 'dilute the brand'.

Hands up. I use Zemanta. It gives me link and tag suggestions and related articles. I can add sources for those article suggestions. I choose what appears (I don't have to link to Zemanta or even mention them). It's useful. It also has a helpful newsletter and blog.

They also have a widget like Taboola which I have used elsewhere, but that allowed me to use it just for related links from the same website. And those links generally were closely related. The general web links then from Zemanta's widget were, from recollection, just as daft as Taboola's. I assume this is something to do with having too little granularity, too little segmentation and too small a vaguely related user base (to what my content was).

Another problem with Taboola, best shown when it is used like on The Hill to show related stories from the same website next to other links, is when the 'useful' or 'related' links content is actually paid advertorial but it isn't clearly marked as advertising.

For serious outlets -- like Think Progress -- that is playing with fire. See the Dish's series of posts on “Enhanced Advertorial Techniques".

And not only could it be reputationally damaging but, just as normal web advertising can be, it's scatterfire, clearly using nothing in the actual content to pick advertorial which a reader would be more likely to click on! So if the website is being paid for clicks this makes its presence even more bizarre than it already appears to be!

NB: Below are some of the 'related articles' (which included one clearly 'promoted' option) that Zemanta is letting me pick out:
Enhanced by Zemanta

1 comment:

  1. Hey Paul!

    Big thanks for the nice words about our product, much appreciated! :)

    Quick question: how come you found Zemanta a bit too "unspecific" at first? Was it because of the content you were writing about or something else? We'd love to know more about it.

    Also — any chance we might get you to write a guest blogpost for us? :) We'd really like to hear more from you about this (or similar) topic, if you find the time.

    Here's the link to our blog, take your time, take it for a scroll & get back to us when you feel comfortable:

    Once again — thanks for the nice mention and we'll be more than glad to hear more from you. Oh, and my email address: silvo [at] zemanta [dot] com

    Take care & I'm looking forward to hear more from you!