Discovery Platforms, and the Stories They Run, Provide Little to Zero Value to Consumers​​​​​​​

You’ve seen them, and you’ve ignored them. You may have even clicked one and didn’t exactly know what you got yourself into. They look like articles, because they kind of are, but more than that, they are just simply pay-per-click ads, (a.k.a. you click, and they win.)

They have many names. Sponsored ad content, sponsored website links, content recommendation engines and contextual advertising are just a few of the many names these “discovery” platforms hide behind.

An article on, a blog for ad buyers and sellers, spoon-feeds us the narrative that advertisers are purposefully misleading consumers.

“The idea behind them is to serve ads that look like they’re a natural part of the page. Publishers and advertisers love them because they don’t look or feel like advertising.”

Advertising and the online experience can only get worse through this technique. When you continuously trick consumers to click on ads, it only incentivizes them to use ad blockers more, which is the opposite of what advertisers want.

“They work extremely well at driving traffic and sales when they’re paired with the right landing page, which is commonly a ‘native ad’ or an article lander that appears like a new story.”

The biggest names in contextual advertising are Taboola, OutBrain, RevContent, and Wolfram, with the first two mentioned being the largest. You’ve seen their ads everywhere, predominantly at the end of stories published online.

Many of the ads read: ”From Around the Web” or “You May Like” in bold and in smaller print: “Sponsored Links by Taboola” or “Recommended by OutBrain.” The content couldn’t be closer to clickbait with headlines like “16 Celebs Who Have Breast Implants And Don’t Hide It” or “Want to Make $3,500 Every Day in Romania? Watch This Video!”

These obviously provide no value to the consumer experience, and they only distract and waste their time. Calling these articles anything other than clickbait-powered advertisements is purposefully misleading, as well as a threat to the entire online experience.

Similar to the state of ad fraud and programmatic advertising, this problem only stops when reputable publishers like CNN, The Chicago Tribune, and others stop leveraging these practices. While it may provide an easy revenue stream that can be helpful for businesses, it will only lead to annoyance and distrust among consumers.



G.J. Melia