News recommendation startup Outbrain just announced its plans to make money through a targeted advertising program called Sponsored But Good.
VentureBeat readers should be familiar with the Outbrain widget, since it appears below each of our posts with recommendations of other stories you might like. Serving up sponsored recommendations seems like an obvious next step, and there’s a lot to like about the details I’ve seen. For one thing, the sponsored links don’t actually go to advertising content, just to editorial content that a company wants to highlight. For example, if VentureBeat writer Dean Takahashi writes a rave review about a new game, the game company in question might want to sponsor links to his review; that’s (hopefully) a lot more relevant than just an ad for the game. Outbrain also says there will never be more than one sponsored recommendation per post.
Revenue will be split between the publisher and Outbrain. If you’re not blogging for the money, you can also set things up so that the proceeds are donated to a charity of your choice.
My only real reservation is the fact that the sponsored post isn’t clear enough — if you see the letter “i” next to a link, do you really think “sponsored”? I asked an Outbrain spokesman about this, and he responded:
We wanted to avoid marking these distributed recommendations the same way as commonly seen paid links so that the reader doesn’t think that the landing page or its content has been paid/produced for by the advertiser. At the base of this program is the concept that we are pointing the reader to something authentic. Additionally, when the reader mouses over the “i” icon and the “brought to you by” they both change color and indicate they are clickable.
The Sponsored but Good news comes on the heels of Outbrain’s $12 million second round of capital announced last week. The company has raised a total of $17 million to date.