Content recommender Outbrain is banning ads that look like link-bait articles

Tired of those annoying links which suck you in with their attractive headlines but end up leading you to an ad instead of an article? So is the platform that places them.

Content discovery and recommendation engine Outbrain says it is cracking down on ads masquerading as articles. To be clear, most content recommended by Outbrain is an ad of some sort. Brands and content creators pay Outbrain to include their articles in the Outbrain recommendation feed, which shows up at the bottom of websites you read. When readers click on the articles, it drives traffic back to the original publisher. In some cases, the site which includes the Outbrain widget gets a cut every time somebody clicks on the Outbrain links at the bottom.

While Outbrain is happy to be a source of content marketing, i.e. informative articles that just happen to be written by brands, it is purging spammy link-bait articles which are nothing but blatant advertising in disguise.

Truth be told, it’s pretty difficult to separate genuine content marketing from whatever Outbrain is considering to be spam. Outbrain CEO Yaron Galai admitted as much speaking to Recode:

We’re not looking to be the ones determining the acceptable quality level of every story we accept into the index — that is a subjective matter best left to the audience,” he said via email.

According to Arik Hesseldahl at Re/code, examples of unacceptable articles include titles such as: “Never Considered a Cruise? Here’s Why You Should Think Again,” and “Do These 7 Things and You May Get Alzheimer’s.” These articles will now be replaced by actual advertisements.

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