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Expert Q & A

Taboola Is Worth $2.6B. Is It Worth Reconsidering?

June 18, 2021
September 29, 2021
Mae Rice

Is Taboola truly an “eyeballs without conversions” advertising platform? We’ve heard plenty of marketers complain about it, but according to a former power-user, it has its upsides.

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It’s hard to find someone who likes Taboola.

The native advertising platform’s “chum box” of sponsored content appears at the bottom of many news stories — even on CNN — and it gets critiqued. A lot.

  • From the publisher perspective: “[T]hey perpetuate fake news and [Americans’] distrust of real journalism,” Mother Jones editor-in-chief Clara Jeffery tweeted.
  • From the advertiser perspective: “It’s eyeballs without conversions,” MarketerHire’s director of marketing Tracey Wallace said.

But Taboola went public earlier this year at a valuation of $2.6B. 

What’s it doing right? 

We asked a happy former client — Peter Dolukhanov, CEO of Decoded Consulting and former acting CTO of British digital media outlet The Independent — why it can be valuable to marketers.

It’s got TikTok-level AI.

The Taboola chum box is customized on a “highly personalized basis,” Dolukhanov said.

Like the TikTok algorithm, Taboola’s content recommendation algorithm looks beyond views. It also factors in engagement metrics, like how long readers spend on the page and how far they scroll, Dolukhanov said.

(Taboola couldn’t be reached for comment.)

Contextual factors make an impact here, too — like the subject of the story the Taboola widget appears next to.

It’s ready for the privacy-first web.

Taboola content appears across a variety of publishers, which means the platform collects more first-party data than any one of its publishers could.

As third-party cookies disappear and the privacy-first web unfolds, that gives them a leg up, Dolukhanov said.

One Twitter user sort-of-jokingly sees Taboola completely taking over media sites’ empty space — cursor and all.

It converts. (At least at the top of the funnel.) 

During Dolukhanov's tenure at The Independent, the publication had “a win-win relationship” with Taboola, he said.

They weren't alone. “People click it,” tweeted Jacob Donnelly, Morning Brew’s general manager of B2B. 

Sometimes, people even buy cars from Taboola?

Our takeaway?

If you’ve invested in content marketing, Taboola could be an effective distribution channel for high-performing blogs.

Taboola can get you not just eyeballs, but the eyeballs most likely to care about your story based on past reading patterns, Dolukhanov said.

Though they might also see your content next to “How to Properly Empty Your Bowels Every Morning.” Hero image? A plate of half-peeled hard-boiled eggs.

Mae Rice
about the author

Mae Rice is senior editor at MarketerHire. A long-time content marketer, she enjoys interviewing marketing experts and learning about the weird and wonderful feedback loops that connect marketing and culture. She also loves any ad that makes her say "Huh?!" — especially Tim and Eric's ad for Totino's pizza rolls, which she watches way more often than you would think.

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