Outbrain Bets On PR Making Paid Media Inroads
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Outbrain Bets On PR Making Paid Media Inroads

Holmes Report

When Jeff Pyatt joined Outbrain in 2011, the startup was already known for feeding paid links to news sites like CNN, Mashable and Slate.

At the time, Outbrain was primarily used by media buyers with access to ad budgets. Then 18 months ago, Pyatt moved into a new role heading PR initiatives for the venture-backed OutBrain.

[caption id="attachment_1587" align="alignright" width="150"]Jeff Pyatt Jeff Pyatt[/caption]

“When I pitched this role internally, I thought of myself as the PR advocate,” Pyatt says. He pushed for Outbrain to lower its monthly minimum to accommodate PR’s leaner budgets. “Now PR can go below the monthly minimum for testing, we can show a proof-of-concept for $1k or $2k that can easily turn into a $5k run, then into a $120k campaign.”

In fact, much of the content distributed across Outbrain’s network has its origins in traditional public relations. For instance, Pyatt says, clients often look to amplify third-party articles that feature their company -- rather than self-generated, branded content. We did an in-depth look at Outbrain's model in last year's content marketing feature.

“The PR team gets an article and the news site will promote the story for maybe three or four hours -- but then what?” Pyatt says.

Despite its budget hurdles, he’s ultimately optimistic for PR to take the lead when it comes to content syndication. This is, in part, because PR knows amplifying third-party content “is one of the most powerful things an Outbrain experience can provide.”

But questions surrounding the long-term viability of content syndication lingers. Do “recommended for you” links run the risk of becoming tomorrow’s banner ads that readers eventually tune out?

Pyatt responds by pointing to Outbrain’s content guidelines, and overall philosophy, to protect the quality of the content it syndicates. The startup also reserves the right to reject content that doesn’t meet its standards.

“[We understand] the gravity of the trust that agencies place in us and we take it very seriously,” he says. “We ask - is this content editorial? Does it feel like a blog, article or video with an editorial voice?”

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