Interview with Jon Westnedge, Managing Director and head of the European publishing business at Taboola

The content discovery platform Taboola has offices located in almost all capital cities over the world. Because of the strong competition, the entry to the German market was quite difficult until now. However with a new plan and strong partners, Taboola is now ready to capture German competitors. We spoke to Jon Westnedge, the Managing Director and the head of the European publishing business of Taboola.

Jon Westnedge, Managing Director and head of the European publishing business, Taboola

Seeding Alliance: Taboola is already a leader in the US, France and the UK. There are already strategies and budget for the Chinese market. How does Taboola plan to establish itself on the German market and to stand up against the strong competition in Germany?
Jon Westnedge: We’ve recently signed long term partnerships with several leading publishers in Germany such as Axel Springer, Ströer, Handelsblatt and Sport1 to name just a few, so we already have a strong foothold in the German market. How will we compete? Firstly, as the leading content discovery platform in the world, we are able to bring the power of our platform to the German market, providing value and performance for the entire publisher business. And secondly, through our great account management support of native German speakers, which has driven growth quickly in other markets.

Seeding Alliance: So far, Taboola has hold back on the German market but now you have entered into an exclusive partnership with Sport1. What are your goals with this partnership and what steps will be the next?
Jon Westnedge: Our strategy is to generate revenue for Sport1 through providing brand experiences that span the full funnel of consumer engagement – from sponsored content to outstream video. We are also committed to delivering a more personalized experience both in terms of content as well as format, expedited by our recent acquisition of Commerce Sciences, leaders in eCommerce personalization technology. In addition, our editorial tools provide journalists with deep-level network insights and A/B testing capabilities to increase user engagement. Finally, Sport1 enjoys a significant mobile and app audience so our mobile expertise will support ongoing growth.

Seeding Alliance: You are striving to tailor your content recommendations to individual users. Doesn’t this approach also pose dangers if the user’s preferences are misinterpreted, or the user is increasingly caught in a filter bubble?
Jon Westnedge: Taboola’s discovery platform is powered by an advanced predictive engine that analyzes hundreds of real-time signals to match people with the top handful of items they are most likely to be interested in consuming next. Our proprietary algorithm sifts through an array of situational factors every time the user loads a web page, including collaborative filtering, geography, context, referral source, social media trends and more. Operationally, the algorithm takes into consideration behavioral, contextual, and social inputs, as well as general network trends and competition.
Bottom line: content that is generating the most user interest is given the most volume by Taboola’s algorithm. It also pulls back on assets that are generating less interest.

Seeding Alliance: There is criticism concerning the quality of the content recommended to the user (clickbait, spam). On the other hand, provocative articles are also increasingly clicked. How do you want to position yourself?
Jon Westnedge: Ultimately, Taboola provides a platform for consumers to discover brands and content they may like but never knew existed. We encourage rigorous A/B testing of headlines to determine what drives the most success. At the same time, we have developed recommendations that enable content marketers to maximize engagement by offering value to the reader including: when to use listicles, how-to posts, and making sure they don’t overpromise. Once they see how real, live users respond to different headlines, they can then increase click-through rate and time spent on the site by swapping in the title that works best.


Seeding Alliance: How does Taboola define native advertising and what do you think of general standards on this advertising form?
Jon Westnedge: In order to have a sustainable ad-supported platform, then, publishers must think about how to get visitors to engage with advertising in other ways. Native allows publishers to present consumers with an opportunity to engage with brands through content discovery.
The inclusion of third-party, off-site links in a native strategy can allow publishers to scale their ad businesses in a way that would be impossible in a pure content studio model. Not only can publishers run more native ads by using third party content, but they can also do so more affordably and more quickly—without the expense or time required to develop wholly original content—in whatever format (article, video, sponsored post, or otherwise) works for consumers on their platforms of choice.

Meet Jon Westnedge at the Native Ads Camp:

“How to Use Native to Launch New International Markets: a Case Study”
From 13:15 – 13:45, Track 2

Leave a Comment