Adam Singolda started Taboola 7 years ago because there was nothing to watch on TV. “I thought people should not be looking for information; information should be looking for people. Most people don’t wake up in the morning and search for that amazing jazz singer they like. They have to discover that person somehow.”Singolda makes those connections with something he calls the Magic 3. Creating experiences/stories that are engaging, reaching an audience at scale, and understanding the data to measure and analyze your ROI. Or, as he likes to say, “Content is no longer king unless there’s a kingdom—audience.”
The young CEO spoke impressively in May during Internet Week NY at MediaPost’s OMMA Native, and he will deliver a keynote titled The New World of Content Marketing at SIIA’s inaugural Business Information & Media Summit, Nov. 10-12 in Miami Beach. (The early-bird registration for this conference expires July 18.)
Taboola has quickly become one of the world’s leading content discovery platforms, reaching 350 million unique visitors. Their tagline is simply, Content You May Like. I watched Singolda speak for the first time this morning (on a video from that May event), and he makes a strong first impression. His ideas are not rocket science—“You have to allow people to participate in the conversation”—but Taboola’s complicated algorithms do perhaps reflect the background of an officer in an elite mathematical unit of the Israeli National Security Agency. After all, as he says, they’re choosing 4 thumbnails out of 5,000 to show you.
“Every 10 years there’s a dramatic and huge behavioral change that affects all of us, and we’re going through one right now—[we call it] the lack of user attention,” he said. “I think it’s gone to playing Candy Crush to games to video to online video to offline apps to syndicated content to native content to distributive content. It’s becoming super complex, and every person in this room can kill 5 minutes on their iPhone very easily.
“What does that all mean? [Audiences] demand engaging experiences to choose to participate in; it’s become very personal. For marketers to be part of my day, they have to create some of those engaging experiences.” Singolda gave examples of companies that have gotten the message.
- Netflix signed up 2 million subscribers by creating original shows like House of Cards. “They’re creating content instead of creating a bigger banner.”
- American Express decided they wanted to help small businesses grow—so they became a publisher. “All Amex wants to do is provide value so you include them in your experiences.”
- Bank of America started producing Better Money Habits, an online TV show. They are now there to help you save money.
“How do people discover content?” he asked. “You used to go to www, look at a homepage and see what the agenda is. Then came searching, then discovering based on our friends. Now it’s how do we discover the best thing we like and never knew existed. It’s the Magic 3.” Singolda filled in more details of this secret elixir:
1. “We have to be able to create engaging experiences and stories so people will choose to engage with [us].”
2. “We have to completely understand the audience. It used to be just about creating the best piece of content. Now we can’t stop there. We have to create the best piece of content that millions of people have the chance to consume—and you have to make this part of your company, part of your workflow. It has to be a recurrent, measurable, tangible, scalable process. It can’t be a one-off—‘I have a budget, I’m spending it.’ Or ‘I heard that we can do it, I’m trying it.’”
3. “Bring [the loop back to] journalism and the people who create the content. What can you tell people who invest so much in content that they must create it in a better way next time? Better title, better thumbnail, better narrative. [Given] audience fragmentation and data, how can you create the Ninja type of editors so that they create now and get better tomorrow in a competitive environment.”
I have never heard the phrase “Ninja type of editors.” But given the things we writers and editors have been called in the past, I’ll take it. It’s kind of exciting actually, in the same way Singolda’s talk in November should be as well.
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Ronn Levine began his career as a reporter for The Washington Post and has won numerous writing and publications awards since. Most recently, he spent 12 years at the Newspaper Association of America covering diversity, Newspaper in Education, marketing and leadership before joining SIPA in 2009 , and then SIIA in 2013.