Taboola CEO Adam Singolda: ‘If Google is search and Facebook is social, we want to be about discovery’

Taboola founder and CEO Adam Singolda / Taboola

Taboola founder and chief executive Adam Singolda speaks with The Drum on a potential new direction for his company’s advertising offering, posing an alternative offering to ‘walled gardens’, and gives his take on the impact of Facebook’s recent algorithm change.

A little over 12 months since its self-service advertising offering was introduced to the market, Taboola’s chief executive officer Adam Singolda is keen to trumpet how the service has hit a run-rate of over $100m per year. Thus far the service has specialized in facilitating small-to-midsize businesses (SMB) tap into the mindset of its publishers’ audiences via way of its native ad feed.

Singolda tells of how “thousands of entrepreneurs” have so far used the service (SMBs such as eSalon, Flare Audio and Goodgame Studios have lent their name to its recent press release) which he is quick to liken to ‘a reverse search engine’, whereby it helps deliver contextually relevant messages to billions of users every month.

“There’s something to say about a small business finding success with you, even more than with a big brand,” he adds. “It’s a great content-grid product for people that nobody knows today, but everybody will know tomorrow.”

Taboola's self-serve advertising product has found a sweet-spot in aspirant advertisers of this profile that want to accelerate their brand awareness without the aid of large ad agencies, especially online where Facebook and Google’s offering is a well-worn path, according to Singolda.

“[For SMBs] your main choice is Google Ad Words, or Facebook for small business, and those are pretty mature markets,” he says. “For instance, if you trying to sell headphones and you want to compete against big headphone companies on search, then that’s not going to be easy. You know, Google and Facebook give you search and social, but [with Taboola] we'll get a small business recommended by big publisher sites, and the credibility that goes with that. That’s something Taboola gives you as a small advertiser… you can fight on price for search terms, but that doesn’t necessarily make you unique.”

In terms of feedback, Taboola claims it differs from the standardized online advertising products of the ‘walled gardens’ (Facebook and Google), as it proffers a mix of CTR, CPC and post-click engagement, according to Singolda. “If Google is search and Facebook is social, we want to be about discovery. We want to be the area where people discover things. If I was to divide the advertising industry, I would say it is search, social and discovery.”

In an industry vertical as dynamic as the online advertising sector, one constant is change, and sitting at the helm of one the more unique advertising offerings, Singolda is charged with making sure Taboola stays abreast of the forces shaping it. He explains his opinion that within a number of years this will lead to the evolution of the traditional banner advertising offering.

“I think that advertisers – big and small – will transition from traditional advertising, that’s primarily display and text ads, to more storytelling. And I believe that in a world where storytelling matters (because the world is so crowded), Taboola can help build this category to one that’s more than $10bn,” he adds. “Coming up with creative sorties will help keep this an interesting category.”

Pressed further on what this might entail for Taboola’s upcoming advertising offering (to both the SMB sector and blue-chip advertisers), Singolda remains coy, but he does concede that his outfit is in the midst of conceiving a new offering.

“We’re working in expansion to some future and very exciting expansions to recommend some new things to consumers,” he teases. “So it’s the same concept and technologies that [are] beyond the traditional internet.”

Unable to go into further detail on the specifics of his upcoming designs, Singolda does confidently state his belief that it will help publishers and not stop short of “beating the biggest in the space.”

When probed on Facebook’s recent announcement on changing its algorithm to prioritize content from friends and family (as opposed to news content from publishers) Singolda states his belief that it shows that media owners.

“My hope is that it won’t have too big an effect on my business partners [publishers], but it reinforces the importance of diversifying audience outside of the walled gardens,” he says.

“It shows that it’s even more important to increase engagement and monetization on the site.”

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