The Silicon Review
Revcontent entered the content recommendation industry in 2013, seven years after the other major players in the space who each had hundreds of millions of dollars more in funding. So,the founder and CEO of Revcontent John Lemp knew he had to build something different than his competitors.
Content recommendation is a form of native advertising where networks like Revcontent partner with media publishers like Newsweek, Forbes, and Purch Media to deliver paid content recommendations from brands and advertisers looking to drive traffic to their websites in order to grow their audience and customer base.
In the early days of the industry, networks like Taboola and Outbrain tried to gobble up as many publisher sites as possible. It became a race to the bottom with a focus on growing the number of sites on their networks instead of improving the quality. And when Revcontent launched, they identified a hole in the market by focusing on building one quality that competitors ignored — Trust.
When Revcontent was determining which publishers and advertisers to allow in their network, Lemp and his team decided to focus on quality instead of quantity. They knew that they were not going to disrupt the industry by trying to build another Taboola or Outbrain. They had to make a decision to be different about how it built its business and who it chose to partner with.
Revcontent chose to build close ties with premium publisher brands with loyal and engaged audiences because those publishers would put an emphasis on quality, putting their user experience above all else. Although other networks believed that more revenue was delivered because of lower ad standards with an emphasis on clicks, Revcontent felt better recommendations and user experience helped publishers grow engagement and loyalty, which would eventually lead to much higher revenue long term.
Outperforming the Competition
By building the business based on trust and personal relationships, Revcontent began to make an immediate impact on the market. Major media publishers were intrigued by Revcontent’s commitment to ad quality which opened the door to partnerships with brands like Newsweek and Forbes.
When the publishers saw that better ad quality led to increases in revenue and user engagement, Lemp’s vision started to become reality. Newsweek and others were regularly seeing 2-3x the revenue and the word was spreading that there was finally an alternative for publishers to work within the content recommendation space.
“We were bombarded with inquiries from publishers who heard about the control we were giving to our publishers, and they were shocked that we were still delivering revenue that was higher than our competitors,” Lemp said. “But we were at a crossroads. We could have used that success to explode the size of our network, but we decided to stay focused on quality. The trust that we built up with our partners was what drove our success.”
And it wasn’t just the publisher brands who capitalized on Revcontent’s unique business model, brand marketers and advertisers also saw success by tapping into Revcontent’s exclusive publisher network.
Growth and Expansion
Revcontent was in the midst of a boom and it knew that it was time to make strategic growth decisions that would drive the future of the company. So, instead of trying to outgrow its competitors, the company instead looked to align with one of its largest competitors by acquiring ContentClick, which at the time of the acquisition in 2016 was the largest content recommendation network in Europe. The acquisition and strategic partnership gave Revcontent a strong foothold in Europe. The company knew that global expansion was a crucial factor and it needed to expand its offices around the world. With the acquisition of ContentClick, Revcontent immediately had a 24/7 European presence with an office outside of London, which was another key factor in being able to better serve its partners.
A year later, Revcontent expanded again and this time the company was focused on technology that would allow it to deliver even better content recommendations. In 2017, it announced the acquisition of Rover, and its machine learning technology, to help improve the user experience for publishers and users across the web.
Doubling Down On Quality
2017 was a rough year for the content recommendation industry. The race-to-the-bottom was hitting a breaking point and the largest of the companies were taking heat for low-quality ads and were criticized for monetizing fake news. Even with Revcontent’s commitment to quality, the user experience was not good enough and Lemp knew that something bold had to be done.
Lemp, who is a Christian with two young daughters, started to see something in his network that he didn’t like; there were more and more hyper-sexualized ads flowing through his network and all of the others throughout the industry. And he did not want his daughters to see that type of content associated with the company their father built from the ground up, but he didn’t know where to draw the line on what was acceptable and what wasn’t.
Taking a powerful stand against sexual exploitation, Revcontent revised its content policy to eliminate the use of all sexually objectifying and explicit content throughout the world’s largest content recommendation network based on standards approved by the National Center on Sexual Exploitation (NCOSE). After months of back and forth, the NCOSE and Revcontent created clear guidelines on what should be banned and eventually, Revcontent became the first network to earn their seal of approval for removal of sexually explicit content.
The success of the partnership gave Revcontent a model to follow in addressing how they handled fake news.
Revcontent introduced its Truth in Media Initiative with a two-phase role out. The first phase was the addition of a user feedback mechanism which allowed users across the web to flag pieces of content as fake news, misleading, offensive, repetitive, or non-interesting. The second phase was another partnership, this time with the Poynter Institute’s International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN).
With the revised policy, if two independent fact checkers within the International Fact Checking Network flag a story as false from a publisher within the Revcontent network, Revcontent removes the content recommendation widget from that piece of content and withholds any revenue generated by that piece of content, thus removing the financial incentive for publishers to post misinformation.
A History of Commitment to Trust
Revcontent has continued its incredible growth and success, recently announcing a program called AutomaticRev, a program that guarantees revenue increases for publishers as high as 50% compared to others in the market. The company’s ability to serve its clients and improve user experience has continued to drive its decisions and has landed them as one of the Most Trustworthy Companies” in 2018.
For publishers and advertisers looking for an alternative to the Taboolas and Outbrains of the world, it is clear that there is only one company to trust— Revcontent.
“We don’t want to work with just anyone. We want to work with publishers who have built up trust with their audiences because those types of publishers have more engaged and authentic followers. That is what people driven technology is all about.”