“Sponsored From Around the Web”

I have little idea of the business end of this blog, leaving it in the highly capable hands of Ed Brayton, the host of Dispatches From the Culture Wars. All I know is that ads appear at various places based on arrangements with vendors and on algorithms that are based on the content that I provide and the browsing habits of the readers, so two readers reading the same page at the same time may see some ads that are the same and others that are different.

You may have noticed at the bottom of some of my posts a set of images and links titled “Sponsored From Around the Web”. They are really a kind of infomercial, ads dressed up to look like they may be news items. The images are clearly designed to be click-bait, often consisting of scantily-clad women.

Paul Farhi has an interesting article on these items that appear on many serious news sites to entice readers to go there as their next stop on the internet tours.

Such links, which appear on hundreds of news sites, including CNN and The Washington Post, are the work of a “news discovery” company called Taboola. The company acts as a middleman between a Web site, such as Politico, and other sites that want to attract Politico’s readers. At regular intervals, Taboola’s computers feed new headlines and photos into the “Around the Web” sections from an inventory of articles, photo galleries and videos supplied by these third-party sites.

Politico is just one of the beneficiaries of this news-recommendation ecosystem, which has grown into a gigantic, if largely invisible, part of the digital news business. With millions of clicks each day, news recommendation engines drive swarms of readers to and from sites around the Internet. A handful of companies serve all those bottom-of-the-page come-ons — “Top 10 Sexiest Female Athletes of 2013” — to thousands of Web sites.

The recommendation engines do more than promote another site’s stories. Many of the links in those “Around the Web” and “Recommended for You” sections are for promotional content created by marketers, blurring the line between news and advertising.

What surprised me is that “one-third of all American Internet users clicked on a Taboola-supplied link last month.” That strikes me as a lot. Each time someone clicks on a link, the host and recommendation site share 3 cents or maybe more. A cent here, a cent there, pretty soon you’re talking real money.


  1. says

    The ads don’t annoy me that much because the ones on FtB aren’t flash ads with noise as on some sites. I ignore them.

    What does annoy me is finicky browser rendering. Browsers partially display pages as they load. Sometimes if you click on content the page will “jump” as more is displayed. Most of the time, the place on screen where you clicked ends up not being the link you wanted, either another link or a click-through ad.

  2. Chiroptera says

    On FtB I almost always try to click the ads for Liberty University or for Tea Party PAC, Inc. and such. I think it’s funny to have those kinds of groups pay money to FtB.

  3. Trebuchet says

    I clicked on one of those ads just this morning, out of curiosity. I don’t even remember what it was. It wasn’t on FTB, however, because I’ve gone for the ad-free option. The one I clicked was probably on Cracked.com, where they look all too much like the actual links to Cracked stories.

  4. coragyps says

    My favorite of those ads is one with one of the women you describe wearing a push-up bra that must be turbocharged. The caption, though, is “what happens when you take a testosterone supplement.”

    Mixed messages there….

  5. says

    I admit I occasionally click when I see something that I think may get me a few laughs. The last one was an article on GMO’s that had a picture of tomatoes with needles sticking in them. It made me think of B.O.B. from the animated movie Monsters Vs Aliens, which I recently saw on TV. But, more than anything, I wanted to see what ridiculous claims they were making.

  6. Kilian Hekhuis says

    They’re also very America-centered. Unlike Google ads, that serve me mostly local ads based on my browsing history (and sometimes very commically traceable to a page visit just before, and sometimes very annoying, as somehow it keeps serving me dating ads while I really never ever visit such sites), these are all non-local, and totally not tailored towards my interests…

  7. says

    Thank the Gods for ABP (AdBlock Plus)… Just add a filter like ||taboola.com or the website the ads link to and the “From around the web” section disappears!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *