Advertisers need to be more proactive in creating regional language content: Ran Buck

The Global SVP of Taboola says India is a good chunk of their overall business, contributing 30 per cent to the Asia Pacific business revenue

by Simran Sabherwal
Published - Sep 3, 2019 8:25 AM Updated: Sep 3, 2019 6:12 PM

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RanBuck

Content discovery platform Taboola helps connect people with content, working with around 500 publishers. Starting its business in India about five years ago, Taboola now works with NDTV in India and is a partner with large media houses such as India Today, The Hindu, ABP Network, Dainik Bhaskar and Dainik Jagran. Ran Buck, SVP Global, Taboola, talks about the company’s growing regional  presence, changing the mindset of brands when it comes to ‘search in reverse’, delivering value to publishers & advertisers, and more.

 Edited excerpts

Taboola is now focusing on the regional space in India. How has this panned out?

On the supply side, we are working with regional publishers across eight-nine Indian languages including Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, Bengali, Marathi and Gujarati. As publishers add languages, we too add them because they are our partners. After English and Hindi, Tamil is the biggest third biggest language for us. We are completely language agnostic. When it comes to growing the whole advertiser ecosystem, we need to work together and educate the audience set that might not know English, but is very proficient in regional languages and can interact with your content.

By when do you see the shift happening for regional ads?

It's already happening, but much slower than what we anticipated. It takes time for the advertiser to create content in the relevant language. Users are very engaged when they see content in their language. There is a need there and advertisers need to take advantage and become more proactive in creating content in the relevant languages. I think it's something that's going to be well developed very soon.

Traditionally, brands target consumers on specified parameters, such as age, sex, socio-economic factors. Taboola pioneered the idea of ‘search in reverse’, what has been the challenge in changing the mindset of the brands?

It's a new technology and it takes time to educate and train the market to understand the capabilities of the platform and how to utilise the data in a better way. It's not a challenge but an opportunity. We are seeing traction from brands interested in our data and are helping brands use the data in the right way.  We work hand in hand with them to discover the new technology so that they get better results. Our model is completely based on engagement and unless the user engages with the content, we don't charge you. Our reach, 1.4 billion monthly unique users, and relationship with premium publishers seals the deal.

Which brands/sectors are you working with?

In the last six months, we’ made a conscious effort to bring a lot of diversity within our advertiser base. We’ve seen success with the education vertical - higher education, online courses. Brands such as upGrad and Great Lakes Institute of Management have come on board. Automobile is another vertical that we have seen growth in as we can help auto companies generate leads and get test drives which then convert to sales. The biggest success for us in India has been real estate. BFSI has also seen a lot of traction and insurance players like PolicyBazaar.com are spending with us. Also tourism boards and travel is also very strong on Taboola. The reason brands spend with us is because they are looking for quality and premium traffic. The feedback that we hear from them is that the traffic that comes from Taboola converts much better and is more premium than the other channels that they are using.

How does a small advertiser come on to the Taboola platform?

We have a self-service wizard where advertisers can sign up and start advertising with Taboola on their own, and it’s been very successful for small advertisers. Once brands see success using the Taboola platform, they get the confidence to spend more and then come to us to expand the business. It depends on the advertisers’ ambition and propensity to grow, which dictates how they sort of engage with Taboola. However, if a brand is looking for a full-fledged service with a dedicated account manager, then the minimum value is $10,000.

What has been the growth in India?

We have doubled our growth every year. We have seen success with both the publishers and advertisers. We continue to invest in India. We have tripled our sales team and now have three offices in the country. We opened our fourth global support center for publishers and advertisers in India.

A challenge for publishers is driving online subscription. Are you helping publishers get subscribers on board?

Yes, we do help publishers get more subscribers. We understand user behaviour and what's going to attract them. We have a feature/product called Newsroom that helps publishers understand user preferences. There are some markets that are willing to pay money for news and some markets are not. We're experimenting with the publishers and helping them grow subscription. I'm not sure if one size fits all. In a market like US, it will work for brands like New York Times, Wall Street Journal. However, New York Times in China is not in a subscription model. So, it will depend on the market and the user.  However, we're not seeing subscription as a big success yet, at least for news, in India. Some publishers are trying and they're all using Newsroom. We can provide them some insights around who's likely to pay and who can be targeted.

Can you tell us about News Feed?

With discovery being the key, about a year and a half back, Taboola introduced News Feed for the Android platform.  Taboola News Feed is available on Vivo, Oppo, Huawei, ZTE, Sony and we will be rolling it across all Android platforms. So, when you swipe right you get the Taboola News Feed with content from publishers. While other companies have done it, what is different here is that the articles are personalised for the user based on their interests.

When it comes to digital ad spends, Facebook and Google corners the majority of the ad pie. How can Taboola increase its share?

Globally, Taboola is a 10-year-old company. It is five years old in India. We have come a long way from where we started and have the bandwidth to grow. If we are doubling every year, obviously we're doing something right. We will be looking at continuing at the same pace of growth. If the ad pie remains the same, Taboola is getting a bigger share because we're growing across all global markets. If the pie increases, we also get a bigger share. We're getting positive feedback from advertisers and publishers and more than 20,000 publishers have moved to Taboola in the last six years. We work hand in hand with advertisers and publishers to give them better value and help them attract the right users.

Taboola’s global revenue is pegged at $1.2 billion. What’s India’s contribution?

In general, we don't give specific figures per country but I can say that India is a good chunk of our business, contributing 30% to the Asia Pacific business revenue.  

What is the big opportunity looking ahead?

Looking ahead, video is a huge growth opportunity. Taboola is all about visibility and completion rates and we are good on both the parameters. We are constantly innovating, be it on our pricing model, which is CPCV, which means that you only pay if the user sees the full 30 seconds. This is great for the advertiser. Another innovation is Taboola Video Studio, where we focus on brand plus performance, where you can also engage with the video while the video is playing. These are new innovations, which you don't see on other traditional channels like YouTube or Facebook.

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