Q&A with Adam Singolda, Founder and CEO at Taboola

What does the trend toward frictionless media mean to you?
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I feel that it is the opportunity to deliver online experiences in a truly personalized manner, where every web visitor experiences every web page or an app in a way that is tailored for them – sort of a “web of one.” To do this, we need to remove advertising experiences that appear “on the way” to what users really want to get to, and make it more holistic, much like search ads are very effective for advertisers, but also provide great value to users.

How do you see friction in today’s publishing and media environment?

I think we see three major types of friction:

  1. Advertisers are always looking to spend money where they get visibility into where their ad is shown, how it’s shown and what’s the value they get for it. Funnily enough, while “digital advertising” is supposed to bring more metrics than traditional advertising, TV is still probably one of the most effective forms of advertising. The reason is it’s real — real people are watching it, real viewership occurs of the ad, and real performance — brand lift and call to action. Online we see too many 1-pixel video players running at the bottom of the page with sound off so although there are metrics around how many times it’s played — you don’t know if anybody actually sees or hears it. On mobile, the challenge is in reaching consumers outside of social networks in a scalable way — there are limited options for advertisers to do this and it’s something we’re hoping to innovate on.
  2. Quality publishers are not making enough money for content they create to support the future of journalism. This needs to change, and we need to find ways to double and triple publishers’ revenue. We should not focus on pixel optimization or driving incremental growth. Incremental growth is not good enough anymore — we need a revolution or we’ll end up without local and national publishers protecting us, giving us the truth.
  3. Users are currently experiencing the open web (on small or large screens) in a way that’s much less personalized, fast and awesome than the experience they get on platforms like Instagram, which is beautiful. The future of the open web needs to be beautiful.
How do you see media friction impacting issues your clients care about?

We actually don’t refer to publishers as clients but rather (long-term) partners of ours as we align our futures and goals. One of the big things we developed about a year ago was revamping the entire experience that occurs when consumers finish reading an article. Instead of giving them an array of widgets, we created a beautiful feed experience, similar to what users already like and use on social, but now on the open web.

This essentially puts a scrollable feed of personalized content and experiences in front of users, bringing a similar “frictionless” experience that social feeds provide to over a billion people that Taboola recommends to every month. Our goal is to inspire users to discover more by making the open web a frictionless experience.

How do you see tomorrow’s smartphone reducing media friction?

Over the past 10 years, we have invested in developing machine learning algorithms that match the most relevant content and experiences (such as video, local weather, etc.) for more than 1.4 billion users every month. More than half of our business is mobile, and expanding our business from the open web to carriers/OEMs, bringing an “Apple news” type experience to every Android device out there, will fuel our business for at least the next 10 years. We believe (and hope) this will create an opportunity for Taboola to enable hundreds of millions of people to consume quality journalism directly on their Android device, fully personalized. Instead of driving people from a search results page, our goal is to bring someone to a publisher’s site from their phone. We’re proud of our strategic partnership with Mobile Posse to power news experiences to millions of MetroPCS users, as well as other unique content experiences.

If your smartphone could do one magical frictionless media (but potentially doable) thing FOR YOU, what would it be?

I founded Taboola when I was searching for something to watch on TV and I thought it made no sense for me to look for TV shows, but rather that shows should be looking for me. That dream has evolved over time to include more than just shows on television — I want things to discover me wherever I may be. If my smartphone were magical, when I wake up, it would surface news/content relevant to what city I’m in and what meetings I have ahead of me, making me more productive as a person. I cook all the time so perhaps it would suggest recipes I may want to cook for my family on Friday for Shabbat dinner, and suggest interesting content relevant to what age my son is — what he might be ready to learn or do. Or perhaps tell me that DJI just mentioned the launch of the Mavic 2 and I should really be on the lookout. People look at their phone about 80 times a day, and it’s the most intimate device they have. It’s something they take everywhere and it’s an incredible opportunity to make people’s lives more productive and better.

 Can you share an example of how having or removing media friction impacts you?

There are not enough hours in the day to discover all of the content that we find interesting. Removing “friction” across contexts allows us all to have more time to discover new things we may like and never knew existed. The notion of personalization isn’t necessarily new, but we’re still in the early days of how much our lives are truly personalized. I believe we all have multiple personas as we switch from app to app — from search, to social, from large screen to small screen — it’s no longer trying to personalize for who I am, but rather trying to personalize for who I am ‘right now.’ A world that is tailored to each and everyone one of us based on the context in which we are at.


About Adam

Adam Singolda is the founder and CEO at Taboola, the largest discovery platform serving over 450 billion recommendations of articles, blogs, videos, products and apps to over 1.4 billion unique users every month. Taboola serves personalized content recommendations, partnering with the world’s top publishers, brands and marketers to drive audience development, engagement, and monetization. Taboola also empowers editorial, product and sales teams with solutions built around real-time page optimization, robust native advertising offerings and more.