I despise Taboola. It’s the company behind those “Content You May Like” and “Around the Web” click-bait ads that damage so many websites.
Taboola’s widgets include thumbnail photos and headlines that trick readers into believing they’re clicking on editorial content. The content is paid for by Taboola advertisers. (I’m not going to include a link to Taboola, BTW.)
Taboola’s closest competitor, Outbrain, is similar. Outbrain was founded in 2006, and Taboola went into business in 2007. Both companies have attracted millions of dollars in funding from venture-capital firms.
But then both companies chose to take a very low road.
In an August post, Fortune says:
Despite their founders’ best intentions, many believe Outbrain and Taboola have made the Internet worse for the wear. It’s easy to see why. The links in their ‘related content’ widgets, which typically appear at the bottom of a blog post or news article, often represent the worst of the Web.”
I don’t understand why website publishers put Taboola on their sites. It’s estimated that Taboola sends the average website about 70 cents per thousand pageviews. 70 cents. You spend enormous amounts of resources building a site, then you instantly hurt its quality and cheapen your brand when you let Taboola muck things up.
Plus, the Taboola ads send visitors away from your website to other sites! Why do you want to do that?
Pando.com got wise this year and got rid of “sponsored content.” Its editor said: “There’s no amount of money that justifies that crap appearing on our pages.”
In a February tweet, venture capitalist Marc Andreessen put it more strongly: “The third party ‘related content’ thing is absolutely insane. Anyone serious who uses one of those should be shot.”
This year the Better Business Bureau took Taboola to task for its deceptive practices. The BBB’s National Advertising Division said Taboola’s “sponsored content” disclosures “were not sufficiently clear and conspicuous, or easy to notice read and understand.”
The BBB asked Taboola to make its disclosures more noticeable. Taboola agreed, but I haven’t noticed a difference. Have you?
The world and the web would be a better place if Taboola didn’t exist. One company could make that happen today: Google. In its search rankings, Google could punish sites that use Taboola. If Google did that, websites would drop Taboola as quickly as possible. Taboola would be out of business. It begs the question: why hasn’t Google taken any action against Taboola?
As you ponder that disturbing question, you can do your part right now in bringing down Taboola. Don’t put Taboola on your website and don’t click on its ads.
What do you think of Taboola? Please share your opinion in the Comments below.