Sometimes Walled Gardens Make the Web Suck; Let the Open Web Thrive

By Jon Westnedge

28/09/2017 | The internet is a great place — and a superb tool for collaboration and information exchange — except for the times that it really sucks.

There is a lot of content on the open web. Too much, in fact, for any one person to sift through and easily find value. In fact, content clutter is making it extremely challenging to stand out and get noticed. Buffer recently shared some frightening statistics:

In 2005, we were reportedly exposed to over 3,500 brand messages per day. Nowadays, that figure is closer to 10,000 (if not already higher).

5.3 trillion display ads are shown online each year, 400 million Tweets sent daily, and 4.75 billion pieces of content shared on Facebook every day.

For over a decade, people have been calling this the Attention Crisis. To combat this problem, people use various search and filtering methods to try to get the content they want, while brands and media companies explore multiple methods of distribution to try to bring the most relevant content to the right people.

The problem? Some of these methods kind of suck. For instance, search and social media platforms are really great for the user in some ways — the user may have the option to tailor a feed or search result to his or her needs, either directly or algorthmically. The only problem is that they want to keep you inside their ecosystem, or their ‘walled garden.’

The answer? Inspire people back onto the open web where a better flow of information exchange is happening.

Content distribution and information exchange on the open web

Let’s be honest: navigating the open web can be a bumpy experience. Without unique recommendations for what to read or consume next, it can be difficult to discover new videos, articles or even products that you might like. The solution is to bring people back to the open web where they can discover new things —not just something they or their friends previously ‘liked’.

The open web allows for more diversity in content; its inventory of material and the demand are potentially infinite, and its scalability is endless.

For brands, agencies and businesses alike, they can operate in a brand safe environment that drives high performance, and publishers can recommend tailored content to an already engaged audience.

The trick is to not break people’s existing content consumption habits.

Nowadays, most people get the bulk of their information from their social media feeds, and this is an important truth to consider when suggesting that people go back to the open web for their information—why are they there in the first place?

They’re there for the aggregated scrolling experience of information that has been tailored for them, especially in a mobile environment. Taboola CEO, Adam Singolda, said it best:

We asked ourselves, who is doing an amazing job capitalising on mobile today? The answer was obvious—from a user experience (UX) perspective, social companies are doing a remarkable job.

Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are rendering “cards” in a feed type experience, where Facebook alone gets people to scroll and engage with content for nearly an hour every single day according to the NYTimes.”

We’re working with this idea, not against it. Instead, we want to bring the social feed UX that we all know and love back to a place where there is a free flow of information (i.e., the open web), a much broader potential audience that has unlimited scalability, and to an environment where there is room for large and small brands alike.

This is the reasoning behind Taboola’s latest product offering, Taboola Feed. Singolda again:

The principle behind it is simple: Every page on the web should surface a dazzling variety of interesting and personalized experiences, in a consistent user interface (UI), enabling consumers to linger, scroll and enjoy.

Hopefully, people will spend not just 30 seconds, but 30 minutes on a publisher’s site—reading lots of content, scrolling through interesting experiences, sticking around for more.

‘Walled gardens’ are hampering the open exchange of information on the web, while still reaping the benefits from publishers and brands trying to distribute content to relevant audiences.

If we want the web to suck less, we have to redistribute audiences back to the open web where they can truly discover information they’ve never come across before, and that they very well may like.

 

Jon Westnedge is Managing Director at Taboola and heading up the growth of the French & German markets. He contributes to this blog as a guest author, reflecting his personal views and perspective. Taboola has been an Event Partner at NEXT17.

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