It is now public news that Outbrain’s planned merger with Taboola is heading to termination in the near future.
This isn’t the outcome any of us anticipated for this process. We believed when entering this deal that there is great potential value to be had for our employees, our marketers and publisher partners, and our shareholders. However, this combination apparently was simply not meant to be. We worked hard to mix water and oil, but ultimately the companies proved to be too different to be mixed.
The details of the deal and its anticipated ending are confidential, and so I will not touch any of those. Instead, I want to focus on what comes next for Outbrain.
We founded Outbrain ~14 years ago and invented the space we’re now most known for, with a value that has been core to us since we started: being the most trustworthy partner for the world’s best publishers, and for their readers.
For example, Outbrain was the first company in the space to create comprehensive, public ad guidelines, defining what we accept, and which of the budgets submitted to us – to reject. These public guidelines were years ahead of other companies adopting what Outbrain had pioneered (it’s shocking that in 2020 there are still companies, large and small, that are unsure whether they should reject fake news or other potentially harmful ads and content).
That core value of Trust was also paramount for Outbrain when the COVID-19 pandemic struck us all. In mid-March, I sent an email to all of Outbrain’s employees and wrote the following:
“It’s important that we all remember that all of our publisher partners and advertisers are entering this tsunami at the same time, and many of them are fearful for their businesses and their jobs. This is our opportunity to shine as partners! Let’s be there for them in their times of challenge, and let’s creatively think how to help them out of their tsunamis. Sometimes that might mean compromising on some short term benefits that we would, in normal times, insist on.
If we are able to shine for our publisher partners and advertisers, and help them out at moments of distress with creative solutions – I’m confident that this will make us a stronger business and partner in the long run.”
During the 6 months since, we have worked with each of our publisher partners to ensure not only that Outbrain’s commitments to them are honored, but also worked collaboratively with them to see how we help the world’s most important news publishers sustain and succeed during these challenging times. We didn’t use COVID-19 as an excuse to withhold payments or unilaterally change commitments; instead, we went out of our way to allocate *more* resources for our partners while they were facing existential challenges.
We’re very excited about Outbrain’s performance this year. After a few challenging months when COVID-19 started, Outbrain is profitable, hitting all of its key metrics, and experiencing strong year-over-year growth.
But even more importantly, is this: Outbrain’s profits are achieved in alignment with our publisher partners while standing by all of our commitments to them.
I’m extremely proud as an Outbrainer, not just for the profits we make, but also for *how* we make them. We split our revenues equitably with publishers so that while we can make a sustainable profit – they can sustain their business, and hopefully make a decent profit themselves as well. We work to grow the pie for publishers and then split it equitably with them.
We have a nautical saying that doesn’t translate into English too well. But the gist of it is – in times of storm, those with a strong character are revealed.
During a very stormy year for the Outbrain team, due to both the pandemic and the cloud of the merger, Outbrain’s character as the #1 most trusted partner for the world’s best publishers has shone through very brightly. We’re excited to continue innovating and building the best native advertising products for publishers and marketers as an independent company for many years to come.