What Publishers Can Learn from The Brands That Learned from Them

Brands Learning From Publishers

Brands have learned quite a lot from publishers throughout the years – especially as content marketing has increasingly become a key part of their marketing mix.

Brands like KMart, GE Reports, CPA’s The Naked CEO, and Red Bull are creating amazing content hubs that all look and feel like publishers. Many brands are even recruiting content experts, editors, ex-journalist, videographers to create interesting and added value pieces of content for these hubs.

Additionally, these brands think about SEO and social share-ability just like publishers do – and they’ve even learned to give as much care as publishers to the headlines they craft and images they select.

Publishers Learning from Brands

However, just as brands learned from publishers, we thought there could also be an opportunity for publishers to learn from brands. Through our collaborations with these storytelling brands on a daily basis, we’ve seen first-hand how they’ve learned to marry the insights they’ve learned from publishers with their other marketing activities. This is ultimately what inspired an event that we ran in Sydney last week.

The event, which we named “What You Can Learn from the Brands that Learned from You,” gave Australia’s top publishers a glance into how brands measure, analyze and optimize the content that they create. The session was shaped by us and our brand and agency sales team. We focused on content expectations, KPIs, how brands measure success, and how they use different Outbrain solutions to achieve their goals.

Here is what they told us and what we told our publisher partners.

It’s Not (Only About) Traffic

Traffic as a stand-alone goal has become less and less meaningful for brands, as it is relatively easy to gain. You pay, you get. The real, ever growing challenge is how to attract the right audience.

This is why brands are much more interested in web analytics to analyze the audience behavior once they’ve entered their content domain. (It might sound like a no-brainer, but the subtext here is that aligning business goals with tracking is an absolute must).

Four Key Objectives

Brands also told us that they have four key objectives when it comes to content creation and KPIs that correspond with these objectives. These key objectives are:

1) Reach/Awareness (KPIs: site visits, video views, new visitors, unique audience)
2) Engagement (KPIs: time on site, paid views per session, multiple video views)
3) Activate/Conversion (KPIs: visiting product page, playing with configuration, registration, app download, purchase)
4) Re-engagement (KPIs: return visitors, bottom funnel actions)

Outbrain Solutions Help Meet All Four

As we told publishers, brands are currently tapping into Outbrain Solutions to help successfully meet all four of these KPIs. And although their goals may be different, publishers can use the same framework when it comes to content creation and KPIs, using Outbrain to help deliver against their success metrics.

For example:


Outbrain’s content recommendations platform is used to build page view cost effectively, so brands can maintain leadership, stay top of mind, and gain traffic. Brands then use our Custom Audience feature to negative target so they can grow unique views. They also use Outbrain’s Custom Audience with DMP feature to target consumers already in their database in different stages of their journey with the right type of content.

Publisher Takeaway: A publishers who wants to maintain leadership as the #1 digital destination for the Olympics could employ the same features to increase website visits, unique views, and video views. They can also also target consumers already in their databases with different content in order to personalize their experience.


To increase engagement with users who currently visit the site 3-26 times per month, brands use our custom audience feature to remarket visitors with relevant content across the Outbrain network to drive return visits. They also use our KPI Optimization feature to auto-optimize their campaign for time on-site or multiple video or page views.

Publisher Takeaway: Publishers could also increase engagement with users currently visiting the site at the cadence of 3-26 times per month with these tactics. KPIs would be return visits, time on site, paid views per session, and multiple video views.


Brands use Outbrain to drive actions on their site. This includes subscription sign-ups, downloads, and purchases. They do this by leveraging the Outbrain KPI Optimization Pixel to search out click patterns that converted on a variety of sources. This helps them decide which content is more likely to convert and which content in their campaign is best for placement. Brands also use our custom audience feature for conversion by remarketing visitors who didn’t convert; they remarket them different content across the Outbrain network to eventually drive the desired conversion.

Publisher Takeaway: Using Outbrain’s features, publishers could also drive desired action on their sites (i.e. subscription sign ups, downloads, or purchases).


Brands prioritize continuing their already converted customers’ digital journey through additional content. The success metric for them here is returning visitors. They work with Outbrain’s account team to set up our Sequential Content feature. This allows them to set the order of content pieces to achieve the outcome they want. They also use our Custom Audience feature to remarket their audience on Outbrain or off Outbrain (for example, we can also help you remarket on Facebook, Google, or a DSP).

Publisher Takeaway: To continue their audience’s digital journey, publishers can employ the same Outbrain features to garner more return visitors and/or webisode views.

Expect More Cross Sharing

The publishers we spoke to at our event took many of these insights to heart. And so, as our talk demonstrates, the ever-changing content marketing landscape continues to shift, with inspiration coming from unlikely places.

Whereas publishers may always have a leg up on brands when it comes to creating high quality content that fosters deeper, more meaningful audience engagement, the learnings on content goals, KPIs, and marketing tactics that brands have gained from the content marketing space can certainly be informative. As the content space continues to evolve, we only expect more cross-sharing – and fruitful and inspiring conversations – to occur.

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