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From the battlefield to the boardroom. How former soldier Adam Singola built Taboola

Taboola founder Adam Singolda in the latest OMR Podcast

Adam Singolda Taboola Podcast

Adam Singolda at OMR Festival 2017 (Image: OMR / Simon Hollmann).

Adam Singolda spent 7 years in the Israeli Army as a tech analyst. In 2007, not even a year after getting out, he founded Taboola, a content discovery startup and just a few months after that, he packed up and set off for New York. A decade later, Taboola has expanded its global workforce at its 14 locations to 800 and is projected to hit over USD 1 billion in revenue this year. In this episode of the OMR Podcast, he talk about the industry is changing to accommodate ads at the end of articles, why Facebook is his company’s biggest competitor and why an IPO doesn’t make sense at present.

After leaving the military, Adam Singolda lived with his parents in Israel and bought himself a new, shiny TV. But the shows he wants to watch are nowhere to be found. His realization: why should he be searching for content? It should be searching for him. “That was the beginning of Taboola in so many ways,” he recalled when he sat down with OMR founder Philipp Westermeyer. “Stuff should be finding us because we only have 24 hours a day.”

To address and solve exactly that problem, he founds Taboola in July 2007. The startup enables publishers to embed content at the end of an article, so-called content recommendations. Simply put, these recommendations are suggestions for additional, related articles from the same publishers or content from third parties. But it’s no longer just articles as videos or product pages from online shops are now also commonplace. And it’s only when a user clicks one of the suggested content pieces and leaves the website tha Taboola cashes in on a CPC basis and shares the revenue with the publisher.

Million dollar investments and competition from home

In the past few years, the business model has been on the receiving end of a lot of hype, which quickly drove the company beyond its startup status. The company raised USD 117 million in its last financing round of financing, achieving a valuation of USD 1 billion.

The competition, however, is heating up. Outbrain, arguably its biggest competitor, is also from Israel, is active globally and raised nearly USD 200 million. However, Adam Singolda sees Facebook as his largest competitor: “I call my space Discovery. And compare myself to Facebook and Instagram.”

The alternative to the “walled garden” for publishers

As publishers continue to resist dependency on the Facebook and Google ecosystems, alternatives are becoming increasingly attractive. “If you as a publisher add another spot on the page and that’s your growth strategy, you might not be here in two or three years,” says Adam. But it’s not just about static content. Especially in today’s mobile age there is no getting around video. “If you are not investing in video revenue you are risking your future.”

Check out Adam in the OMR Podcast to hear what other strategies he recommends to publishers, how his company is addressing the “Fake News” problem and what he has to say about the rumors of a fusion with Outbrain.

The OMR Podcast with Taboola founder Adam Singolda at a glance:

  • What inspired Adam Singolda to create Taboola’s recommendation engine?
  • How much revenue did Taboola generate in 2012, five years after launching?
  • The Taboola business model: how the company generates revenue
  • In 2012, Taboola had roughly 20 employees, today there are approx. 800 staff members and now the company is targeting new revenue milestone
  • Is Singolda planning an IPO?
  • How does Taboola ensure the quality of the recommended articles and products?
  • What is the average price per click that publisher pay to Taboola?
  • Why are most deals exclusive?
  • Ligatus, Plista, Outbrain: How Adam Singolda sees the competition on the German market?
  • Why Germany is such an important market for Taboola?
  • Who Singolda sees as the biggest competitor—and the reason why Taboola develops tools for publisher and editorial staffs?
  • Why Taboola is prepared to buy up companies for hundreds of millions of dollars?
  • What role does Google Adsense have in the recommendation game?
  • What publishers does Singolda view as especially innovative?
  • What risk are publishers taken on unnecessarily by not investing in traffic sources beyond search, Facebook, etc.?
  • Is there a recipe for success that Singolda used to create his billion-dollar company?
  • Why is it that both global players in the recommendation sector, Taboola and Outbrain are from Israel?
  • What steps is Taboola taking to combat “Fake News?”
  • How does Taboola feel about click bait publishers?
  • Is it important for publishers to have reached a certain traffic threshold in order for Taboola to have a tangible effect?
  • What does Singolda have to say about the rumors on a fusion of Taboola, Outbrain and others on the market?
  • What markets are the most relevant based on revenue?
  • Who inspires Singolda?
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