Publishers today are desperate for traffic, and content-recommendation widgets likes Zergnet are happy to help.
Launched in 2011, Zergnet’s widgets feel a lot like those from Outbrain and Taboola. Slapped to the bottom of pages, the widgets have historically tempted readers with a mix of low-brow click-baity content. But by taking the relative high road, Zergnet has been quietly attracting its share of publishers. Zergnet has attracted over 1,600 publishers to its network so far, including big-name publishers like Time Inc., Wenner Media and AOL.
But Zergnet also offers up a twist to the content-recommendation formula. When readers click a Zergnet link, they don’t go directly the link they clicked on. Instead, Zergnet sends them to a Pinterest-style intermediary page full of provocative links with similar content. The result: While readers click on one Zergnet link, they inevitably end up clicking three or four more links (all of which open in new tabs) before their sessions are over.
Another twist: There’s no money changing hands here. While publishers may go to Outbrain and Taboola to squeeze out incremental revenue out of each page view, Zergnet is positioning itself as a way for publishers to boost traffic, not revenue. For every click a publisher drives to a Zergnet partner, Zergnet sends one back. So the more traffic that publishers send to Zergnet, the more traffic they get back on the other end.
“We’ve never lost an A/B test when it comes to revenue,” said Zergnet CEO Reggie Renner. “We send traffic back to publishers in large volume that they’re monetizing at their own rates instead of at the minimal CPMs of the content-recommendation widgets. That’s why we’re growing so quickly.”
That growth even extends to Zergnet’s homepage. The site got 20.8 million unique visitors in August, up over 200 percent from the same time last year.
But there are a few limitations to the Zergnet approach. For one, the site is heavily focused on verticals like pop culture, celebrity gossip and gaming, making it a bad fit for most general-interest publishers.
Those vertical publishers have seen big results. Ray Pawulich, a product manager at the British company Future Publishing, said that while he was initially skeptical of Zergnet, it has more than proven its value since the company started using it in 2013. Pawulich confirmed that the influx of traffic from Zergnet was more valuable than the revenue Future got from its previous recommendation widget, Taboola.
The traffic is indeed significant. Pawulich said that Zergnet has become GamesRadar’s third-largest traffic source — ahead of even Facebook.
Movie blog Slashfilm, which started using Zergnet’s widgets in 2012, gets as much as five times the traffic back as it gives Zergnet. “We’re really happy with the traffic Zergnet sends us,” said Peter Sciretta, editor-in-chief of SlashFilm. “Good content works on Zergnet if done right.”
Still, Pawulich said that Zergnet isn’t the best fit for every publisher.
“If your site is well-monetized through direct-sold and programmatic ads, the traffic that you get from Zergnet is more valuable than squeezing another dollar out of your pageview,” he said. “If your site isn’t well-moneitized, the direct revenue from the traditional widget may be more valuable.”
Dentsu’s podcast celebrating Black empowerment tries to do its part to fill the advertising inequity gap
The Dentsu-backed More Than That with Gia Peppers kicked off season 3 last week, featuring several major advertisers (and Dentsu clients) including Procter & Gamble, General Motors, Kroger and Mastercard.
The Athletic’s Sebastian Tomich is looking beyond ads and subscriptions to reach profitability
The Athletic's path to profitability is set for 2025, and to achieve this goal, chief commercial officer Sebastian Tomich is focused on more than just selling ads directly to prospective advertisers.
How newsroom unions intervene when members get laid off
Amid the recent wave of media layoffs, here are some of the ways newsroom unions are intervening.
SponsoredAdvertising predictions that will shake up the media industry in 2023
Chris Kelly, CEO, Upwave Like many people, marketers and advertisers were ready to see 2022 come to a close. A year that started off promising was assailed by inflation, layoffs and the disastrous effects of RSV, the flu and additional COVID strains. Still, despite an uncertain outlook for 2023, there are plenty of reasons for […]
Despite Q1’s slow start, publishers are bullish about events revenue for 2023
Publishers like BDG and Apartment Therapy are banking on events revenue to give them a leg up in 2023.
Media Briefing: The case for and against monthly and annual subscriptions in the battle for retention
There are no one-size-fits-all solutions for improving retention in a subscriptions business. While annual subscribers might stick around longer for some, other publishers will have better luck with monthly plans.