ROI

The Pros, Cons, and Costs of the Top 6 Content Distribution Platforms

By Jordan Teicher August 6th, 2015

Last April, we published “The Pros, Cons, and Costs of the Top 10 Content Distribution Platforms,” which became one of our strongest drivers of long-tail traffic. Readers really responded to the analysis of how places like Facebook, Twitter, and Outbrain could help marketers grow their audiences to new heights.

Since last year, the distribution landscape has changed considerably. One company on the old list went out of business. A few have lost a lot of their relevance. And Facebook has gotten much stronger, continuing on its path to world domination, one suggested post at a time.

Clearly, not all distribution platforms are created equally. Social networks each have certain types of people drawn to their respective news feeds—think of lunchroom cliques from high school. For marketers, it’s crucial that precious ad dollars are spent wisely on the clique that’s most likely to respond to your work. There needs to be clear objects for any distribution initiative so marketers can pair smart content with the right platform, and as a result, the right audience.

As you think about how to make your content more effective, here’s our updated breakdown of the most important distribution platforms.

*Note: All costs vary depending on a number of factors tailored to your campaign. Estimates come from our own case studies and online reports, but like with the Bowflex, results most certainly vary.

1. Facebook Sponsored Posts

Estimated Average CPC: $0.50

Pros: Facebook has a key advantage over other distributors: It has amassed the a truly massive data set on its users, making it possible to target a very specific audience. Brands and publishers alike can rest assured the right eyeballs will be on their content on Facebook, and since Facebook Sponsored Posts can be re-shared like any other post, this investment can spur on exponential results if an article goes viral. It’s by far the best combination of targeting and spending efficiency.

Cons: Facebook Sponsored Posts may be effective, but they leave a bitter taste in the mouths of some marketers after brands’ average organic reach was reduced to roughly two percent last year—essentially forcing brands to pay to play. Due to the hyper-targeting advantages, the cost per click will be slightly more expensive than with services like Outbrain and Taboola for most brands. For B2B marketers, reaching the right people can still be a bit of a crapshoot since, unlike on LinkedIn, you can’t target for factors such as job title and company.

2. LinkedIn Sponsored Updates

CPC: $6

Pros: LinkedIn is still the gold standard for reaching high-value audiences. Its strongest asset is its network of professionals and executives. If you have a specific target, sponsored updates can provide a lot of value. You can filter based on company, job title, location, etc, so if you only want to reach SVPs from Citigroup, you can do that. Other distributors may yield more clicks, but LinkedIn has built up a platform that can yield the right clicks.

Cons: Because LinkedIn boasts an extensive professional network and incredibly specific targeting, it comes with a Maserati price tag. You have to prioritize your targets wisely.

3. Outbrain

CPC: $0.30

Pros: Excluding the major social networks, Outbrain is probably the most well-know and trusted distribution platform out there right now. It’s publishing partners are premium, including the likes of Time, CNN, ESPN, Mashable, and Slate, to name a few. The service has always tried to control the quality of the content it recommends, banning those who use deceptive practices. If you’re looking to push magical diet pills, Outbrain is not for you.

Cons: The biggest concern is that marketers have difficulty tracking who exactly is engaging with the content that gets distributed. There are limited options to examine and analyze data from your campaigns once they’re live. For example, you can target content to millennial women, but you can’t see what percentage of your traffic comes from that demographic. Outbrain is working on making its product more sophisticated, which would help smooth out some of the reporting constraints.

4. Promoted Tweets

CPC: $1

Pros: For marketers who deal with the media industry, the network can be a very valuable asset. Promoted Tweets have always blended well into Timelines, and recently, Twitter removed the little yellow tag that accompanied sponsored content. Promoted tweets are still clearly labeled, but the in-feed design fits better with surrounding content. There’s also a smart multi-channel feature that helps brands serve promoted tweets to viewers who are talking about a certain TV show or saw a relevant commercial.

Cons: Even though Twitter is popular among celebrities, it doesn’t actually have a huge audience—Facebook has five times as many users. Twitter is great for some verticals, like marketing, media, and entertainment, but less ideal for others. Also, the way the network defines and calculates clicks is a bit deceptive—Twitter Analytics counts any click on a post, such as an image click—not just link clicks. You have to track that separately through bit.ly to see your true CPC.

5. Nativo

[Full disclosure: Nativo is a Contently client.]

Rather than a CPC, Nativo charges a viewable CPM (vCPM): $12–$20

Pros: Nativo’s greatest strength is scale. Instead of being a service that lets you promote your content and drive readers back to your site, Nativo helps you push your brand’s articles onto publishers’ sites as sponsored posts. The programmatic platform helps clients distribute work through a strong group of publishers that includes sites like Newsweek and Entrepreneur. And Nativo closely examines the legitimacy of traffic to ensure that clients aren’t billed for bot activity.

Cons: Companies that work with native content have always had to fight an uphill battle against the perception that their ad placements are deceptive. Multiple studies, including one we published last year, suggest that a large portion of readers don’t trust native content. As owned media continues to gain momentum, native may not be as appealing to brand publishers. After all, if you can get people to spend time on your own site and build relationships with them directly, why would you pay another site?

6. Taboola

CPC: $0.25

Pros: Even last year, Taboola already had a reputation for committing to paid video distribution that gave it an edge over competitors. Overall, the services seem to be a tad cheaper than similar products, and when you use Taboola, you know you’re going to get eyeballs on your work—the company reportedly drives 550 million uniques every month for it’s clients.

Cons: See Outbrain. Also, while Taboola offers a long list of publishers, compared to Outbrain, it deals a bit more with clickbait sites like Elite Daily and TMZ, so you might not reach the ideal audience in some cases.

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