Taboola adds Commerce Sciences as part of its evolution ‘from widget to platform’

The acquisition of the personalization/optimization service is intended to help publishers segment their sites for types of users, as ecommerce sites do.

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Taboola content recommendations at the bottom of a publisher's web page

Taboola content recommendations at the bottom of a publisher’s web page

Content recommendation service Taboola is today announcing that it has purchased site personalization and optimization platform Commerce Sciences and will make its capabilities available for free to Taboola’s customers.

Backers of the optimization service, which was launched in 2012 by ex-Israeli Intelligence alumni, include Alphabet/Google Chairman CEO Eric Schmidt’s Innovation, Endeavors. Commerce Sciences will discontinue its current freestanding offering, and its employees, based in Tel Aviv, will move to Taboola’s offices in that city. Deal terms were not made public.

Taboola founder/CEO Adam Singolda told me that this acquisition in the third step in the evolution of his company from “a widget to a platform,” so that it can offer site improvement tools to publishers in the “open web” — that is, outside of the giants, Google and Facebook.

The previous two steps, he said, were the inclusion in the Taboola dashboard of a Newsroom editorial service that supports A/B testing of headlines and thumbnail images, and native ad server Taboola Native.

As Singolda wrote in a blog post announcing the acquisition:

“Looking at the open web and how publishers have operated in the past 15–20 years, there is a distinct difference between how content-based publishers operate to how retail/commerce websites operate. Publishers typically have one big redesign a year when decisions are made about where various modules need to be on the page, and most KPIs are optimized on the User Visit level.

“Retail/commerce websites act differently — they have many variants (often times hundreds or more) running in parallel so different users see different versions of their online shops, and their optimization is lifetime driven. These ecommerce sites are looking at the entire opportunity each customer brings to their business over the lifetime of that user, rather than per visit.

“Today, we’re announcing our intention to bring that capability to the open web, democratizing personalization for every publisher on the world wide web, at no charge. Imagine if the smallest publisher — a newspaper in the midwest — can now know as much about its readers as Amazon and eBay know about their shoppers.”

No effect on Taboola recommendations

Commerce Sciences will allow publishers to segment and test their sites’ layout, design or functions by such factors as time of day, location, device type, how they arrived at the site or known demographics.

The A/B testing and optimization is for design, layout or functions, not for content. Although Commerce Sciences will be integrated into the Taboola dashboard as another option, use of its site optimization will not affect the Taboola content recommendations.

A typical use case, Singolda said, might be testing whether a sign-up box for email newsletters would get more attention for certain kinds of visitors if it replaced a right-rail ad spot. Or certain types of visitors that frequently engage with the site’s video clips might see more videos.

While Commerce Sciences will be offered free, Singolda said it could entice more publishers to sign up to the main Taboola service, plus it could provide more opportunities for Taboola to participate in ad sales. In July, Taboola announced its acquisition of outstream video ad firm ConvertMedia.

Taboola is best known for its “you might also be interested in…” thumbnail images and links to additional content, appearing at the bottom of many online articles. The New York City-based company says it serves about 360 billion content/video recommendations every month, to more than a billion unique visitors.

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About the author

Barry Levine
Barry Levine covers marketing technology for Third Door Media. Previously, he covered this space as a Senior Writer for VentureBeat, and he has written about these and other tech subjects for such publications as CMSWire and NewsFactor. He founded and led the web site/unit at PBS station Thirteen/WNET; worked as an online Senior Producer/writer for Viacom; created a successful interactive game, PLAY IT BY EAR: The First CD Game; founded and led an independent film showcase, CENTER SCREEN, based at Harvard and M.I.T.; and served over five years as a consultant to the M.I.T. Media Lab. You can find him at LinkedIn, and on Twitter at xBarryLevine.

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