Content recommender Outbrain raises $11m

Faith Merino · February 14, 2011 · Short URL:

The content recommendation engine is backed by Carmel Ventures, Gemini, Lightspeed, and others

 Content recommendation engine Outbrain announced Monday morning that it has secured $11 million in a Series C round in which previous investors Carmel Ventures, Gemini Israel Funds, GlenRock Israel, Rhodium and Lightspeed Venture Partners all participated. The newest infusion of capital brings Outbrain's total raised to $29 million.

"Outbrain is focused on expanding our team 20% as we continue to build out our presence in the States as well as abroad in Israel and Europe. We are focused on hiring smart, motivated and passionate people to help grow our service," said Outbrain CEO Yaron Galai in an email.

Founded in 2006, the New York-based company is one of many honing in on the exploding personalized content market. With its unique recommendation and rating widgets, the service works with leading online publishers to help customize content to individual readers by allowing them to rate articles that they liked or disliked (as they would on Pandora), read contextually similar articles (articles with the same keywords), and sift through articles that have been recommended based on previous user behavior (if you've read an article on gardening tips before, the service will provide other gardening articles for you to browse through). 

The growing market for personalized content has inspired other notable projects like Yahoo's recently announced Livestand (for mobile devices), Flipboard, which aggregates news content from your social media contacts, the New York Times' new venture, and the Washington Post's newly announced Trove, which uses Facebook Connect to provide relevant content more suitable to users' individual interests.

Two weeks ago, Outbrain acquired Surphace (previously Sphere) from AOL for an undisclosed amount, combining Surphace's customer base with Outbrain's so that the service now provides content recommendations for Slate, USAToday, VentureBeat, The Seattle Times, the Chicago Tribune, National Geographic, The Daily Beast, Newsweek, the LA Times, AllThingsD, Lonely Planet, Dow Jones, Time, CBS, Engadget, and more. Surphace was founded in 2005 with the aim of promoting  “conversational media” by fostering relevant connections between mainstream media, micropublisher content, and blogs.

Outbrain now sees some two billion page views each month, and the new funds will be used to expand the company's presence in Israel and Europe. Additionally, Outbrain will hire more employees and invest in it's recommendation technologies. Recently, the company added two new algorithms to its suite of content personalization algorithms: most clicked (prioritizing articles that are getting the highest click-through-rate) and social (finding the articles that are being shared the most on social networks).  Outbrain also uses contextual analysis, collaborative data ("people who read this article also read..."), and popularity to make recommendations more relevant.

All of this adds up to more time spent on the content publisher's site as users click from one article to the next. 

While the company is headquartered in New York, it also has offices in Israel. 

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