Summary:

Brands like shoe stores and banks need quality content to feed their growing social media following. This has led to the rise of middlemen who pair non-media companies with publishers who can license their content.

As more businesses try to connect with customers through blogs and social media sites, they are scrambling to produce enough content to keep their sites fresh. This disconnect — between publishers who make content and non-media brands who need it — has allowed a new type of middleman to flourish.

One example is Outbrain, a well-funded “content discovery platform” based in New York that helps publishers display stories similar to the one that a reader is viewing. It also lets publishers buy and sell traffic through “recommended articles” on third party sites — for instance, Cat Fancy might (in theory) pay for one of its feline features to appear as a recommended story on Modern Cat.

Outbrain also has a lesser known business where it supplies stories to companies like GE, American Express or General Mills. The idea is that it’s easier for non-media to buy content than to produce it themselves. But while big brands have been in this game for a while, smaller companies too are feeling a growing need to buy content in order to keep their Twitter, Facebook or blog presence fresh.

Outbrain now appears to have this base covered too. Today, it announced that it has acquired Scribit, a startup that lets companies find relevant media stories and host them on their sites — for instance, Scribit could help Annie’s Kitty Co. find and license an article from Cat Fancy for its social media pages. An earlier account of Scribit says its prices are as low as $50 a month.

In the bigger picture, Outbrain’s purchase of Scribit is part of a revolution in the way that content is being passed around the internet. Companies like Outbrain and rival NewsCred are eliminating the friction that used to dog media distribution. In the past, a shoe store that wanted to attract customers by posting shoe-related articles on its website had two impractical choices: engage in costly licensing negotiations or pirate the articles and risk a lawsuit. Now that shoe store can pay a single license fee for access to a wealth of content and a way to host them.

“The growth of content marketing has been unbelievable in the last 18 months,” said Gilad De Vries, SVP of Strategy at Outbrain. “The ability for brands to have the abilty to showcase licensed content is very valuable.”

De Vries did not disclose how much the six-year old Outbrain, which is backed by $64 million in venture funding, paid for Scribit.

(Image by Minerva Studio via Shutterstock)

Comments have been disabled for this post