Summary:

Reader response about what we like and dislike is a powerful tool for the algorithms that decide what stories shouldappear before us on the internet. Now, a new feature lets readers customize more of the web.

Taboola screenshot

You know those “recommended for you” stories about financial doom and terrible cancers that you see all over the internet? Well, you might finally get to zap those stupid stories and decide for yourself what the internet should recommend.

Taboola, which runs “suggested story” links for sites like USA Today and the New York Times, today announced that readers can now tell publishers which stories and ads to show them. Using a drop-down menu, readers can tell publishers and advertisers which stories and ads to banish forever. Here’s a screenshot that shows how it looks:

Taboola screenshot

Taboola CEO, Adam Singolda, explained to me last week that the feature is in part inspired by platforms like Facebook’s Newsfeed and the new like/dislike feature on Yahoo’s homepage, which help to create a customized reading experience.

Singolda, who now lives in New York after a seven year stint in the Israeli army, noted that Facebook has said that “dislike” responses to a given story are one of the most powerful signals it has for adapting the algorithms that decide which content to display.

Publishers using Taboola have had the power to tweak its story suggestion machine for about a year but, now that readers can do the same, the feature could have a significant impact on the market for online advertising: purveyors of crummy or annoying ads may get pushed aside, and quality content marketers could get a big boost. According to Singolda, Taboola’s tools are already leading readers to click on advertising at far above-average rates.

At a larger level, Taboola’s tool could have big implications for data collection and marketing since its features are found not just on a single website like Facebook or Yahoo, but across the web.

The company, which recently raised $15 million, appears to be pulling into the lead in the content recommendation game alongside another Israeli firm, Outbrain, which styles itself as a competitor to Google AdWords and is rumored to be heading for an IPO.

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