Previous research on the platformization of news has mostly been devoted to considering the effects of social media on the news industry. The current study focuses on Taboola and Outbrain, two leading content recommendation platforms. The companies form “partnerships” with news organizations, through which they take over a designated space on news websites and curate news, sponsored content, and advertisements, creating a blend that—the companies claim— maximizes monetization. We argue that the unique business model and distribution mechanism of these companies has a distinct effect on news sites, their audiences, and ultimately the journalism profession. An empirical analysis of 97,499 recommended content items, scraped from nine Israeli news sites, suggests that the spaces created by these partnerships blur the distinction between editorial and monetization logics. In addition, we find the creation of indirect network effects: while large media groups benefit from the circulation of sponsored content across their websites, smaller publishers pay Taboola and Outbrain as advertisers to drive traffic to their websites. Thus, even though these companies discursively position themselves as "gallants of the open web"—freeing publishers from the grip of walled-garden platforms—they de facto expose the news industry to the influence of the platform economy.
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